Kuk said the results were a reminder that our weight was not entirely in our control.

London - They say practice makes perfect – and it seems that applies to dieting and staying trim.

Women who did a practice run before they started losing weight were better at keeping the pounds off, a study has suggested.

The approach may solve the problem of “yo-yo dieting”, in which slimmers regain lost pounds.

Researchers believe the secret of avoiding weight gain is making small, quick adjustments to their eating habits before they begin a diet.

The study looked at 267 overweight or obese women who either started a weight loss regime immediately or spent eight weeks learning “weight maintenance” skills before starting.

They were also encouraged to weigh themselves daily to see how different eating patterns affected their weight.

After both groups completed their 20-week weight-loss period, which included exercise and eating more fruit and vegetables, all the women lost about 17 pounds on average.

However, a year later the diet-training participants had regained only three pounds on average, compared with a seven-pound regain for the group that started without training.

Michaela Kiernan of Stanford University School of Medicine, in California, said: “Those eight weeks were like a practice run.

“We found that waiting those eight weeks didn’t make the women any less successful at losing weight.

“But even better, women who practised first were more successful in maintaining that loss after a year.”

Kiernan added: “Losing a significant amount of weight requires a lot of focused attention to what you’re doing, and most people can’t keep up that intensity long term.

“This approach helps people learn how to make small, quick adjustments that can help them maintain their weight without a lot of effort.”

The research was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. - Daily Mail