There’s a price you must pay to get the body you want. There’s also a price you must pay to keep it. As Thomas Jefferson said, “eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” Once you reach your ideal weight and body fat level, you’re not finished. You’re just beginning. You can never take your success for granted or let down your guard…
The relapse problem
A woman in a support group once said, “I’m an expert at losing weight because I lost 200 pounds!” Everyone in the room gasped with respect and admiration. Then she finished her sentence. “Unfortunately, it was the same 20 pounds 10 times.”
Relapse has always been a problem with health-related behavior change. Relapse rates for drug, alcohol and tobacco dependency have been reported in the range of 50-90%. Relapse rates for weight loss are typically 70-90%, according to very reliable sources.
A study from Oxford University on weight maintenance and relapse published in The International Journal of Obesity confirmed the statistics we’ve all heard so often in the mass media:
“It’s a consistent finding that the weight lost by obese patients as a result of the most widely available treatments is almost always regained over time. Usually about half the weight lost is regained in the first year with weight regain continuing thereafter, so that by 3-5 years post-treatment about 80% of patients have returned to, or even exceeded, their pre-treatment weight.”
Obviously, there are some big differences between substance abuse relapse and weight relapse, namely the pharmacology of drugs, nicotine and alcohol. But there are also some striking similarities, including the relapse statistics themselves. So similar are the mental and physical challenges, that many people believe overeating and obesity are addictive disorders and should be treated as such.
Whether you think that regaining lost weight is as serious as substance abuse relapse or not, don’t take it lightly. Maintaining a stable lean bodyweight is a very important health goal. It’s dangerous to repeatedly gain and lose weight. Research in animals and humans has revealed that weight cycling can make your metabolism less efficient.
After each bout of weight loss and regain, it becomes more difficult to burn fat the next time. You also become more predisposed to sudden weight regain if you binge or even if you reefed to previous maintenance levels. Long term, your body composition may get worse, as you lose large amounts of lean tissue during the weight loss phase, but regain more fat than muscle on the rebound. In the end, you’re heavier than when you started or you’ve become a skinny fat person.
Weight cycling has detrimental effects on your health as well. Usually, your blood pressure and blood cholesterol will go down in parallel with your body fat level. However, when you regain weight in repeated cycles, the negative effect on your blood pressure and cholesterol can be greater than the positive effects you got from losing the weight. Some experts even propose that weight cycling can shorten your lifespan.
One piece of good news is that the reasons for relapse are not a mystery. We know why weight regain happens and it’s not difficult to predict. Weight relapsers have been studied in great depth and their behaviors are quite distinct from maintainers. If you take an inventory of which regainer behaviors you’re engaging in and then avoid these mistakes in the future, you can avoid relapse right from the source of the problem.
Check out this article for the seven reasons!