Weight loss: How much should you lose to win?
There’s a common belief (fuelled by the celeb mags and TV programs) that you can drop several dress sizes (or pant sizes) down to an imagined ‘ideal’, if you really try hard enough. How realistic is this? And is it sustainable?
Very overweight people typically aim to lose around 35% of their existing body weight. But this level of weight loss actually calls for some very drastic action. So far only surgery has delivered weight loss results on this scale over the long-term. And even then, it needs to be combined with other long-term lifestyle changes. With other weight loss programs, losing around 5–10% is more typical. And even so, the pounds have a tendency to creep back with a bonus.
Having unrealistic expectations also seems to be counter-productive. When people fail to reach their goal they become (not unnaturally) disillusioned and regain the weight – with interest. It then becomes even more difficult to lose on subsequent occasions. That’s why setting an attainable goal is step one of any weight loss program. What’s a realistic goal? Aiming to lose between 5 and 10% of your current weight over 12 weeks seems to be achievable and safe for most people and it still delivers plenty of desirable health benefits (reducing risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers). And if you keep that 5 to 10% loss off long term, then you really are a winner.
If you want to lose more than that, do it in stages. Aim to maintain your new weight for three to six months before attempting further weight loss. This gives your body time to adjust to its new engine size. And it gives you practice in learning to listen to your body’s natural signals for feeling hungry and feeling full just as babies and toddlers do.
— Prof Jennie Brand-Miller, co-author of The Low GI Diet Revolution (The Low GI Diet in Australia, NZ and the UK)