Successful weight loss, especially for an obese individual, is a significant achievement and provides numerous health benefits. Once a weight-loss goal is achieved, you should have a clear understanding of strategies that helped you to lose weight. Unfortunately, weight regain remains problematic for those who have lost weight.
Is there a meta-analysis on why people regain weight?
A meta-analysis of published research on formerly obese subjects suggests that inherent biological factors could explain the tendency for weight losers to regain weight. For example, formerly obese persons had a 3-5% lower mean RMR than normal-weight control subjects. The difference is due to low RMR being more frequent among formerly obese subjects than among normal-weight control subjects.
The authors of the report concluded that the lower RMR among formerly obese subjects could be due to a genetic effect or to an adaptive response to weight loss. This may increase the susceptibility of formerly obese persons to regain weight.
What is RMR?
RMR stands for resting metabolic rate and it simply means the number of calories expended per unit time at rest. It is usually measured early in the morning after an overnight fast and at least eight hours of sleep.
A few published papers
Research on obesity-prone rats suggests that lower RMR combined with a progressively increasing appetite appear to be the hallmark of the metabolic tendency to regain weight after weight loss. MacLean and colleagues reported that a persistent lower RMR explained 60% of the potential energy imbalance. While an elevated appetite explained 40% of weight regain in formerly obese rats. It is likely that these metabolic responses may explain at least in part why sustained weight reduction is so challenging.
Given that regaining lost weight is likely to challenge for many of you after you have reached your weight-loss goals, you can overcome this problem by including exercise in your daily activities. A study has shown that metabolic factors appear to favor weight regain. However, participation in daily physical activity decreases the rate of weight regain.
US DoA, ACSM, IASO, and NWCR
There is a general consensus among U.S. Department of Agriculture, American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and International Association for the Study of Obesity (IASO) that a weekly energy expenditure of ≥2,000 calories/week, which equates to approximately 60-90 minutes/day of moderate-intensity physical activity, may be required for long-term weight loss. The basis for these recommendations is also supported by the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR). The NWCR was a cohort of approximately 10,000 “successful losers” who have lost an average of 66 pounds and maintained this loss for approximately 5.5 years.
The NWCR found that dietary control was an important factor in the maintenance of weight loss. One of the most significant findings was that successful losers maintained consistently high daily physical activity levels. In fact, 90% of the NCWR subjects exercise, on average, about 1 hour/day. A total of 62% report watching fewer than 10 hours of television per week.
24-Month Effect of Exercise on Weight Loss in Overweight Women
Similar findings have been reported by Jakicic et al. They studied obese women randomly assigned to one of four groups based on physical activity energy expenditure (1,000 versus 2,000 kcal/week) and intensity (moderate versus vigorous) with a concomitant decrease in daily dietary energy intake (-1,200 to -1,500 kcal/day). Between the four groups, there was no difference in weight loss at six and 24 months.
However, post hoc analysis showed that the subjects sustaining a loss of 10% or more of initial body weight at two years reported performing more physical activity (approximately 1,800 kcal/week or 275 min/week) compared to those sustaining a weight loss of less than 10% of initial body weight (who performed approximately 1,000 kcal/week or 170 min/week of physical activity).
While weight regain is a persistent challenge, especially for formerly obese individuals, it does not have to be a certainty. According to the available research, maintaining consistent and permanent high levels of moderate to vigorous daily physical activity seems to be the key for sustained weight loss.
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