Inability to maintain weight loss is a constant refrain among many people who attempt to lose weight. If losing weight is proving difficult, and you cannot sustain a steady pace of weight loss over an extended period, then you might want to rethink your approach.

A new study found that people whose weight fluctuated in the first few months of a weight loss program lost less weight over the long run, compared to people with more consistent week-by-week progress. The study by researchers at Drexel University in the United States suggested that this could help identify people early on who need extra support in meeting their weight loss goals.

The dangers of regaining weight that was lost in a short span of time is nothing new to health professionals. Fluctuating weight loss is a clear signal that the issue is about something else other than the food you eat and the exercise you engage in. It could be that there are ingrained patterns of behavior that need to be examined to determine the real reason why you cannot maintain a steady weight loss pattern.

For their study the researchers followed 183 people participating in a year-long behavioral weight loss program. The scientists found that people whose weight fluctuated more during the first 6 or 12 months lost less weight after one and two years.

For example, people who lost 2 kilos in one week, regained two the next, and then lost one the next and so on, did more poorly than people who lost half a kilo each week during the first six months. They also found that while weight variability over the first six months predicted long-term success, the 12-month variability was less affected by other factors.

All volunteers were given goals to focus on during the program, such as monitoring their habits, progress, and calorie intake, while also increasing their physical activity. The first six months of the program focused on weight loss, with weekly small group sessions. The final six months shifted toward maintaining the weight, with less frequent sessions.

People who reported higher binge eating, emotional eating, and preoccupation with food at the beginning of the study showed higher weight variability and lost less weight after one or two years.

The study suggests that weight variability is a better predictor of long-term success than a person’s relationship with food.

The researchers pointed out that the study does not show that weight variability causes poorer weight loss outcomes. But it may help target people who are not benefitting from a particular weight loss program — before they have spent a year trying to lose weight.

Although losing 4 kilos in the first few weeks can be a big boost of motivation for many people, it may not matter in the long run if your weight yo-yos the rest of the time.

A dramatic example of this comes from a 2016 Obesity study, in which researchers followed 14 people who participated in a television game-show competition titled the ‘Biggest Weight Loser’. Over the course of the 30-week show, each participant lost on average around 60 kilos. But six years later, all but one had regained an average 40 kilos each.

Researchers and doctors point out that severely restricting your calories or ditching carbs may give you dramatic upfront weight loss results, but they do not make sense if you want lifelong success. They add that weight-loss aspirants should instead be aiming for sustainable weight loss that can be maintained over extended periods.

One way to approach weight loss sustainably is by setting goals that you can actually achieve. For example, if your approach to weight loss involves running, and you are currently running two km, three times a week, the next step needs to be doable. That might mean running 3 or 4 km on one or two of those days, rather than jumping straight to doing 5 or 6 km, six times a week.

This approach also provides positive reinforcement for your goal-setting muscles. The more you set and achieve small measurable weight-loss goals, the more likely that you will be able to achieve larger goals.”

Another way to maintain a sustainable weight loss is to look at what triggers food longing in you. Do you eat when you are bored, stressed, or happy? Do you go out every Friday night out of habit? Do you automatically reach for a bag of chips when you sit down to watch your favorite television show?

Take a look at your current patterns of behavior around food and figure out what those triggers are, be it positive or negative triggers. Then systematically look at changing those patterns of behavior based on the knowledge of the triggers.

This approach to weight loss is not for everyone, especially with so many ads popping up online for easy weight loss options. But many people burn out from always trying the latest diet or the next cool workout.and eventually get tired of dieting after finding it to be unsuccessful. You need to realize that there are other factors involved, other than food and exercise, in your ability to maintain a consistent weight loss, said the research team.

Plastic pollution in blood streams

Finding a piece of plastic from the containers used by restaurants and fast-food outlets to deliver food is not generally considered a ‘big deal’. We just pick the offending plastic, remove it, and go on enjoying our meal. While the relatively larger plastics visible in our food are easy to discover and discard, this is not possible in the case of tiny, unseen plastic pieces that have been littering our foods in recent decades.

These minutely small particles that have been found in various foods, and even in bottled water, eventually end up in our gut. In addition to the nano plastic particles that reach our stomach, we also regularly inhale microscopic bits of the plastic that floats in the air and lands in our lungs. Until recently, scientists were not sure if these particles that land in our gut and lungs gradually enter deeper into our body.

Now a team of researchers at Vrije Universiteit in the Netherlands have found evidence of microplastics turning up in human blood. Plastics that enter the lungs or gut are not technically considered as having crossed into the body proper; that happens only once the microplastics get into the bloodstream.

Blood can then move the little bits throughout the body. And that is what makes the new discovery worrisome, as there is no telling where the microplastics circulating inside our body might end up; or what type of harm they might do.

Microplastics have been shown to cause inflammation in various body systems. Plastic bits may also carry toxic chemicals that can affect our hormonal and reproductive system. They are also known to harm some wildlife and pollute the ecosystem, said ecotoxicologists associated with the Vrije researchers. Ecotoxicologist are scientists who look for and study substances in the environment that may potentially harm humans.

Finding microscopic plastic particles in blood is not easy; you cannot just look through a microscope and count the plastics in the bloodstream. Moreover, prior to the study at Vrije, no research had been done to measure plastic pollution in bloodstreams. So the researchers had to devise their own method to do so, and ended up using a chemical approach to count the pollutants.

They collected blood from 22 adults and processed the sample to remove big cells. This left a clear liquid, the plasma, which they then processed to filter out particles bigger than 700 nanometers. To put this size in proper perspective, it is worth noting that the width of a human hair is more than 100 times that size.

Following this filtration, the researchers then looked for five different types of polymers, which are the basic building blocks of plastics, and make up the most common plastics currently in use. The results showed that measurable amounts of four polymers turned up in the blood of 17 people — more than three in every four. Some blood samples had two or more polymers.

One in every four samples of tested blood had polyethylene, which is a particularly common plastic used in a very broad range of products, from shopping bags and bottles to toys and laminate coatings. Half of the people were also found to have PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is used among others in manufacture of polyester fabrics and plastic bottles. One-third of the samples also turned up positive for polystyrene, the building block for a wide variety of plastic products, including some types of insulating foam, computer cases, scientific labware, plastic forks, hair combs and more.

In addition, polymethyl methacrylate PMMA, also known as acrylic, was found in one sample of blood. The transparent, heat-molded PMMA is often used in dental work, in plexiglass and many other objects. The team also looked for polypropylene — which is used among others in ropes, carpets, upholstery, clothing and camping equipment — but did not find any. They noted that if polypropylene was present, it could have been at levels too low to detect.

Humans are frequently in contact with microplastics. Doctors, especially neuroscientists, have expressed worry about children’s exposure to microplastics and how it could impair their brain and overall development. Due to current sparsity in data on microplastics, scientists do not have the knowledge to determine the full impact of microplastics on human health. Moreover, it is not easy to separate the effects of exposure to microplastics, larger plastics and plastic chemicals, so as to determine which particular plastic was responsible for a specific undesirable outcome to health.

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