Even A Short Term Splurge Can Dampen Weight Loss Efforts

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Many dieters follow the same pattern: eating very strict low-calorie diets throughout the week and then splurging and skipping the gym on the weekends. A new study from Linkoping University has found what many dietitians already know – over-eating and living a sedentary lifestyle, even for a short period of time, can ultimately sabotage weight loss efforts.

Consistent Healthful Behaviors More Beneficial than Short-Term Diets

Dr. Torbjorn Lindstrom, an associate professor in the department of medical and health sciences, studied 18 normal-weight healthy participants (12 men and 6 women). Their average age was 26 years. For one month, all were placed on a restricted physical activity regimen that involved the equivalent of no more than 5,000 steps per day – the threshold for a “sedentary” lifestyle. The participants also increased their daily caloric intake by 70%, mainly by consuming fast food. The average calorie intake was 5,750 per day.

Read: Saturated Fat Tells Brain to Keep Eating

The study compared the results to a “control” group that did not change their diet or activity levels.

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By the end of the month, the “splurgers” gained an average of 14 pounds. Fat mass increased from 20% of total body weight to 24% after the intervention.

Read: Why Some Diets Don't Work

The researchers also studied the patients six months and one year later, after the group had resumed a diet and exercise regimen. Most had lost about 10 pounds of their excess weight, but never achieved their pre-study weight. Even two and a half years later, the group that “yo-yo’d” (went off their diet and then back on) were still heavier than the group that remained consistent with their diet and exercise routines.

"A short period of [over-eating] can have later long-term effects," said Dr. Lindstrom. "Based on this, it can be recommended to avoid very high food-intake that might occur during shorter periods in normal life."

The study is published in the current issue of Nutrition & Metabolism.

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