If you're desperate to lose weight, it can be hard to resist the allure of supposed quick fixes and crash diets that could see you losing half a stone in a week.
According to a new study however, this is where you're going wrong - the key to losing weight and keeping it off is consistently losing a small amount each week.
Researchers from Drexel University in the US have confirmed what many of us have long suspected: the best way to trim down is to steadily - not drastically - cut down your calories.
It may not be as trendy as a juice cleanse, but a sensible weight loss approach will pay off in the long run because people who lose a lot of weight in a short period of time nearly always pile the pounds back on afterwards.
To reach their conclusions, the researchers studied 183 obese and overweight people aged 18-65 (80 per cent of whom were women) on weight loss programmes for a year. They used meal replacements, reduced their calorie intake and increased their activity levels.
It was found that the participants who lost a consistent amount of weight week-in week-out for the first six weeks of the study had lost more weight a year on than the yo-yo dieters, despite the fact that they’d seen more dramatic results in the early stages.
And another year on, those who’d lost weight consistently were more likely to have kept it off.
For example, someone who lost one pound each week for three weeks fared better than someone who lost four pounds one week, put two back on the next and lost another the following week.
The study’s lead researcher Dr Emily Feig said: “It seems that developing stable, repeatable behaviours related to food intake and weight loss early on in a weight control programme is really important for maintaining changes over the long term.”
More than 60 per cent of British adults are overweight and a quarter are obese, and many people develop binge and purge cycles, meaning their weight fluctuates a lot over time.
Despite how hard many people work to lose weight, researchers have found that two-thirds of those who reach their targets have put all the weight back on within three years.
Co-author Professor Michael Lowe advises: “Settle on a weight loss plan that you can maintain week in and week out, even if that means consistently losing three quarters of a pound each week.”