The Myth of Slow and Steady Weight Loss

If you want to lose weight, and you’re thinking that “slow and steady” is the way to go, you’re not alone. When it comes to dieting, many people believe that moderation and balance is a more sustainable approach in the long term. However, research suggests fast, healthy weight loss can be far more motivating and effective.

The Research

A two-year weight loss study grouped 262 people into three categories: Slow, Moderate and Fast weight loss. “Slow” weight loss was defined as losing .5 lb. or less per week. “Fast” was defined as losing 1.5 lbs. or more per week. The results were striking: Compared to those in the slow weight loss group, those in the fast weight loss group lost two and a half times more weight in a 6-month period and were keeping off almost three times as much weight after 18 months! More weight lost and more weight kept off longer1. A review of many different weight loss studies concluded: “The totality of evidence does not support the myth that gradual weight loss improves long-term outcomes2.” That’s the word they used: myth. The myth of gradual weight loss being more successful than fast weight loss.

The Math

Now to be fair, slow, and steady weight loss does sound appealing in that it seems, so… reasonable. But when you look at the math behind what it would take to reach your goal, the reality is daunting. Say you want to lose 30 lbs. Using the definition of “slow” weight loss from that 2-year study, here’s your progress in your first four weeks on your diet: -.5 lb., -.5 lb., -.5 lb., -.5 lb. You’re now down 2 lbs. after a month. At this rate, losing the remaining 28 lbs. will take 56 more weeks – a little over a year! Are you really ready for that? Losing a lot of weight with slower weight loss takes a long time. And for your weight loss to be “steady” assumes an impressive consistency with your diet, your exercise and your commitment through the ups and downs that come with life. Without consistency, you can lose the steady part of the weight loss and it can slow down even more. And slow weight loss without steady weight loss can quickly become no weight loss.

The Hopeful Message​

Knowing the facts, you don’t have to buy into the slow and steady myth! Instead, consider the idea that you have a finite amount of focused weight loss drive and determination in you. Now, make the most of that time and do what you can to lose weight quickly. Fast, healthy weight loss is far more motivating and cuts down on how long it will take to lose weight, and the combined effect can increase your chances of reaching your goal.

1Nackers LM, Ross KM, Perri MG. The association between rate of initial weight loss and long-term success in obesity treatment: Does slow and steady win the race? Int J Behav Med 201017:161-167.

2Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition (Impact Factor: 5.18). 06/2014 55(14). DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2014.922044