If you’re trying to lose weight, take your time and stay the course if you want to keep the weight off, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that when dieters’ weight fluctuated or swung erratically, they were less likely to maintain their weight loss over time.
“It seems that developing stable, repeatable behaviors related to food intake and weight loss early on in a weight-control program is really important for maintaining changes over the long term,” said study lead author Emily Feig. She is a former graduate student at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
For the study, the researchers investigated why some people have more trouble maintaining weight loss. The study authors enrolled 183 people in a 12-month weight-loss program and followed them for two years.
The participants relied on meal replacements and set goals, for both their total calories and physical activity. In addition, they reported on food behaviors—such as cravings, binges and emotional eating—and took part in weekly weigh-ins in a group setting. One year after the weight-loss program ended, the participants were weighed for a final time.
The study, published Aug. 28 in the journal Obesity, found that the participants who had irregular swings in their weight didn’t fare as well as those who reliably lost a consistent amount of weight over the course of the program.
“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,” principal investigator Michael Lowe, a psychology professor at Drexel, said in a university news release.