A Gateway to Weight Loss?

Judging from those hoaky commercials, some products will transform you from a jellyfish into a superhero in a jiffy. But what about the mantra we’re hearing that aggressive weight loss is hopeless, because it results in rebound weight gain? Our brain’s reward centers, our hormones, and our psyches simply can’t resist the evolutionary forces unleashed by artificial famine conditions, they say.

Some research is telling us that people can lose weight fast and that this speedy start bodes well for sustained improvement: More weight loss, and no more rebound than slower dieters that lose less weight. This has been a recurring outcome, even recently. Posts online make the claim more boldly than the researchers. A look past the headlines tells us a more nuanced story.

In a study by Nackers and colleagues, three groups were identified: fast, medium, and slow. The fast group lost more weigh up front, and kept it off just as successfully as the other groups. But this does not mean that an aggressive calory restriction diet is the answer. Here are some points to consider.

The fast group did not consume a drastically lower number of calories than the slow one (1,366.4 vs 1,486.8).

The fast group did not lose a drastic amount of weight, compared to the slow group (13.5 vs. 5.1 kg). Yes, it’s more than double, but it’s over six months.

We should ask what distinguished the slow group from the rest. The slow group attended less meetings, exercised less, and ate more calories. Were they more stressed? Was there a higher rate of depression? Where there other conditions that made them less active? Something was going on. Since the slow group was not as successful at maintaining weight loss, it’s a good guess that the conditions continued throughout the study period. The fast group was 5.1 times more likely to have maintained at least a 10% weight loss at 18 months than the slow group.

There are countless factors that might interfere. One is ADD. There is speculation that people with ADD have higher rates of obesity because their reward system is especially in need of a dopamine fix, and because of less consistent self-discipline. Medication appears to remedy this for many folks.

If there’s a take away, it seems that it would be for us to ask ourselves what might keep us from fully participating in a weight loss program. Those factors are probably the gateway to significant, sustained weight loss.


Odent, M. (2010). Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and obesity: Two facets of the same disease? Medical Hypotheses, 74 (1), 139-141 DOI: 10.1016/j.mehy.2009.07.020

Nackers, L., Ross, K., & Perri, M. (2010). The Association Between Rate of Initial Weight Loss and Long-Term Success in Obesity Treatment: Does Slow and Steady Win the Race? International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 17 (3), 161-167 DOI: 10.1007/s12529-010-9092-y

Neiberg, R., Wing, R., Bray, G., Reboussin, D., Rickman, A., Johnson, K., Kitabchi, A., Faulconbridge, L., Kitzman, D., & Espeland, M. (2012). Patterns of Weight Change Associated With Long-Term Weight Change and Cardiovascular Disease Risk Factors in the Look AHEAD Study Obesity DOI: 10.1038/oby.2012.33

Image via AGorohov / Shutterstock.

  • Stephnie

    Based on the facts in the article, it seems as if the slow group didn’t try very hard to keep the weight off at all. Hence the difference.

    • Hi Stephanie…OR they tried as hard or harder, but were struggling against issues like higher levels of stress, depression, or ADD. If their personal obstacles are addressed by the weight loss program, I think there will be a higher success rate. For example: motivational recordings to play daily, having a coach, getting treatment for a mental disorder, or making changes to the environment so that it is easier (more automatic) to comply. We are very sensitive to cues and other factors in the environment–and for some of us, it could make all the difference. An important take-away message is that we must not write people off when there are factors that can be addressed to improve the odds.

  • Hmm….this is interesting. I always thought that the slow steady way of losing weight was always the most long lasting.

    But, I have a question for you all…In reading weight loss blogs I often see an over emphasis on caloric intake, what about food quality and eating natural foods rather than sugar laden processed foods (like bread and cereal) and observing this impact on weight management. Seems to me that the more and more processed unnatural foods like meal replacement bars and frozen low fat meals are on the market the more and more over weight we are getting. What about focusing on eating whole natural foods even the ones with tones of fat and calories (like avocado, cashews) and seeing what that does to not only our weight but our health in general.

    Thanks for letting me share my two sense 🙂

    • Hi, there’s controversy, but the low carbohydrate people seem to be gaining ground. There are misconceptions about what that has to mean, and there are refinements to be made… but read Taubes for more on that for starters (as in What if it’s Been a Big Fat Lie? in the NY Times). Personally, I had some weight to lose, so I have eliminated eating after dinner and not eating breakfast until I’m genuinely hungry, because of the research on mice that came out recently (and intermittant fasting or caloric restriction being the only way I know of the significantly extend mammals’ lives), and the fact that my nighttime eating tended to be carb-heavy. This eliminated a lot of extra calories and gives the system and glycemic load a nice, uninterrupted rest. I have a lot more energy now.

    • “what about food quality and eating natural foods rather than sugar laden processed foods (like bread and cereal) and observing this impact on weight management”

      Not so long ago I read about a professor who managed to prove that food quality doesn’t really matter (too bad I’ve lost the URL). He ate cakes and other things like that for several weeks, but only about 2200 calories instead of 3000+ he used to eat before, and he lost much weight (can’t remember the exact numbers though). So it doesn’t really matter what you eat as long as it doesn’t exceed a certain number of calories.

      But of course eating healthy food is good for health, and you’ll feel much better and have better skin, hair and teeth if you eat fruits and vegetables instead of cakes and chips…

  • I am not aware that people with ADD are more susceptible to weight gain. That is something new.

    Losing weight is all about commitment. Sticking to a weight loss plain needs a lot of motivation. That is why many people give up half way. You can eat healthily and work out regularly but if you don’t hang on long enough, you may not see the results that you want.

  • Ryan

    Great post! I agree with the point you made about keeping weight off and maintaining it. One thing I’ve found to be extremely helpful and useful as a supplement to my current diet/exercise plan is Fullbar (www.fullbar.com). Their gummies and bars help curve my hunger, help me with portion control and keep me from consuming more calories than I really need.

  • Dancin4Joy

    We are far more effected in our struggles to lose weight by medications and environmental toxins, than by lack of will power or judgmental attitudes. IMO Those who CAN remain very thin in a world of chemicals should be studied more than those who are overweight.

    So many people under eat and mash all their calories into shorter periods of the day, not realizing that their shame of ‘growing bigger’ is making them grow yet bigger still. So many people have hormonal imbalances caused by BPA and other triggers like Genetically Modified foods, pesticides, VOC’s, hormone disruptors of all kinds in toiletries… the list goes on and on.

    If all it ever was – was ‘calories in and out and all in moderation’ most of the US would not be overweight.

    Notice – The main health difference between us and other nations is that we have not outlawed the chemicals and processed-chem-foods that they have and their population is less androgenous. They have also not disrupted their agricultural systems to require Monsanto driven industrial farming and they are proud of the natural and organic systems they’ve had in place for generations.

    They also have more interactive and well organized transportation systems and local community markets so they can walk or ride a bike, bus or train to just about anywhere they need to go and back, unlike here where we’re forced to drive generally and that keeps us less active.

    This also ups our inhaled carbons as well as our systemic inflammation levels which makes the onset and symptoms of chronic illness happen faster and with more complications than people who have them in other nations. Our babies are born with well over 200 chemicals in their cord blood and once they’re ‘out’ it only gets worse from there.

    Just a few thoughts…

  • I was not aware of the speculation that people with ADD have higher rates of obesity. I would have thought otherwise. But that certainly is interesting. Personally speaking, I maintain my weight by choosing to eat more vegetables, fruits, fibre, and drink plenty of water. And although, I do not have an exercise routine, I make sure to walk whenever I can.

  • Charlotte MuMin

    Wow, this Blog is so interesting, and I’m not even aware that people with ADD have higher rates of obesity… Thank you for this information.

  • Hypnotherapy in Sydney

    Though I don’t have trouble with my weight I enjoyed reading the article. The Nackers study was very interesting. Great job! Thanks for the information! 😀

  • Charry

    People are always conscious about how they look especially about their weight. It is not bad if you are fat or chubby. What is not right, is when you become obese or very thin. It means you’re not getting enough nutrition.
    Yes, there are many factors to consider in losing weight. It may include your social status. For example, people who are very poor may eat unhealthy food and even rich people may be eating too much of what they only need. There’s also the determination of the individual,lifestyle and his or her environment.

  • George Twinkle

    Now a days every body wants to be slim.To show slim there is need to decrease weight. Weight causes several disease.To decrease nutrition people should take proper action. This blog will sure help to decrease weigh.

  • David Gelloz – Nutritionist in Sydney

    This is a very interesting post. Like Lulu, I’ve always thought that the best way to lose weight was through non-aggressive methods. But as I see it, I think I can’t argue with a study unless a new research has been made to refute this claim. Thanks for sharing, though.

  • Very interesting point of view. Again and again I appreciate your way of putting things.

    If you have time please visit http://www.hamiltondietetics.com to get more info about Dietetics and Health Tips as well. Keep up the great work! 😀

  • Raspberry ketonz review Dr Oz

    I need to evaluate which inspired to be able to jot
    down this. It certainly was anything which I took
    to heart.

  • Hey Robert,

    Thanks for sharing your research with us. After all the articles I`ve read online suggesting that weight loss should be conducted gradually, this is a very interesting post. But there are too many variables in order for us to be certain, as you`ve already stated.

    I believe that the “fast group” maybe got more excited than the “slow group”, noticing changes faster and changing their entire mindset about food intake, exercises and weight loss, thus becoming more successful at maintaining the results.


  • Earlene Blosser

    These results are really interesting. Could those changes be influenced by the motivation from much more visible weight loss in the fast group than in the slow group?

    I see that Jonathan has same way of thinking as I 🙂


  • Jacob edward

    Add in healthy goodies you really love, like deep-red cherries, juicy grapes, or crunchy snow peas. Slip those favorite fruits into your bag lunch and breakfast cereal; add the veggies into soups, stews, and sauces.
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Robert A. Yourell, MA

Robert A. Yourell, MA, has extensive experience in the mental health and social services dating back to 1975. His training includes Ericksonian communication and hypnosis with John Grinder, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing with Francine Shapiro, PhD, Body Integrative Psychotherapy with Jack Rosenberg, PhD, and solution-focused psychotherapy. He provides free audio experiences on his site that include bilateral sound and Shimmering.

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