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No quick fix

However, the take home message for the wider public from Dr Hall and his team is that catch-all calorie counting is too simplistic and that we need to be more realistic about how much weight we want to lose and how quickly. Healthy permanent weight loss may take a lot longer than we expect.

Dr Hall has developed a web-based simulator (bwsimulator.nddk.nih.gov) for doctors and researchers that takes into account metabolism changes. You fill in your individual detail, such as age, height, activity levels and how much weight you want to lose in what period of time. The simulation then calculates how many calories you will need to cut and how much exercise is needed to maintain this weight loss.

Description: Remember any weight-loss programme must also include strength training exercise to keep your muscles strong and metabolically active.

Remember any weight-loss programme must also include strength training exercise to keep your muscles strong and metabolically active.

Hall’s new research suggests that we may need to take weight loss more slowly and lower our expectations about how quickly we can be the shape we want. His team has termed its new rule of thumb the ’10 calorie per day per pound rule’ - you have to cut 10 calories from your daily diet for every pound you want to lose permanently. For example, if you want to lose two stones, you’d need to cut 280 calories a day. This means the diet is a long-term change, not just a quick fix. And, remember any weight-loss programme must also include strength training exercise to keep your muscles strong and metabolically active.

However, the weight will not be lost regularly week on week as suggested by traditional models. Using the 10 calorie per day per pound rule, Dr Hall says, ‘Half od this weight change will occur within the first year and a total of 50 pounds will be lost after a few years.’

So you need to expect total weight loss to take about three years as opposed to the one year suggested by traditional guidelines.

‘Dramatic, quick weight loss and yo-yo dieting should be avoided,’ says Bussell. ‘When you lose weight quickly, or shed a lot of weight, you can end up losing muscle tissue. Sadly, when you regain weight, it comes back as fat.’

Description: ‘Dramatic, quick weight loss and yo-yo dieting should be avoided,’

‘Dramatic, quick weight loss and yo-yo dieting should be avoided’

Actress Mila Kunis, 28, learned this to her cost when she shed 20 pounds to play a tiny ballerina in the film Black Swan. She told Harper’s Bazaar magazine that when she put the weight back on after filming it went to different areas – to her hips and stomach where before it used to be on her bust. This is a cautionary tale for anybody planning a crash diet or looking for a quick weight-loss fix

The research consensus is that yo-yo dieting harms your health and doesn’t keep you slim in the long term – of anything it makes you fatter and possibly less healthy than you were before you started.

Description: This is a cautionary tale for anybody planning a crash diet or looking for a quick weight-loss fix

This is a cautionary tale for anybody planning a crash diet or looking for a quick weight-loss fix

A study conducted at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in the US found that women who yo-yo dieted five or more times in 20 years also had a compromised immune system. These women had a lower level of the immune cells that combat viruses and possibly cancer.

Another study of 50 people on a strict low-calorie diet for eight weeks, led by Joseph Proietto of the University of Melbourne’s Department of Medicine, found that the body misinterprets crash dieting as starvation and works to keep fat on the body. The report says that when we start to lose weight ‘multiple compensatory mechanisms’ are triggered to ensure that weight loss is reversed quickly and efficiently.

 ‘It is far more effective to take weight loss slowly by making long-term dietary and lifestyle changes and doing more cardio and strength exercise,’ concludes Bussell.

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