Research studies on exercise or weight loss come out every other week. They usually provide us with very little information to use in real life and the results can confuse or discourage people that are trying to lose weight or maintain the weight they’ve lost.
Latest news is from the SMART goals weekly. A research project was done on 50 overweight or obese individuals in Australia. Participants were put on a ten-week diet program. Most of the participants lost somewhere around 30 pounds over the 10-week duration. Over the next year they gained back, on average, 12 pounds.
The researchers concluded that the reason it is so hard to keep the pounds off is because of changes that occur in the hormones involved in regulating weight. Even one year after the loss, these ‘weight controlling hormones’ had not returned to normal levels. Conclusion: “Long-term strategies to counteract this change may be needed to prevent obesity relapse.”
The Ten Week Program Was Comprised Of:
- A very-low energy diet of 500-550 calories a day.
- A diet consisting of the meal-replacement Optifast plus vegetables for eight weeks.
- Ordinary food being re-introduced during the final two weeks.
- May or may not have encouraged or required exercise. I’m assuming it did not since the New England article didn’t mention it.
* Note – Researchers do not believe that the extremely low diet and rapid weight loss is the reason the hormone imbalance was still prevalent after one year.
I have no reason to doubt that the scientist’s found that the hormones were still ‘unsettled’ a year after the people went off of the diet. I do question whether or not that is the real reason for the weight gain. The researchers applied strategies that encourage short-term, not long term, weight loss results.
People gain weight over the course of several years due to a lack of physical activity combined with poor eating habits. An average American that is sitting or standing at a job throughout the day, stops by a fast food restaurant to pick up dinner on the way home from work and then spends the evening in front of the T.V. or in a bleacher watching a child participate in after-school activities is unconsciously developing some very unhealthy behaviors.
A sedentary lifestyle coupled with high calories foods contribute to an average weight gain of two to three pounds per year each year after high school. Follow that math until a person reaches the age 45. That person has about 70 extra pounds to deal with.
It Takes Time – Habits, good or bad, acquired over 35 years are not quickly or easily changed. Behavior change is a long-term process with successes and failures, starts and stops along the way. I find with my coaching clients that they experience weight loss for a period of time and then get stuck at which point we have to re-evaluate how to get them un-stuck and losing again. I remind clients on a regular basis that it is a process. Change does not always happen quickly. True behavior change can take years to master.
People that lose 30 pounds over ten weeks on a 550 calorie diet – even with the counseling that the dieters in this research study received – have not had a chance to master goal setting, recognize what triggers a relapse, or establish an action plan that will work for them.
That doesn’t mean that weight regain is inevitable. Weight loss and weight management can be achieved by:
- Understanding successful weight management requires lifestyle changes rather than several weeks of intense dieting.
- Settingincorporating extra steps and tracking the progress made on reaching those goals.
- Daily physical activity in moderate amounts. Not everyone can or wants to join a gym, but intrinsic motivation and additional movement throughout the day will help people lose and keep the weight off. Recognizing that the benefits of daily exercise go way beyond weight loss is helpful too.
- Gaining support of friends, families and co-workers so that there are not constant obstacles like donuts at work, or gift cards to Dairy Queen included in a birthday card.
- Developing intrinsic motivation so that when a weight-loss plateau occurs or a few pounds creep back on it is not viewed as failure.
Conclusion – The Australian study shows that yes, the hormones that drive hunger may still be out of whack a year after a quick, dramatic weight loss. More important, it proves once again that quick weight-loss plans that incorporate extremely low calorie diets and meal replacements are doomed for failure with or without cooperation from the hormones.