Blaming a slow metabolism for your diet plateau can sometimes be seen as a cop-out—after all, you could always just work harder, right? Wrong. According to a new study published in the journal Diabetes, some people are cursed with slower metabolisms that make it harder to lose those last few pounds.
Researchers at the National Institutes of Health had 12 obese volunteers go on a severe calorie-restriction diet for six weeks. They fasted for a day, and then reduced their calories by half for the rest of the time. Participants were monitored for their daily "energy deficit," meaning the net amount of calories they burned every day.
The scientists found that not everyone lost the same percentage of weight. People who had "thrifty" metabolisms, which slowed down when fed fewer calories to "save" nutrients, lost the least weight during the experiment. People with "spendthrift" metabolisms, which slowed down the least in response to the extreme diet and preferred to "spend" calories, ended up losing the most weight. And that's counting for factors like gender, race, age, and baseline weight.
"The results corroborate the idea that some people who are obese may have to work harder to lose weight due to metabolic differences," lead author Dr. Martin Reinhardt said in a press release. "But biology is not destiny. Balanced diet and regular physical activity over a long period can be very effective for weight loss."
Good Housekeeping Institute's nutrition director, Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, says the study confirms what doctors and nutritionists already knew. "There isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to any impactful change, particularly with weight loss," she says.
So what does she recommend? Never skip meals, regardless of whether you have a "thrifty" or a "spendthrift" metabolism, and to add strength training to your workouts to rev up how many calories you burn.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors