Tortoise and Hares

Myth: Losing Weight Too Fast

Losing weight too fast is the paragon of a non-problem, now vanquished to the status of a myth. To begin with, few people encounter this supposed problem. But plenty of authoritative sources have long been dispensing advice along the lines of this example from the Mayo Clinic:

A weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week is the typical recommendation. Although that may seem like a slow pace for weight loss, it’s more likely to help you maintain your weight loss for the long term.

A new study in Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology shows that the presumption that people who lose weight faster will regain it faster is a myth. Scientists from the University of Melbourne conducted a randomized controlled trial to evaluate differences in weight regain between people who lost at least 12.5% of their body weight in just 12 weeks versus people who lost similar amounts of weight more slowly over a 36-week time frame.

After 144 weeks (almost 3 years), they found that it made no difference whether people had lost weight quickly or slowly. Both groups regained weight at a similar rate. The one difference is that more of the people in the rapid weight loss group successfully made it to the maintenance phase. Among people randomized to the slow group, only 50% succeeded in losing 12.5% or more and progressing to the maintenance phase. In the 12-week group, the success rate for losing at least 12.5% was 80%.

Corby Martin and Kishor Gadde wrote a commentary published with this refreshingly definitive study. They remarked that:

A slow and steady approach does not win the race, and the myth that rapid weight loss is associated with rapid weight regain is no more true than Aesop’s fable.

Clinicians should bear in mind that different weight-loss approaches might be suitable for different patients in the management of clinical obesity, and that efforts to curb the speed of initial weight loss might hinder their ultimate weight-loss success.

“Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths.” — Karl Popper

Click here to read the study, here to read the commentary, and here to read more from MedPage Today.

Tortoise and Hares (illustration for Zakariya al-Qazwini’s book, Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing, 13th century, rendered in earthenware, molded and underglaze-painted decoration, from Iran, 19th century), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

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