TORONTO — Don’t worry if you fall off the diet wagon – initial failure is a necessary step to a successful diet, a new study reveals. It is very common to put weight back on as soon as a diet is over, but researchers at York University in Canada conclude that this may actually not be a bad thing.
Instead, their study finds that a diet setback can act as a learning experience which can help achieve sustained weight loss in the future, and overall improve your health.
“Our results suggest repeated bouts of weight loss and regain should not be viewed as failures, but as practice,” says lead author Dr. Jennifer Kuk, a professor in York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science, in a statement.
The study examined 9,348 patients from the Wharton Medical Clinic, a weight-loss and diabetes clinic in Burlington, Ontario. Each participant’s history of weight loss was collected through an enrollment questionnaire. Their weight changes were assessed over the course of the research period.
Researchers say the majority of patients reported becoming overweight prior to the age of 40, and having lost 10+ pounds at least once in their lifetime. Their results show that the more often each person had lost weight in their life, the more weight they lost at the clinic, showing the discipline they had learned over time through sporadic dieting.
With women specifically, those who became overweight earlier in life and who dieted frequently in the past also lost much more weight at the clinic.
The study, concludes that achieving long-term success requires multiple attempts. Every relapse and weight gain is a necessary component of weight management and is a key step on the journey to good health. Researchers also suggest that using different approaches to losing weight each time can benefit overall health in the future.
“One should continue to make attempts at weight management, and it is likely that an appropriate approach – especially with proven effective interventions such as medication or psychological intervention – will eventually be effective,” says co-author Dr. Sean Wharton, clinical adjunct professor at York University Faculty of Health, and director of the Wharton Medical Clinic. “For any lifestyle or behavioral change, individualizing the approach – that is, practicing and refining strategies that work for that individual over time – is a key concept, and long-term weight management should be no different.”
The research paper is published in the journal Obesity.
Report by South West News Service writer Alice Clifford.