Is Long-Term Weight Loss Impossible?

Posted On May 23, 2016 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Is Long-Term Weight Loss Impossible?

Is long term weight loss impossible?

Yes, according to a research study following contestants of Season 8 of "The Biggest Loser" and the headlines reporting the findings. I beg to differ though, based on my experience over the past two years helping three personal training clients lose over 100 lbs each. So should you even bother trying to become healthier? Or is regaining weight inevitable due to a slower resting metabolism (the number of calories you need just to exist without exercise or physical activity) and a change in hormones that control hunger, fullness, fat storage, and cravings?

According to the study, 13 out of 14 contestants have regained some of the weight they lost on the show, and a few are even heavier now. They all have slower resting metabolic rates than before the show and consequent weight loss, making it difficult to lose weight and keep it off. It's a constant battle for them to maintain weight.

A few things to consider about these results and applying them to the greater population (or yourself):

  1. The weight loss experienced on the show is drastic. Extremely drastic. A 10 lbs weight loss in one week is seen as failing. Outside of this contrived environment, a 5 lb weight loss is celebrated as a major accomplishment, giving people a boost of motivation. Rate of weight loss could have a huge impact on long-term resting metabolism.
  2. Over-restricting calories combined with long intense workouts doesn't give the body anywhere to go when a plateau is reached except even less calories and longer more intense workouts. What might happen to resting metabolic rate and hormone levels if weight loss was a little slower and based around a progressive exercise and nutrition plan? It's like always pushing a car to go 0 to 60 every time it's driven. Eventually, it's going to get burnt out. The human body is the same way.

What this study reveals and reinforces

  1. Prevention should be a key focus.
  2. Too much, too soon and too fast need to be avoided during weight loss programs.
  3. An emphasis should be placed on a sustainable lifestyle and practicing the habits to maintain weight loss, not just how to lose it. There's a big difference, especially the mental aspect of how to stay motivated when the scale stays the same or goes in the wrong direction.
  4. More research is needed to determine whether the method and rate of weight loss impact resting metabolism, and hormones involved with hunger and fat storage.

What's your take on this study and long-term weight loss? Stay tuned for an upcoming blog series following the journey of my client Greg Gibson and his quest to lose over 250 lbs and keep it off without taking any drastic measures, proving long-term weight loss is possible!

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