If you've lost weight your chance of a relapse decreases with every year you maintain your target weight, researchers at Brown Medical School say. They studied a group of dieters who had lost 14 kg or more.
You read it everywhere on the web and in magazines: the results of dieting are always temporary. In the end the pounds you've lost will always come back – and there are no exceptions. This popular wisdom is based on a study done in 1959, in which researchers re-analysed data from all the literature that was available at the time. [AMA Arch Intern Med. 1959; 103(1): 79-85.] A similar study done in 1998 came to the same conclusion. [N Engl J Med. 1998 Jan 1; 338(1): 52-4.]
These conclusions are not exactly motivating if you are one of those doing their best to fight the flab. Fortunately the 21st century has seen the publication of studies that come to a less negative conclusion - like the one done at Brown. The researchers followed a group of 4000 successful dieters, and discovered that 20 percent of them managed to maintain their weight loss over time. While this is still a minority, it is noticeably more than the zero percent mentioned in the earlier studies.
The Brown research also shows that the chance of relapse becomes smaller, the longer you manage to maintain your target weight. [J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999 Apr; 67(2): 177-85.] So for each year that you are slim, staying slim becomes easier.
Another factor that helps weight maintenance, according to the Brown studies, is weighing yourself regularly. Dieters who weigh themselves regularly, and take measures if they notice a weight gain, are more likely to be successful. The researchers discovered that it's usually possible for dieters to get rid of a small weight gain, but if the increase in is more than 1-2 kg they usually put back on all the kilograms they had lost.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2005 Jul;82(1 Suppl):222S-225S.