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Slow and steady might be the answer to your weight loss woes

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Perhaps due to their largely sedentary lifestyles, one in three Malaysians have been found to be overweight, and some 73% of workers aged 40 and above are overweight or obese.

With the slew of weight-related health problems out there, coupled with productivity loss that come with unhealthy employees, it is of the employer’s best interests to help their staff stay in the healthy weight range, perhaps by shedding a few pounds.

Earlier this year at Human Resources’ Employee Benefits Asia conference, John Garrido, Virgin Pulse’s Asia regional director, shared that health and wellbeing programmes should be fun to ensure people engage in it frequently such that it improves their health over time.

In line with that, when looking to shed pounds and keep them off in the long-term, developing stable, repeatable behaviours is the key, found a new research from Drexel University published in the journal Obesity.

Studying a group of 183 participants, the research found that those whose weights fluctuated the most during the first few weeks of a behavioural weight loss program ultimately had poorer weight loss outcomes one and two years later, compared to the men and women who lost a consistent number of pounds each week.

Lead author Emily Feig, PhD, a former graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences at Drexel University said: “It seems that developing stable, repeatable behaviours related to food intake and weight loss early on in a weight control program is really important for maintaining changes over the long term.”

ALSO READ: Are your employees facing health problems due to obesity?

Keen to find out what makes some people less successful in weight loss programs, the psychologists enrolled individuals who were overweight or obese into a year-long weight loss program that used meal replacements along with behavioural goals such as self-monitoring, calorie monitoring and increasing physical activity.

Participants attended weekly treatment groups during which they were weighed, and returned for a final weigh-in two years from the start of the program. They also reported on food-related behaviours and attitudes like cravings, emotional eating, binge eating and confidence in regulating intake.

The researchers found that the more an individual’s weight fluctuated over the initial six and 12 weeks of weight loss treatment, the poorer subsequent, long-term weight control at 12 and 24 months. For example, someone who lost four pounds one week, regained two and then lost one the next tended to fare worse than someone who lost one pound consistently each week for three weeks.

Interestingly, they also found that those who reported lower emotional eating, binge eating and preoccupation with food at the start of the study showed higher initial weight fluctuation, and less weight loss overall. This suggested that initial weight change, rather than relationships with or behaviours toward food, is much more important in predicting who will succeed in weight loss and maintenance.

Though hesitant to equate correlation and causation in this case, principal investigator Michael Lowe, PhD, a psychology professor at Drexel, said the study does illuminate a potential method for sticking to weight loss goals.

“Settle on a weight loss plan that you can maintain week in and week out, even if that means consistently losing ¾ of a pound each week,” he suggested.

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