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The statistics for long-term weight loss are poor. Worse than poor, shocking even. Research studies consistently show that up to and over 90% of slimmers regain their weight within 2 to 5 years, with most putting on even more with each weight rebound. Over the years this "yo-yo" effect subtly accumulates: start diet... lose weight... end diet... regain more weight... try another diet... and so on. It should really be called "yo-YO dieting", because the weight regain is always larger than the initial weight loss. So what is it that separates the 90% of failed slimmers from the 10% of successful slimmers? Have they discovered some kind of miracle weight loss cure, a pill, or new diet? No. The answer lies in the two very different approaches to losing weight - training and lifestyle. Understanding the difference between these approaches is vital if you're goal is to lose weight long term. A training approach Athletes and sports people "train" for an event, whether it be a match, a marathon or even the Olympics. To achieve their optimum level of fitness they have to train for a number of weeks before the event, avoiding distractions and committing everything to their fitness plan. Once the event is over their training stops and the fitness they gained is slowly lost, until they start training for the next event. All diets are a "training approach" to weight loss. Like the athlete in training, the dieter puts themselves in a bubble, takes themselves away from normal life and focuses purely on their weight loss target. Social events are put on hold. Friends are avoided. Meals out are postponed. The dieter's eating habits are forced into something very unnatural, often experiencing hunger and feelings of deprivation. There are an ever increasing number of detox diets, meal replacement plans, very low calorie diets (VLCDs) and even fat camps, all designed to put the dieter into a period of "weight loss training" over a number of weeks. Once the target weight is reached, the training stops and the dieter returns to their normal lifestyle. This is the defining point of the training approach - it is temporary. A lifestyle approach If the training approach is about putting yourself in a bubble and cutting yourself off from the world until your goal is met, the lifestyle approach is about redesigning the world you live in day to day and building habits that fit into your every day life. For example, a training approach to exercise would involve exercising every day for an hour over a 4 week period, whereas a lifestyle approach to exercise would involve being more active in general, taking the stairs at work and walking more often as a long term habit.

The same is true when it comes to nutrition and weight loss. Whilst a training approach to weight loss would involve a low intake of calories (often 1000 or less a day) for a set period of time, a lifestyle approach would look at how much you actually need to eat and then form a healthy eating plan that is enjoyable, flexible and allows you to have a social life. Rather than the restrictive nutrition of the training approach, lifestyle weight loss means eating a good breakfast, lunch and dinner, cutting down on sugar and fats and breaking bad snacking habits. Unlike the training approach there is no end point to a lifestyle approach, you live it permanently, it is your life-style. This is the defining point of the lifestyle approach - it is sustainable. Choosing the right approach Whilst both approaches result in weight loss, there is one very appealing difference - you lose weight faster with a training approach. Most quick-fix diets offer the prospect of losing 2 to 3lbs a week on average, compared to maybe 1lb per week with a lifestyle approach. This makes the training approach very attractive, especially in the fast paced modern world where everyone expects things right here, right now. Nevertheless, before starting a diet slimmers should note that this training approach has two significant long term effects - (1) it damages the metabolism and (2) it increases the appetite - a phenomenon known as "the starvation response". This means that after each diet the body burns less calories and it craves more high energy foods. Do enough diets over the years and this damage accumulates - a slower and slower metabolism with more and more food addictions. You don't need to be a scientist to realise that if you mix a slow metabolism with a big appetite you've got the perfect cocktail for obesity. A training approach to exercise, not nutrition, certainly has it's place. If you are a healthy weight and want to get very lean, then a lifestyle approach to exercise just isn't going to cut it. You will need to train to lose those last pounds of fat, as the body resists fat loss the slimmer you are. This makes the training approach to exercise ideal if you're looking to get extra trim for an event such as a holiday, but expect to see those few pounds back by the time you're on the plane home. By exercising rather than crash dieting you also prevent the slow down in metabolism and increase in appetite that leads to the holiday binging, weight rebound nightmare that so many dieters never recover from. So why are 90% of slimmers getting fatter, not slimmer? Because those 90% of slimmers are taking a training approach to weight loss, when they should really be taking lifestyle one. Think of the obese person who crash diets (a training approach) when really they need to find a healthy and sustainable nutrition plan (a lifestyle approach). If you are overweight or obese, then you have no choice but to take a lifestyle approach to both exercise and nutrition if you want to achieve lasting weight loss. Celebrities are guilty of this just as much as anyone else. Natalie Cassidy from Eastenders famously trained to get her weight down for the release of her "Then and Now" fitness DVD but couldn't sustain it. Her exercise and nutrition regime worked perfectly as a training approach - exercising for 50 minutes five times a week and cutting out all junk food - but the result was a huge rebound weight gain.

The real problem lies in the attraction of fast results offered by quick-fix diets and the failure of the slimming companies to warn their customers about both the temporary nature of their diets and the inevitable weight regain. If they carried a warning about the long term damage they cause to to the metabolism and appetite, slimmers might think twice before living on 500 calories a day for 6 months.

Liam Taylor, gyms stevenage

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