“Some of the biggest misconceptions about fast weight loss are that it is unhealthy, it causes yo-yo dieting, and that people are more likely to regain more weight than if they lost it slowly,” said Catherine Rolland, PhD, a weight loss researcher with Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, Scotland.
There were 200 obese adults involved in the study who took part in a doctor-supervised weight loss program. They were split into two groups: one took part in an ultra-low calorie diet of no more than 800 daily calories for 12 weeks, the other dropped their normal caloric intake by 500 calories a day for 36 weeks. Everyone involved received counseling.
Later, people from both groups who lost a minimum of 12.5 percent of their weight spent three years on a maintenance diet. Both groups regained about the same amount of weight (about 70 percent of their original weight).
These findings, even if they are proven to hold water, should not be seen as an endorsement for fad diets. Unfortunately, some news outlets are sensationalizing it as such.
Dr. Joseph Proietto, the study’s senior author and a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne in Australia stated that “The key is to use properly formulated diets that have all the micronutrients.”
Now for a counterargument.
The problem with rapid weight loss isn’t the weight loss itself or that somehow the method makes you more susceptible to regaining the weight or causes yo-yo dieting. The reason rapid weight loss is likely unsustainable is twofold: a person’s underlying psychological issues are just as important to address as the eating habits. Secondly, rapid weight loss is usually associated with eating habits that are not practical to uphold for a lifetime.
The subjects in the study were in a doctor-supervised weight loss program. They not only knew they were under the microscope, but they were aided by professionals. What of people in “normal” situations, fending for themselves? Often, those who are psychologically vulnerable seek quick and easy fixes that are not practical for long-term success.
While rapid weight loss may not be inherently wrong, if done in such a way that isn’t nutritionally balanced and without regard to the psychological component of overeating, failure is a much more likely outcome.