After a week on a trendy juice diet, the misery may seem worth it to drop a dress size.
But crash dieters should beware such extreme measures, because more boring gradual weight loss really is the better approach.
A study of 183 dieters has discovered it is better to take a ‘tortoise’ strategy than be like a ‘hare’ and try to slim down too fast.
After two years, those content to patiently shed a pound a week were found to lose significantly more weight than yo-yo dieters. As in the well known Aesop’s fable, consistent plodding appeared to be more effective than a mad dash to the finish line.
Crash dieters should beware such extreme measures, because more boring gradual weight loss really is the better approach
The study’s lead researcher Dr Emily Feig, from Drexel University in the US, said: ‘It seems that developing stable, repeatable behaviours related to food intake and weight loss early on in a weight control programme is really important for maintaining changes over the long term.’
Co-author Professor Michael Lowe, from the psychology department of the same university, added: ‘Settle on a weight loss plan that you can maintain week in and week out, even if that means consistently losing three quarters of a pound each week.’
Obese and overweight individuals were enrolled into a year-long weight loss programme, using meal replacements and being told to cut their calories, exercise and eat more healthily.
Some people lost a consistent amount in regular weigh-ins over the first six to 12 weeks, while others fluctuated more.
The yo-yo dieters may have seen more exciting and dramatic results early on, but after a year they had lost less weight than those who were consistent. The same difference was seen – particularly in men – when researchers went back to weigh both groups a year later.
The study states that dieting too strictly, in people with an ‘all or nothing’ approach to eating, often leads them to lose their willpower and regain the weight.
It adds: ‘Participants following this pattern may not learn sustainable practices to maintain their weight loss over the subsequent months, as strict restraint has been associated with poorer long-term weight control.’
The study states that dieting too strictly, in people with an ‘all or nothing’ approach to eating, often leads them to lose their willpower and regain the weight
For example, a person who lost four pounds one week, regained two pounds the next week, and then lost one pound a week later, fared worse than someone who shed one pound per week consistently for three weeks.
This is in line with dieting advice on slow and steady weight loss, which tells people to eat as similar amount at similar times every day, with a fixed calorie goal.
However the authors state that intermittent fasting, such as the 5:2 diet, works well, which suggests fluctuating weights may not be the problem. People whose weight goes up and down may simply be worse at dieting consistently, giving in to the temptation to fall off the wagon at weekends.
Most who lose five to 10 per cent of their body weight typically regain it, research shows.
The study, published in the journal Obesity, suggests experts could identify problem dieters by their yo-yoing weights and teach the strategies to lose weight slowly and steadily.