After the struggle to lose weight, most people find it even harder to maintain their weight loss. Achieving a permanent loss that results in a healthier lifestyle and eliminates the discouragement of being on the weight loss roller coaster.
Here's the scientific proof of how it can be done.
Almost 40 per cent of the worldwide population are overweight, and 13 per cent are obese.
This number of overweight people is creating a growing health crisis. As excess weight is associated with many severe health conditions. These include heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol, asthma, sleep apnoea, gallstones, kidney stones, infertility, and as many as eleven types of cancers, including leukaemia, breast and colon cancer and the list goes on!
No less real are the social and emotional effects of obesity, including discrimination, lower wages, lower quality of life and a susceptibility to depression.
Weight regain after an initially successful weight loss is a complex problem.
Up to now, there has been no well-documented study on the best treatment method for maintaining a healthy weight loss.
Weight Loss Maintenance Study
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen and Hvidovre Hospital have recently completed a study published in the world’s most quoted medical journal, The New England Journal of Medicine.
In this study, they tested four different treatments following a diet-induced weight loss. The study concluded how overweight people could maintain long-term weight loss, says Professor Signe Torekov at the Department of Biomedical Sciences.
In a randomized clinical trial, the researchers demonstrated the effective treatment.
They combined moderate to vigorous exercise with liraglutide, an appetite-inhibiting obesity medication. The medicine is a modified form of the appetite-inhibiting hormone GLP-1, which is naturally secreted from the intestine when we eat.
“This is new knowledge for doctors, dietitians and physical therapists to use in practice. This is evidence that we have been missing,” explains the head of the study,.
People become obese because they are genetically programmed to do so. They are facing the most vital human drive: the desire to eat to survive.
The problem when losing weight is that people are fighting against strong biological forces. The appetite increases to compensate for the decreased energy consumption and at the same time the level of appetite-suppressing hormones drops dramatically hampering weight loss maintenance. In addition, weight loss can result in the loss of muscle mass.
The focus in obesity treatment has been on how to obtain a weight loss — rather than how to maintain a weight loss . Most people who lose weight soon regain the lost weight. The regain because the general advice to eat healthier and exercise more doesn’t work.
Four Weight Loss Study Groups
The study started with 215 obese Danes with low fitness levels.
Over eight weeks, they followed a low-calorie eating plan. On average they lost about 13 kilograms and there were simultaneous improvements in their overall health, a drop in blood sugar level and blood pressure.
The participants were then randomly divided into four groups.
Group 1 — Placebo medication plus an exercise program.
Group 2 — Placebo medication with their current level of physical activity
Group 3 — Obesity Medication plus the same exercise program as Group 1
Group 4 — Obesity Medication with their current level of physical activity
The exercise program included a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity at moderate intensity or 75 minutes at vigorous intensity during the week or a combination of the two.
All participants in the study were weighed monthly and received nutritional and diet counselling, focusing on healthy weight loss according to the Danish health and food administration guidelines.
Results after 1 Year
Groups 1 (only exercise program) and Group 4 (only obesity medication)
These groups maintained the loss of 13 kilograms with the improved health factors.
Group 2 (no change)
This group gained half of the weight back with deterioration of all risk factors, such as developing Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Group 3 (exercise plus obesity medication)
The most dramatic improvements occurred in this group. The gains included:
- additional weight loss of approximately 16 kg over the year,
- health benefits also doubled those of the single treatments; twice the loss of fat mass while preserving muscle mass, higher fitness ratings, reduced blood sugar and
- improved quality of life.
The two groups (1 and 3) that exercised increased their fitness level, lost fat mass and gained muscle mass. These factors indicate a healthier weight loss than those who only lost fat mass without increasing their fitness level.
“It is an important aspect to highlight, as you do not necessarily get a healthier body from losing weight if, at the same time, you lose a lot of muscle mass,” says Signe Torekov.
“It is great news for public health that a significant weight loss can be maintained with exercise for approximately 115 minute per week performed mostly at vigorous-intensity, such as cycling. And that by combining exercise with obesity medication, the effect is twice as good as each of the individual treatments.”
The results of the study create a valuable framework for maintaining weight loss.
The Missing Ingredient Is Accountability and Support
The study included ongoing follow-ups with the exercising groups to ensure that they received the support they needed with their program.
Concluding that follow-up support is essential for success because maintaining weight loss is extremely hard.
People need to understand that once you have lost weight, you are not “cured.”
“The ongoing exercise and effort will likely need to continue for many years,” says Signe Torekov.
There were twelve individual consultations over the course of a year, including weighing and diet advice.
This was not enough for the placebo group without an exercise program, in this group all health benefits gained by weight loss during the eight week program were gone after one year, despite frequent weighing and diet and nutritional counselling.
According to Signe Torekov, this underscores the importance of participating in a mutual weight maintenance program based on feedback when starting a weight loss programme.
Weight loss is a lifelong struggle for the many people caught on a wild diet ride. Losing weight, gaining weight, getting frustrated, then desperate and finally resigned to defeat.
Accepting that being overweight will be a lifelong affliction.
With this research, there is hope. Hope knowing that there is a proven solution that, with support and exercise, works and bring about opportunities and options to create a new lifestyle.
If you would like support, an accountability partner, to maintain your healthy weight loss, contact me.