A new study found dieters who reported wanting to lose weight saw the needle on the scale move in the wrong direction, leading researchers to ask the question: Why are dieters struggling to shed pounds and maintain weight loss? Here, a look at the research, why weight loss wasn’t achieved and how to make shedding pounds easy and sustainable.
Research published in JAMA: Diabetes and Endocrinology followed 48,026 participants for almost two decades and found that despite an increase in the percentage of adults attempting to lose weight (from 32.3 to 42.2%), the mean weight increased from 176 pounds to 184 pounds during the same time period. Translation: Weight-loss efforts are failing.
“The data suggests current weight-loss attempts and strategies may not actually promote weight loss,” explains study co-author Dr. Lu Qi, MD, PhD, director of the Tulane University Obesity Research Center.
The most common strategies participants reported for losing weight included consuming fewer calories, drinking more water and engaging in more exercise, which are all tried-and-true strategies for shedding pounds. The problem, Qi believes, is less about specific weight-loss strategies and more about sticking with them.
“[The data provided] no information about whether people strictly follow the reported attempts and strategies or for how long,” says Qi. “In addition to addressing the benefits of weight loss and the risks of obesity, it is also essential to emphasize the importance of adherence.”
In other words, successful weight loss requires a long-term commitment. “Weight loss is so challenging because people want quick fixes and aren’t ready to stick to something long enough to see results,” says Chelsea Cross, RD. Instead, aiming for consistency over perfection can help you stay motivated. “If you find that you didn’t hit your calorie goal one day or were too busy to work out, instead of getting frustrated and giving up, just get back on track the next day,” says Cross. This mindset sets you up for long-term success.
“Oftentimes, people lose sight of the simplicity of weight loss and get lost in all of the new fad diets … and that can be a roadblock to weight loss because they end up trying something that’s not sustainable, fall away from it and then regain weight and get frustrated,” says Cross.
Rather than going on a restrictive diet, Cross suggests setting realistic goals and eating balanced meals that incorporate all of the food groups, including carbohydrates, fat and fiber, to help reduce cravings and make weight loss sustainable long-term. Think of it as a lifestyle change, not a diet.