It happens every year – you indulge a bit too much in holiday meals, so you make a New Year’s resolution to go on a diet … again.
It’s an admirable goal, but here are four science-backed reasons why you may want to leave dieting off the 2018 resolution list and opt for lifestyle changes.
1. Diets don’t last. A 2014 study that analyzed the results of 45 different long-term weight-loss interventions show that the number of pounds shed peaks at about the six-month mark but that most people gradually gain the weight back.
2. It’s tough to stick with New Year’s resolutions. A 2017 survey by an organization called Statistics Brain found that about 55 percent of people dropped their New Year’s resolution by the six-month mark – a result closely mirrored by findings of a 1998 study, which also showed that the success rate at the two-year mark was a mere 19 percent, no matter the resolution.
3. Fad diets can be hard to sustain or even harmful. Whether it’s a juice fast or a cabbage diet, you may drop some pounds initially, but people usually gain the weight back once they stop the diet. There’s also the possibility of doing harm to your body. For example, if your protein intake is too high and carb intake too low, there’s an increased risk of kidney stones and bone loss.
4. Calorie restriction alone doesn’t always lead to long-term weight loss. An October 2017 study looked at 14 former contestants of the popular TV show “The Biggest Loser” six years after the competition. Researchers found that those who kept the weight off were the ones who increased their physical activity dramatically, and calorie restriction alone was a poor predictor for success.
So, if diets don’t work in the long term, what can you do if you want to shed some pounds and keep it off? First check with your doctor to make sure there are no underlying health issues, then start following some scientifically proven methods for weight loss. Findings from the National Weight Control Registry, the largest prospective study of weight loss maintenance, suggest some key strategies for long-term success.
1. Engage in high levels of physical activity – a recommendation backed not only by “The Biggest Loser” study above, but also by a November 2017 study showing the benefits of moderate-to-vigorous exercise on maintaining weight loss.
2. Weigh yourself on a regular basis. The very act of monitoring your weight helps you manage it.
3. Maintain a consistent eating pattern – that is, don’t go on yo-yo diets.
4. Catch “slips” in weight gain before they turn into larger gains.
The takeaway from the current science is that to lose pounds and maintain that weight loss, you have to make lasting lifestyle changes, rather than relying on the latest fad diets. It’s not an easy road, but your body may thank you for it.