How to lose weight and keep it off?

By Juan Ignacio Pérez Iglesias, University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea

We know that the safest way to lose weight is to eat less. It is also convenient to eat healthy foods and if, in addition, we do physical exercise, even better. We know it, but that does not mean that losing weight is easy. For this reason, and because obesity and being overweight are the source of many health problems, it is interesting to know which strategies to lose weight are effective in practice.

To this end, a review published this year analyzed the results of 50 scientific publications that include data from five countries (Germany, the United States, Finland, Greece and Portugal), obtained from weight records of thousands of people during periods of prolonged time.

The researchers evaluated the effect of 51 personal strategies, as well as the possible influence of 30 psychological, sociodemographic, and behavioral traits on the magnitude of weight loss and the length of time it is maintained. The data included in the study correspond to people who have achieved reductions of between 20 and 30 kg, approximately, and who have reached a stable weight of around 75 kg during time periods of several years in most cases.

Unsurprisingly, the most effective strategies for losing weight and keeping it off afterwards are physical exercise and reducing total energy and fat intake.

Other useful actions involve some planning, such as having healthy food at home. Or they imply an improvement in the quality of the diet, such as increasing the consumption of vegetables. Both behaviors coincide with what the official guides recommend. And, although the scientific literature is not conclusive about it, it also seems to help regular breakfast, as well as increasing the intake of protein and foods rich in them.

As could be anticipated, it is also positive to reduce the size of the rations, check the weight frequently and set specific goals, both in terms of the amount and type of food and physical activity. Those behaviors help you lose weight and keep it off for the long haul.

Goals and self-control

Together, they allow interested people to exercise some control over their evolution and adjust their behavior to the objective that is desired to be achieved. In order not to throw in the towel, it is also important that the objectives, both regarding intake and exercise, are individualized and realistic.

When there are medical recommendations involved, the weight lost is more easily maintained over time, surely because the people who are indicated attribute their health problems to being overweight and are especially motivated to regain health or not worsen it.

Conversely, when eating in response to emotional stimuli, less weight is lost and loss is more difficult to sustain in the long term. Obviously, occasional feasting or binging is also not helpful.

Finally, it is interesting to note that conscientious and meticulous people lose weight more easily than the rest, since these people are more capable of self-control and, therefore, it is easier for them to adopt and maintain the behaviors that, in the long term, allow to achieve the greatest weight losses.

Most probably almost nothing said here is new, but it is comforting to note that the dietary recommendations for use demonstrate their effectiveness in practice. At least for those who strive every day in the difficult art of staying with the desire to eat a little more.

A version of this article was published in the UPV / EHU Scientific Culture Notebook

Juan Ignacio Pérez Iglesias, Professor of Physiology, University of the Basque Country / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea

This article was originally published in The Conversation. Read the original.