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Obesity and Weight Management

Debate

06/08/2006

Question:

I have a question......If there are two people, one that weighs 150 and the other that weighs 170 and they both are on the same diet plan, exercise program and both have the same metabolism, and both needing to lose 20 lbs. in order to be considered healthy for their bone structure, who would lose weight faster? There is a debate at work and we wanted the answer and the reasoning from a professional. Please advise!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Answer:

First, being on the same diet plan and the same exercise program does not mean that the plans are followed exactly.  You will never have two people who eat and exercise exactly the same.  However, each will lose a pound of fat whenever they have a deficit of 3500 kilocalories.  This change in weight may not be evident from weighing since scales measure only a change in weight not a change in body fat.  They might both lose the same amount of fat, but one may be retaining fluid the day they weigh in.  Has one lost weight faster?  You must define what you mean by weight loss. 

Typically, when one person weighs more than another, the heavier person has more muscle mass which is seen in a higher resting metabolic rate.  The higher the resting metabolic rate, the easier it should be to lose weight.  Note, I indicated should be easier.  Weight loss has a strong behavioral component that cannot be discounted.  It is true that as weight increases, more calories are burned for the same amount of work.  For example, if both of these individuals walked 2 miles in the same amount of time, the person weighing 170 would burn more kilocalories, thus potentially could lose faster initially.  

Another issue to consider is final weight to be achieved; what you referred to as "healthy for their bone structure."  Are you referring to a certain body mass index (BMI) for both such as 22?  Or is one person considered "healthy" at a BMI of 22 and the other at a BMI of 24?  The lower the goal, the slower will be the weight loss. 

Has one of these individuals recently lost weight?  Having lost weight will slow the loss of additional weight.  All studies of weight loss show a plateauing effect around three months.  If the person weighing 170 has recently lost 10 or 20 pounds and now wants to lose more weight, while the 150 pound individual has not lost weight recently, the lighter individual will probably experience more rapid weight loss.

There is not a simple answer to your question, but I hope I have given you some points to ponder.

Thank you for your interest in NetWellness.

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Response by:

Shirley A Kindrick, PhD Shirley A Kindrick, PhD
Team Leader of Comprehensive Weight Management
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University