Losing Weight Fast Versus Losing Weight Slow

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You have probably heard that the best way to lose fat safely is slow and steady. And you have probably also heard that if you lose fat fast that you are more likely to gain it back.

But is this true?

According to a study published in the spring of 2010: “Losing weight at a fast initial rate leads to greater short-term weight reductions, does not result in increased susceptibility to weight regain, and is associated with larger weight losses and overall long-term success in weight management.”

They continue to say,

“We suggest that, within lifestyle weight control programs, substantial efforts should be focused on promoting large rather than small behavioral changes during the initial weeks of treatment.”

This seems contradictory to what we have all heard, “lose weight slowly and it will stay off longer.”

So which one is true?

The Research

This study was conducted at the University of Florida, led by Lisa Nackers, and published online in the May issue of Springer’s International Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

The researchers were attempting to find out if keeping weight off for a long period of time (months after completing an obesity treatment program) was easier to do if in the first month of treatment, the participants lost weight very quickly or slowly?

To get an answer to this question, 262 middle aged obese (BMI over 30%) women were enrolled in strict diet and exercise programs. Each woman was given a personal plan that would result in consistently losing 1 pound per week.

After the first month, the ladies were split into three groups, labeled FAST, MODERATE, and SLOW, depending on how much weight they had lost.

The FAST group contained women who had lost 1.5 pounds each week. The MODERATE group lost between .5 and 1.5 pounds, while the SLOW group lost under .5 pounds each week.

They continued the study for six months and, of course, the FAST group lost the most weight, followed by the MODERATE GROUP, and then the SLOW group…

This is not surprising, but read on.

The Results 18 Months Later (The Long Term)

Contrary to the popular belief that if a person loses weight too quickly, they are more likely to put it back on – the FAST group actually did BETTER than the slow group.

After 18 months (12 months on their own), the researchers checked in with the women for the final time. The results determined that members of the FAST group were five times more likely to achieve their goals of 10% weight loss.

And, most importantly, they were able to maintain their new weight after 18 months.

The researchers also calculated that ladies in the MODERATE group were three times more likely to achieve and maintain their weight loss goals than the SLOW group members.

So is Losing Weight Fast the Secret to Long Term Weight Loss?

You hear all the time about the secret to long term weight loss is a slow “lifestyle change.” If you don’t change your lifestyle, then a “diet” will just be a short term affair.

However, in this study, the FAST group lost weight at a rate of 1.5 pounds a week, which is considered safe by most if not all weight loss authorities.

What I am saying is that most dietitians would not say that losing 1.5 pounds a week is fast. So I wouldn’t go on an overly aggressive diet thinking that this study somehow gives credence to the idea that fad diets are the key to long term weight loss!

What This Might Mean

It does indicate that it might not be wise to lose weight too slow. More research might need to be done, but it appears that if a person isn’t seeing tangible results in a short enough time that it can hinder motivation.

And 1.5 pounds might just be that magic number. So again, be careful about using these results to go on an eating plan that is overly aggressive.

I will do more research and try to find that magic number for you. If you know of any other research please comment below.

Sources: Nackers, Lisa M., Kathryn M. Ross, and Michael G. Perri. “The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win The Race?”International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, May 2010.