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August 29, 2017

Uneven weight-loss could be a trap for obesity, Drexel study finds

Progress in many areas of life isn't always linear, no matter whether the goals are of our own choosing or come from situations thrown into our lap.

For those who are overweight and obese, aiming for linear progress itself maybe the best course of action to keep the pounds off in the long-run, according to a new study out of Drexel University.

The psychological study, published this week in the journal Obesity, tracked the weight loss outcomes and dietary behaviors of 183 participants in both the short-and long-term, with a goal of seeing whose treatment programs were most effective after a couple of years.

Obese and overweight Individuals involved in the study were enrolled in a one-year weight loss program centered on meal replacement and behavioral goals, including self-monitoring, calorie-counting and increased physical activity.

At weekly group treatment sessions, participants were asked to report on different aspects of their relationship with food—things like cravings, emotional eating, binge eating and whether or not they felt confident in their abilities to regulate intake.

At the end of a two-year period, all participants were brought back for a weigh-in.

“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 lead author Emily Feig, a psychologist and former graduate student at Drexel.

Higher weight variability over the first six to 12 weeks of a treatment program correlated with higher weights and more difficulty with weight control after a year or two, the researchers found. Those who lost a few pounds one week, gained two back the next week, lost one the following week and so on tended to be in worse shape than those who consistently lost a pound each week for the first three weeks.

From a behavioral standpoint, participants who expressed the least preoccupation with emotional and binge eating had more variable weights early on and less success with weight loss in the long run.

While future studies will aim to better understand what causes weight variability, principal investigator Michael Lowe said the findings point the way toward a healthy approach.

“Settle on a weight loss plan that you can maintain week in and week out," Lowe said, "even if that means consistently losing 3/4 of a pound each week."

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