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Weight loss is one of the biggest topics in health and fitness, largely thanks to rising levels of obesity and associated illnesses like diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even mental illness. Countless companies have made your weight loss their business — literally. They are always coming up with new methods and new ways to market them to you.
Many of these methods include traditional forms of weight loss through simply reducing food intake or increasing light activities like walking or cycling, or simply taking up exercise like resistance training or cardiovascular exercise. Others have involved more intensive methods such as low-carb diets, intermittent fasting, crash dieting or extreme increases in exercise, or any combination of these.
However, when studies look at long-term success, which is generally measured by how much weight loss was maintained over a period of around one to five years, the results are not encouraging.
Weight Loss: Short Term Fix Or Long Term Change?
Studies that look at weight loss over a year showed that only around 20 percent of Americans were able to sustain 10 percent of their weight loss. In a European population, under 30 percent of obese individuals, and under 20 percent of overweight individuals, were able to sustain a 10 percent weight loss for over a year.
As time went on these percentages fell even further, with only five percent of individuals maintaining a five percent weight loss over three years, and around 18 percent of individuals maintaining a two percent weight loss over four years.
The reason for this mainly seems to stem from a reduced activity level and energy expenditure from individuals once weight is initially lost. This then causes weight loss to stagnate and, in most cases, reverse. In general terms, when people lose weight they also tend to subconsciously move less!
Before looking at how these figures could be improved, there are a few obvious issues that should be addressed with general weight loss studies.
Examples include neglecting to find out how much weight could be accounted for by muscle or fat, or what a person’s fitness or activity level is, as these have a significant benefit to health regardless of weight. However, for the vast majority of the individuals studied, who were inactive and sedentary, like many adults in the USA and Europe, these factors don’t apply.
So, for most people looking at weight loss for the first time, reviewing how to make the weight loss sustainable and effective in the long term is necessary to ensure its health benefits are permanent and not short-lived.