A new study offers some rather depressing news for those of you who are obese: You’re probably going to stay that way. Researchers at King's College London monitored the weight of 278,982 Brits, including 176,000 who were obese, from 2004 to 2014. Excluding those who had weight loss surgery, just 1,283 obese men and 2,245 women returned to a normal body weight during that time, reports the BBC. That means obese men had just a 0.5% chance of getting back to a healthy weight level each year. For women, the rate of success was 0.8%, or "almost impossible," a researcher tells HealthDay. For those morbidly obese, the figure was even less encouraging: less than 0.15% for women and much less for men. While 8% of men and 10% of women were able to lose at least 5% of their body weight within a year, more than half had regained the weight two years later, while 78% had after five years, according to a press release.
The fact that this yo-yo effect—the cycle of people losing weight, only to gain it back again—was so prevalent shows weight loss strategies for the obese are simply inadequate, researchers say. "Current strategies that focus on cutting calories and boosting physical activity aren't working for most patients to achieve weight loss and maintain that," says Alison Fildes, lead author of the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health (researchers didn't monitor how the study participants attempted to lose weight, however). While cutting 5% to 10% of body weight has significant health benefits for the obese—including lowered blood pressure and blood sugar, reports HealthDay—"priority needs to be placed on preventing weight gain in the first place," says Fildes. (Our weights have changed dramatically since the 1960s.)