On World Obesity Day: 6 reasons you’re not losing weight

Anyone who’s ever been on a diet will know just how hard it is to shed the pounds and keep them off.

More than a quarter of UK adults are obese, and it’s estimated around 65% of women and 44% of men try to lose weight each year. Yet most – up to 80% – fail.

To mark World Obesity Day, which aims to promote practical ways to end the global obesity crisis, experts from the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) have outlined 6 different behaviours that could be preventing weight loss, or making you more likely to regain weight.

1. Eating too much in the evening

The body’s circadian rhythms – fluctuations in physiological functions throughout the day – play an important role in regulating the metabolism.

Many of these rhythms peak in the morning, suggesting the body is better adapted to digesting and metabolising food earlier in the day.

Therefore, if you eat more in the evenings, you’re less likely to lose weight than if you eat earlier. Dr Leonie Ruddick Collins, a research fellow at the University of Aberdeen, says: “In a society where most of our energy intake is consumed in the evening, how to implement appropriate meal times is a challenge that needs to be addressed.”

2. Not getting enough sleep

“Short sleep is a significant factor related to weight gain,” says Dr Wendy Hall, a reader of nutritional sciences at King’s College London.

As well as making it more likely that you’ll snack or eat late at night, short sleep is associated with lower fruit and vegetable intake and greater consumption of free sugars. Studies suggest sleeping for longer may help keep weight off, although Hall says more research is needed.

3. No support

Supportive relationships can make a huge difference to people’s motivation and weight loss success, says Dr Katy Sutcliffe, an associate professor at University College London,

So if you go it alone, with no support from relatives, friends or people at a slimming class, you’ll be less likely to succeed with your weight loss goals.

“Relationships should be seen as an essential first step in a weight management journey because they provide a much-needed external motivator, or hook, for people to engage successfully with weight management programmes,” says Sutcliffe.

Support in a slimming class encourages people to attend, and also helps them begin and keep up with healthy eating and exercise.

“It’s through these initial experiences that people become self-motivated to be healthy, which is fundamental to longer-term weight maintenance,” explains Sutcliffe.

4. You’re restricting calories every day

To fast or not to fast? Comparisons of the metabolic effects of different types of diet found those that featured calorie restrictions at certain times may be best for weight loss.

Dr Adam Collins, a senior tutor in nutrition at the University of Surrey, found that intermittent energy restriction diets (fasting on set days, such as the 5:2 diet) and time restricted feeding diets (only eating in less than 12 hour periods) can provide an easier approach to weight loss than standard diets which require restricted calorie intake every single day, and they may have favourable metabolic benefits.

However, Collins warns that despite potentially better handling of dietary fat, there’s evidence that fasting diets could lead to an impaired response to glucose, so more research is needed.

5. You ignore your emotions

Losing weight sparks physiological and behavioural changes that can lead to people putting the weight back on, explains Professor James Stubbs, who specialises in appetite and energy balance at the University of Leeds.

He says 80% of weight loss attempts end in weight being regained, largely due to increased eating rather than reduced physical activity.

Binge eating is relatively common in people who struggle with their weight, and negative emotions, sometimes prompted by weight discrimination, can lead to comfort eating, which is a barrier to losing weight and to maintaining weight loss in the long-term.

6. You followed a diet that worked for someone else

Evidence suggests total diet replacement-led programmes are the most successful diets, says George Thom, a research associate at the University of Glasgow, but he stresses: “People vary in preferences and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach when it comes to weight management.”

He says people who want to lose weight should be encouraged to try evidence-based diets, but it’s perhaps more important that they’ve got a supportive network around them when they start it.

“We tend to aim to get people to make dietary changes for life, but there are few habits that we start, and maintain forever,” he points out. “Most things are done in phases and weight management is a bit like that for some people. We need to maximise weight loss when we can, and minimise weight regain when priorities are elsewhere.”

Ayela Spiro, the BNF’s nutrition science manager, adds: “It’s clear that different weight loss strategies can work for different people but finding effective strategies for long-term sustainability of weight loss continues to be the major challenge.

“There’s growing evidence that highlights the complexity of factors that may impact on successful weight management, and these reflect that it’s not just what we eat that’s important, but also how and when we eat.”


- Press Association

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