We motion for "you do you" to be the gold standard of weight loss advice in the future, thanks to new research that found it doesn’t actually matter how slow or fast a person achieves weight loss when they don't also work to maintain that success.

Australian researchers randomly assigned 200 obese adults to either a 12-week rapid weight loss program that involved maintaining a very low-calorie diet (450-800 calories a day), or a 36-week gradual weight-loss program that was in line with current dietary weight loss guidelines (1800-3000 calories a day, depending on physical activity). Once participants lost nearly 13 percent of their bodyweight, they were moved to a maintenance program that lasted for three years. Weight loss maintenance could mean everything from face-to-face follow-ups or a web-based intervention program that keeps people motivated and on track.

Overall, 81 percent of participants in the rapid weight loss program lost the recommended bodyweight compared to 50 percent of those in the gradual group. That means the former group achieved their weight loss goals faster than anyone else. Yet, researchers found the rate of initial loss didn’t matter. Not when both groups averaged a 71 percent weight gain after three years, debunking the idea that neither slow nor fast approaches to tackle the scale, ahem, hold any weight over one another when maintenance isn't also factored in.

"Across the world, guidelines recommend gradual weight loss for the treatment of obesity, reflecting the widely held belief that fast weight loss is more quickly regained,” dietician Katrina Purcell, lead study author from the University of Melbourne, said in a press release. “However, our results show that achieving a weight loss target of 12.5 percent is more likely, and drop-out is lower, if losing weight is done quickly."

Researchers had some thoughts on why rapid weight loss groups were initially so successful: "Reducing carbohydrate intake forces the body to burn fat, which then leads to the production of ketones. Ketones are breakdown products of fat burning that are known to suppress hunger." Also, seeing results fast could inspire people to keep up with their current regimen.

A separate study on weight loss management in Australia found weight loss is usually regained five years after the fact, which surprisingly isn’t for lack of avoiding bad habits. Rather, researchers explained appetite-regulating hormones are in flux after diet-induced weight loss, with decreased levels of leptin (for satiety) and ghrelin (for appetite).

Nevertheless, it's evident that different weight loss approaches can, and should, be used to achieve the same goal. Everyone's body really is different. Some participants thrive on an 80/20 approach to eating (80 percent healthy choices, 20 percent pizza for days), while others absolutely must do away with a certain food or ingredient. Some might prefer to sweat it out on long runs, and others might need a group setting, like CrossFit. Every approach is successful when people stick with it.

Thank goodness science cleared that up.

Source: Purcell K, Sumithran P, Prendergast L, Bouniu C, Delbridge E, et al. The effect of rate of weight loss on long-term weight mangement: a randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology. 2014.