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Losing weight is harder than you think

21st February 2012

An Australian expert says that losing weight is twice as hard as you might have previously thought, because reducing your intake of calories actually slows down the speed at which your body burns energy.

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According to the new report by obesity expert Boyd Swinburn from Melbourne's Deakin University, cutting the amount of calories you consume actually slows down your body's metabolic rate.

These metabolic changes are currently ignored by conventional guidelines on weight loss, Swinburn told the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Currently, official guidelines in the US and Britain say that cutting food intake by around 500 calories a day will result in an average weight loss of a pound a week.

But this is now in doubt, according to Swinburn, who has designed a website which gives a new estimate for weight loss that takes the problem of metabolism into account.

Now, dieters can log on to get a more realistic idea of how much weight they can expect to lose.

The Body Weight Simulator website at bwsimulator.niddk.nih.gov can issue an estimate of how much less would-be slimmers will have to eat, or how much more exercise they must do, in order to reach their goal weight.

Under the old government guidelines, dieters can expect to lose 10 pounds annually by reducing their food intake by just 100 calories a day.

But under the new rule proposed by Swinburn, they can realistically only expect to lose five pounds in a year.

Swinburn urged dieters to be patient, and not to expect weight loss of more than half a pound a week, which he said would be an "extremely good" result.

He told the conference that weight loss was a marathon rather than a sprint.

According to fellow researcher Kevin Hall, the rule of thumb for weight loss that has become received wisdom for dieters is now "incredibly wrong".

Slimmers will eventually reach a plateau using that approach, Hall warned.

He said the team had worked to develop realistic mathematical models about what happens to metabolism when people start changing their diets, so as to establish better rules and better predictions.


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