Welcome to The Fast Diet › The official Fast forums › Body › Weight loss › Food for Thought on a Fast Day – Is it better to lose weight slowly and steadily?
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26 Jun 14
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting 10 myths about dieting from the article by Michael Mosley in The Times.
Claim 3 It is better to lose weight slowly and steadily, rather than rapidly
This is another of those claims that seems to be self-evidently true but which the obesity researchers behind Myths, Presumptions and Facts about Obesity describe as a myth. Or as they put it, “Within weight-loss trials, more rapid and greater initial weight loss has been associated with lower body weight at the end of long-term follow-up”.
Very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs), based on consuming less than 800 calories a day, have been used since the 1970s to induce rapid weight loss, but the assumption is that once you stop you will simply put it all back on. In a thorough meta-analysis, The evolution of very-low-calorie diets: an update, reviewers looked at the results of 6 randomised trials that had run for at least a year comparing very-low-calorie diets with standard low-calorie diets.
They found that the VLCDs led, not surprisingly, to much bigger weigh loss in the short term and though the dieters did, on average, later put back on much of the weight they had lost, so did those on the standard diet. In the long term there didn’t seem to be any significant difference between these approaches. The researchers point out that doing VLCDs can be more expensive but that “Cycles of weight loss and regain do not seem to have the adverse health and metabolic consequences once feared”.
An interesting recent development is the use of VLCDs (600 calories a day over several weeks) to try and improve blood glucose control in overweight type 2 diabetics. A small trial in Newcastle produced very positive results and larger trials are planned.
Michael, this is interesting, but I have a couple of questions. I had the impression that very low calorie diets should mostly be done under medical supervision, as it can be hard to get all your nutrients in 600-800 calories. Is that true? And are very low calorie diets more likely to be associated with more muscle loss?
Thanks Michael, very interesting and enlightening to me at least. Thanks for the links, we always look foreword to information you can point us to on this subject.
While I’m sure the studies are very interesting from a data point perspective, I would personally shy away from anything that I couldn’t sustain long-term (one of the reasons I immediately started on 5:2, after seeing the documentary, as it looked like something I could easily do forever if necessary, unlike Atkins/no-carb/the cabbage soup diet etc. etc.), which is one of the main reasons I am suspicious of any VLCD. I also think that it’s probably better for the very overweight to lose at a nice gentle pace, to ensure that we’re not left with enough loose skin to re-upholster a 3 seater sofa.
I’ve lost 4 stone on 5:2 and because I’ve done it over almost 2 years there’s no more ‘wobbly skin’ than there was when I was big. I’m pretty sure if I’d lost 4 stone in a few months I’d be carrying my spare skin around in a wheelbarrow.
TracyJ, while there may be reasons to lose weight slowly, the specific presumption that I had was that weight lost quickly was inherently more likely to be regained. People are often motivated to lose weight quickly, and have more difficulty finding motivation for long range goals. It’s just human nature.
You can’t lose weight forever, so in that sense no single program is sustainable. So a program of fast weight loss combined with a sustainable maintenance program would look good to a lot of us. Though personally for me, I’m with you and prefer slow and steady.
Hi Michael and TracyJ
Thanks for this information. I have lost 15 kg in 5 months including a 3 week holiday with no fasting. I have also lost 15 cm off my waist which has resulted in two sizes down. I am now maintaining.
I do not have folds of skin hanging around, but that could be that I started at slightly overweight rather than obese. I massage in a dermatologist recommended skin cream every day after my shower. And have done so for the entire time of IF.
The point for me is that it feels sustainable to live with two relaxed fasts a week. I have now adopted the practice of fasting the day before or the day after an indulgent day. My normal food intake is half what it used to be.
I don’t count calories but I know that if I eat sugar or processed foods, I will bloat and feel tired. It is quite an incentive to eat healthy foods, with only a very rare indulgence. My normal food includes either a beer or a glass of red wine maybe four times a week.
Thanks for IF. It is wonderful to have that clean, light feeling. 🙂
6 Oct 14
There are other reasons behind the weight gain after a rapid (or sometimes slow) loss, this is a very interesting talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/sandra_aamodt_why_dieting_doesn_t_usually_work
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