How to lose weight and keep it off long term

I just read an interesting article by leading obesity researchers Tom Wadden and George Bray, guest writers on the website. This site was founded in 2009 by Ted Kyle (Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy) as a platform for an evidence-based approach to tackling obesity.

The article is an analysis of a report on a conference of the National Institutes of Health, based in the States. The title of the report is “Improving Weight Loss Maintenance: Can We Do It?”

The article points out that “Weight regain is the most common long term outcome of most interventions. What makes it so hard to lose weight and keep it off?” This is the question many of my obese personal training clients in London ask me, and the answer has many parts.

Misguided attempts to lose weight by excessive calorie restriction are identified as a key reason why most weight-loss efforts result in all the weight piling back on.

“Success is thwarted by reductions in resting and (principally) non-resting energy expenditure that occur in response to calorie restriction.” In other words, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’ when you go on starvation diets, and your metabolism slows to a crawl, causing your body to hoard fat.

My comment on this would be that the worst way to try and lose weight is to severely restrict your calorie consumption.

It’s far better to eat enough calories for your body’s needs (protein for growth and repair, carbs for energy, fats for dozens of vital functions, plenty of fruit & veg for the micronutrients and fibre), while of course cutting out all the junk food. And combine this with an exercise strategy which emphasizes fat-burning: muscle-building workouts, and HIIT (high intensity interval training).

Excessive calorie restriction harms your health, thwarts muscle growth, weakens your immune system, and leaves you with too little energy to exercise effectively.

Tom Wadden and George Bray explore the relationship between individual and collective responsibility for tackling obesity. They conclude that “individual actions must be complemented by collective societal actions to change the food and activity environments which currently only exacerbate the long term struggle that most individuals have with their weight loss.”

Here in London, from my perspective as a personal trainer, I see environmental barriers to obesity reduction all around me: junk-food takeaway outlets on every high street, sweets and alcohol and biscuits and doughnuts and cakes all prominently displayed in every supermarket, and city streets hostile to pedestrians and cyclists.

Tougher still for obese people is the British obsession with alcohol. It pervades every social occasion: the drink after work, the Sunday pub visit, the Friday & Saturday nights out, the drink in the evening at home, lunchtime drinks with clients, drink flowing at every business conference and wedding and funeral and birthday and Christmas party.

However, on the positive side: there are more healthy options in supermarkets than ever before, the first tiny steps are being taken to make London’s streets safer for cyclists, there are more gyms and personal trainers and sports clubs in London than ever before.

And there is Fitness Buddy, a free social network for Londoners to find a fitness buddy in their part of London for a range of options including gym, running, cycling, swimming, pilates, yoga, martial arts, tennis, squash, badminton and more.

Dominic Londesborough is a personal trainer in London and founder of Fitness Buddy social network.