Of the patients involved in the study, close to 40% of the women gained between 5 and 20 pounds, approximately 40% maintained their weight, and just over 15% lost between 5 and 20 pounds. The women ranged in age from 47 to 71, with an average age of 58, and were followed for four years.
Franca Alphin, director of the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center, says learning to maintain weight is as important as taking it off.
"The majority of people know how to lose weight but not maintain weight loss," says Alphin. "The challenge to someone losing weight is to maintain weight, and the challenge for people with normal weight is to maintain it." She says part of the center's weight-loss program is defined periods of weight maintenance. "When someone reaches their goal weight, typically other issues in their lives that have been on hold come back, and food can be reinstated as a crutch, so maintaining weight becomes more important."
Alphin advises a daily diet of 1,200-1,500 calories and an ultimate exercise goal of 30 minutes three or four days per week. "The bottom line in dieting is calories. You have to be aware of portions and overconsumption regardless of what foods you choose to eat."
- Gaining 5-20 pounds over four years can significantly decrease quality of life, but those who can maintain their weight have a high quality of life.
- In a study of 40,000 women, weight gain led to decreased physical functioning, lower overall feelings of vitality, and increased feelings of bodily pain.
- Weight gain is among the strongest predictors of declining physical functioning, and even a moderate gain can have negative effects.