Faster Is Better For Weight Loss
No more “moderation” in weight loss—aiming to lose one pound per week. No more giving yourself a long-term goal of 50 pounds in a year. A new study from Stockholm’s International Congress on Obesity says that those who lose three pounds per week are more apt to stick with weight loss and reach their goals.
I love Sweden. They have great meatballs. They gave us Ikea, for heaven’s sake. My daughters look adorable in those Hanna Andersson dresses. Really, what’s not to love?
Now, those same practical, forward-thinking Swedes are telling us to take the weight loss bull by the horns. To just buck up and get ‘er done. Is it really possible to lose weight quickly, naturally, and safely and keep it off?
The Study’s Findings
First, the study started with participants who weighed around 220 pounds (100 kilos). The researchers placed participants into a group losing 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kilos) or 1.1 lbs (0.5 kilos) per week. The first group’s goal was to lose the weight in 12 weeks, and the second in 36 weeks.
It found that 78% of the participants in the 3.3 lb. group met the goal of losing 15% of their body weight during the study’s time frame. Only 48% of the longer-term group met the goal.
Katrina Purcell, the study’s presenter, mentioned that the reason for the disparity is quite clear. It’s harder to maintain motivation when the losses are so slow in coming. Given that we’re a quick fix sort of people, this makes perfect sense.
So should we all run out and start trying to create a 1,500 calorie per day deficit (the average needed to lose 3 lbs. per week)? Well, perhaps. There’s one significant caveat to the study, and that’s the long term maintenance of rapid weight loss.
Since the study is new, the long-term effects haven’t been identified. However, Purcell is following the groups and hopes to publish the results in three years.
Since this study hasn’t yet proved that more rapid weight loss is better maintained in the long run, we turn to the Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment.
In a study that was presented at the same conference, they examined the link between the amount of weight loss on a weight loss program and the maintenance of said loss afterward.
The study found that 54% percent of people who lost weight were able to maintain it, no matter how much weight initially came off. It also found that the net weight loss was higher for those who lost more initially after a period of one year.
Breaking Down the Findings
So what does all this mean for you? First, it means that there’s no reason to adhere to the 0.5-1.0 lb. per week goal if you can safely lose weight more quickly.
The simple fact is that change is required to maintain weight loss. You know the saying, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten?” Spend time losing weight, even rapidly, and return to your old habits and the pounds will pile back on. Enter the yo-yo.
The truth of the matter is that you can lose weight any way you’d like. If you want to do the Master Cleanse or Atkins, or even the cupcake and broccoli diet, you’ll lose so long as you have the motivation.
But maintaining weight loss, especially significant weight loss, is determined by eating reasonable portions of nutritious food and moving your body. Wow, there’s a radical thought.
Say what you will about decreasing fat and sugar content of food and aggressive marketing by junk pushers, uh, “fast food restaurants.” You can choose to walk away. A one-man or one -woman protest against the system is all you need to get away from being overweight and the debilitating health conditions that come with it.
I am currently expecting my fourth child (my laptop barely rests on what’s left of my lap at present). After my third was born, I was obese. Not in the cute-fat sort of way, but in the pre-diabetic, doctor-on-my-ass, fasting blood sugar at 94 kind of way. Fat.
Not one to accept that my life was going to follow the same path of most in my Midwestern, corn-as-a-vegetable family, I made a choice. I chose to shed the pounds I’d carried since childhood, reinvent myself as a slimmer person, and be happy about it.
I tossed everything with junk. I bought a grain mill, a Blendtec, started jogging, and went to town. While it was a financial burden (hubs is a public school teacher), we made it work. Why? Because it mattered.
All those excuses about not having the money or the time flew out the window when I realized that this was a matter of my health, and my health was worth the time and the money. My family was worth the expense and the change. We broke the pattern, after all.
Having been exactly at 220 lbs. myself (at 5’2″) and losing 88 pounds over nine months, I lost weight more slowly than the study participants. I confess to having stalled because of boredom and overuse injuries after month five, but got back on track after a 6-week maintenance (and sanity) break.
That means that I lost an average of 2.6 lbs. per week when I was working at it. I managed to keep 80 lbs. of it off until I became pregnant again early this year. This takes some serious work, because a 1,300 calorie per day deficit is no joke. I averaged about 15 hours per week in the gym between cardio, strength, and Pilates and yoga.
It wasn’t always fun. I hurt. I cried. I made some dishes that emphatically were NOT tasty. But in nine months I went from someone who got pitying looks for her weight to someone whose advice others sought for diet and fitness. Heck, you’re reading this now because of that transformation.
I engaged in calorie cycling to “trick” my metabolism into staying high throughout the process, eating an average of 1,700 calories per day (remember that I was nursing). Even though the work was hard, it was a relatively short amount of time required to drop from a size 20 to a size 6 and was well worth it.
Passion is the most important component of a weight loss program, and passion is the fuel that keeps weight off after the initial loss. I can’t say what the Swiss study will tell when it reemerges in three years, but I know what my own life will show: a passion for health keeps the metabolic fires burning. Don’t let them go out.