Too often, dieting has a boomerang effect where you end up losing weight, then gaining it all back so where you start and end is, sadly, the same place.
But new research, published in the International Journal of Obesity, has discovered a way to avoid this common pitfall: stick to a diet for 12 months.
It may seem like a long stretch of time, but researchers found if you can maintain a healthy diet for one year, you’ll spur long-term chemical changes in your body that’ll allow you to maintain your goal weight—for life.
In the study, researchers from the University of Copenhagen placed 20 obese men and women on a very low-calorie diet for eight weeks. At the end of the eight weeks, participants experienced a 13 percent weight loss—on average, about 28 pounds. Then, they went on a “strict diet” (AKA the “maintenance protocol”) for 12 month.
The researchers also took blood samples before and after the eight-week low-calorie diet, as well as after one year of weight maintenance. From this, they determined that after the full year, the participants’ bodies produced less of the hunger-inducing hormone ghrelin and more of the appetite-suppressing hormone GLP-1.
So, if you’re serious about maintaining serious weight loss, commit to a healthy, realistic diet for a full year rather than a trend or fad that you know you won’t be able to stick to. The chemicals in your body will change, and so too will those feel-good, life-long healthy habits.