For many people who struggle with their weight, the problem is not simply weight loss, but weight maintenance. It is easy to fall into the trap of yo-yo dieting, or succumbing to old guilty pleasures after hitting a weight loss goal. However, researchers say to avoid the trip; regaining even some of the weight after losing weight can cause women to regain or even surpass pre-diet heart levels, putting them at increased risk for diabetes and heart disease.
The study was conducted on 100 post-menopausal women who had struggled with obesity. For five months, all of the women were involved in a weight-loss program, where the women lost an average of 25 pounds. Afterwards, the researchers continued to monitor the women for a year.
A year later, two-thirds of the women had regained at least four pounds. On average, the women regained up to 70 percent of their previous body weight. Troublingly, women did not have to regain all their old weight to regain the same amount of risk that they'd had before the program.
"What was striking about the women who regained weight was that although they did not return to their full baseline weight on average-women only regained about 70 percent of lost weight-several chronic disease risk factors were right back at baseline values and in some cases, particularly for the diabetic risk factors, slightly worse than baseline values," lead researcher Daniel Beavers reported in a statement. "Meanwhile, women who maintained their weight loss a year later managed to preserve most of the benefits."
The study highlights why it is important to avoid fad diets in an effort to lose weight, even though diet and exercise may be a slower process than fad diets. The study found that even regaining as little as five pounds could cause cardiometabolic trouble, particularly for postmenopausal women.
Researchers suggest starting slowly, like swapping seltzer water for soda, adding a salad to lunch, and keeping a daily food record.
The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Biomedical Sciences.