Is gaining weight back after losing it inevitable? According to some experts, the answer may be yes. A study from Colorado State University Extension proposed that an estimated 50 million Americans go on a diet each year and only 5 percent manage to keep the weight off.
Researchers studying these trends, including Dr. George L. Blackburn of the Federal Trade Commission, speculate that where weight loss programs fail is the promise for quick results and failure to communicate the importance of forming long-term healthy habits such as reducing calorie intake and increasing physical activity.
Other proof that diets aren’t the answer? Research shows that Americans tend to gain between .4 and 1.8 pounds every year. While that may not sound drastic, in reality it means that a 20-year old who weighs 130 pounds might weigh 148 by the time they reach 30, and 166 pounds by age 40!
These grim figures may be tied to the fact that most people gain back two-thirds of the weight lost in their first year after a diet program and 100 percent of their weight lost in five years (according to a 1997 FTC report).
So what can we do to lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off? According to recent research we reported on earlier this week, Michaela Kiernan, PhD. and her team at Stanford University School of Medicine, focusing on weight loss instead of a lifetime of maintaining a healthy weight may be a dangerous trap.
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Vanessa, 26, of Upstate New York was overweight her whole life. When she graduated from high school she weighed close to 250 pounds and was a size 24. Reflecting back on her childhood, Vanessa never recalls being a skinny person. Despite trying many diets like Weight Watchers and committing to various fitness routines, she’d lose weight for a time but it always came back.
When she tragically lost her mother to cancer in October 2010, she continued to struggle with her weight in the midst of such a difficult season.
“In 2009, I found out that my mom had cancer. She never told us and I found out on accident,” recalls Vanessa. “I carry guilt with that because I knew and I never told her. She started chemo on May 23 and she passed away on Halloween 2010.”
After her mother’s death Vanessa carried a lot of guilt and pain which led to emotional eating. “I would come home and eat a bag of Dove chocolate. As a result I gained 40 pounds that fall,” she said. “I was in a size 26 pant size, but it didn’t even register. I thought to myself ‘Enough is enough. I can’t do this anymore. My mom wouldn’t have wanted this for me.’”
In that moment Vanessa made a change that stuck. She started working out three days a week for 40 minutes. Now she’s up to 4-5 times a week and doing an hour of cardio plus weight training. To track her calories she started using the Lose It smart phone app, and believes she wouldn’t have been quite as successful without it.
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