Overall, it can be said that there is strong evidence to suggest that dieting is not an effective long-term weight loss strategy
If you want to lose weight, one of the first ideas you might get is to go on a diet. Many people might also tell you that this is the way to go. It seems logical: after all, to lose weight, you need to watch what you eat. However, recent studies have suggested that diets are not an effective way of losing weight, especially not on the long-term. Let's take a look at what happens with diets and weight loss.
Researchers at the UCLA have found that while people can lose between 5% and 10% of their total weight when they diet, that weight does not stay gone. The majority of the people on diets gain that weight back and then gain some more. Only a minority of people who diet are able to maintain the weight loss gains they have made. The weight usually comes back within the next 4 to 5 years. This was found after these researchers considered 31 long-term studies on dieting and weight loss (Mann et al., 2007).
''This suggests that dieting might have detrimental long-term effects on our weight and is not an effective way of losing weight.''
The UCLA researchers go as far as to suggest that in terms of weight, most people are better off never going on a diet because there are no long-term differences in their weight. Even more, gaining and losing weight creates a strain on the body. It might be said that dieting is a prediction for future weight gain, as shown in a study in which participants who underwent a weight loss program gained more weight in the next two years than those who did not participate in this program (Wolpert, 2007).
This suggests that dieting might have detrimental long-term effects on our weight and is not an effective way of losing weight. Even if it works for some time, eventually that weight is likely to come back and bring some more with it.
Another study had 4129 twins who were followed for many years. It was seen how many intentional dieting periods they had. Dieting was found to predict accelerated weight gain and a higher risk of becoming overweight. Dieting itself was shown to induce small amounts of weight gain and make the person more susceptible to gaining weight in the future (Pietiläinen, Saarni, Kaprio & Rissanen, 2011) .
So, what is suggested as the better weight loss strategy? It involves a change of habits associated with eating and regular exercise. The leading UCLA researcher, Traci Mann, recommends starting to eat in moderation and doing regular exercise (Wolpert, 2007). Habit formation also appears to have a positive effect: people might benefit from shaping new eating and exercise habits that can be applied on the long-term (Lally, Chipperfield & Wardle, 2007).
Overall, it can be said that there is strong evidence to suggest that dieting is not an effective long-term weight loss strategy. In fact, it might be associated with higher weight gains in the future and that the effects of a diet are likely to last little. Instead, it seems that it is better to change your habits and promote better habits overall.