If there is one major negative thing that has emerged from recent research on weight loss is that it often leads to weight regain. If done in an unhealthy, unbalanced way, regaining the weight along with a few extra pounds is also a big possibility. This weight regain is not only frustrating but makes any subsequent attempts at weight loss even harder.
So, if losing weight often leads to weight regain, wouldn’t weight maintenance be perhaps the better option for some people? Yes. Also, it is important to note, that if you are gaining weight over time, stabilizing your weight (or stopping the gain) is, in itself, weight loss. To read more on maintaining weight, read my last post.
Another consideration is the idea of preventing weight gain rather than actively trying to lose weight (especially in an unhealthy way). Preventing weight gain has been the focus of much research recently. One reason is because it is easier for people to prevent gaining weight then to try to lose it.
Keeping the weight off after losing it requires most people to be vigilant with their eating and exercise- more so then they did before they lost the weight. Consider that for a moment- to keep off the weight, you cannot merely return to your “usual” way of living. You have to have learnt about healthy eating, made sustainable changes to food and exercise AND found a way to continue this new lifestyle for life. No wonder most people put weight back on especially if short term solutions are used. If done in a healthy way, “watching” what you eat can be an easy thing (if you have practiced mindful eating). It could also be a constant struggle if you have just followed a diet plan and never reconnected with hunger and fullness cues.
One study in particular that focused on weight gain prevention is the “Strategies to prevent weight gain in adults“. I think the name of the review says it all! Their main conclusions were that (although the strength of evidence is low for all the strategies) effective approaches may be: low fat diets (where 20% of calories is coming from fat. So if you eat 2000cal per day, 400cal are from fat or 44g per day), eating fewer meals prepared away from home, eating more fruits and vegetables, monitoring heart rate during exercise and participating in group sessions that deal with lifestyle change (that includes text message reminders). Some of these approaches sound more fun and interesting than others. It’s also important to note that other strategies may work but have not been studied (such as mindful or intuitive eating).
One interesting quote from this systematic review paper is :
“The lack of rigorously conducted long term trials to inform those who aim to prevent weight gain may be indirectly contributing to the obesity epidemic”
Interesting. If we are relying on old-school techniques to prevent weight gain we may in fact be pushing people in the wrong direction?! I feel this is another reason why “losing weight at any cost” or “losing weight any way possible” are both bad ideas.
So, be prudent when deciding what strategies to use for losing weight. Consider the possibility of maintaining your weight, at least for a little while before taking on weight loss.