The Painful Realities of Weight Cycling

When it comes to weight loss, one of the biggest challenges is keeping the weight off once lost. Many dieters report gaining the weight back after reaching their goal weight. Some report gaining back more weight than they lost. It is a process called “cycling.”

Joanne Huang and her colleagues conducted a study in which they divided 175,000 patients into four categories for analysis based on how much weight they had lost in a six month period. The four groups included those who remained stable and lost less than 5% of their Body Mass Index (BMI), those who lost a modest amount (5-10%), a moderate amount (10-15%), and those who lost a high amount (more than 15%).

The study found that regardless of the amount lost in six months, after 2 years, most people had become cyclers. Percentage wise, of those that lost a modest amount of weight, 40% had gained back more than half of the weight within two years. Those that lost a moderate amount, 36% had regained half of the weight back. The group that fared best was the group that lost high amounts of weight. Only 19% had gained more than half of the weight back after two years.

Huang did notes that only 2% of the patients were prescribed any kind of weight loss medication. She also noted that most of the data were based on physician notes and due to this, may not offer a full picture of any lifestyle interventions. Many doctors do not record what, if any, weight loss advice they give their patients. Data was lacking to determine how many of the patients had undergone weight loss surgery as well.

All of the data for the study was taken from the Electronic Health Records of the patients. All patients were at least 18 years of age, with the mean patient age being 54-57 years of age. It should be noted that EHRs can contain errors and there could be several unrecorded factors which affect weight loss and gain.

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