According to one study, one-third to two-thirds of investigated dieters regained their weight within 12 months of dieting. Almost all dieters had regained their weight within 5 years.
Dieting is a strong predictor of weight gain, not weight loss!
But what about the 5 percent of people who actually manage to keep their weight off permanently? What do they do differently from the majority of dieters who fail (time after time)?
What Predicts Long-Term Weight Loss?
Luckily, research has also uncovered factors that predict long-term weight loss success. I discovered the following list in a book written by my favourite weight loss and nutrition “guru” Patrik Borg*.
Here is a the list of factors in the order of importance.
- Possibility to choose your foods
- Meal timing
- Eating proper meals vs. constant snacking
- Physical activity
- Stress control
- Relaxed attitude to eating
Frankly, I found the list quite startling. It contains things that are not so often mentioned when we think about weight loss and also lacks some things we tend to think are important for weight loss. For instance self-discipline and portion control didn’t make it on the list.
I want to pick a couple of factors – #2 and #6 – for further consideration.
The second most important factor on the list is “meal timing”. (Doesn’t sound very sexy, does it?) Having a good meal timing means you should eat your meals evenly throughout the day: no more than 3-4 hours between meals, and eating the majority of your daily calories before 4 pm.
And guess what most dieters do? They skip breakfast and eat only a light lunch that often consists of salads and soups. They reason there’re going to save a lot of calories by skipping meals when they are otherwise occupied.
That’s a huge mistake!
It’s a better idea to eat a proper breakfast, lunch and a snack before you go home. Then you’re not as likely to suffer from hunger pangs, overeating and sweet cravings in the evening.
The other factor I wanted to discuss is relaxed attitude to eating. The best way to understand what is meant by relaxed attitude to eating, is to contrast it to the exact opposite: the typical dieting mentality.
When you follow a dieting mindset, you drastically cut your daily calories ( typically to 1200-1400 cal or even lower), declare some foods forbidden, emphasize self-discipline as a means to control eating (instead of letting your feelings of hunger be your guide) and use all kinds of gimmicks to trick your body to thinking it’s full when it’s not (drinking lots of water before meals etc).
Sounds awfully like a lot of diet programs I have heard of!
On the contrary, if you have a relaxed attitude to eating you make smart food choices but avoid the all or nothing thinking characteristic of dieting.
So, if you want to keep your weight off you’d better learn to eat regular meals and forget about “dieting” alltogther.
To me it’s been a huge relief to realize that there’s probably never been anything wrong with my self-discipline. I’ve just been doing things that practically guarantee I’m going to have problems losing weight and keeping it off in the long run.
Tell your thoughts in the comment field below!
*Patrik Borg is a Finnish nutrition expert who has published several books, unluckily they haven’t been translated into English yet. He works with ordinary dieters, athletes and people with eating disorders, so he knows what he is talking about.