Why Long Term Weight Loss is so Difficult Part 2
Last week, I discussed how the human body will try its best to hold on to fat through metabolism
compensation. To sum it up, when we start to lose weight, our metabolism will start to slow down in order to keep as much weight on as it can. And to throw in more bad news, there are still more ways that the body will try to fight weight loss. One of these is through our hormones. When we lose weight, there our hormones that basically function to make us hungrier. Do you feel like you’ve been stabbed in the back by your own stomach? Yeah, me too. There are many hormones involved in hunger but one of the most well-known back stabbers is a hormone called leptin, which is released by our fat cells to tell our brain when to eat and when to stop. When we continue to lose weight, the level of leptin drops which is basically trying to tell our brain that we are starving so that it will suppress our metabolism to hold on to more stored fat. How rude.
Let’s try to put all of this into perspective when it comes to maintaining weight loss. For example, Phyllis decided that it was finally time to lose some weight because she has an upcoming beach trip planned. She only has 3 months before the trip, and she would like to lose at least 30lbs. She decides to strictly diet and exercise a lot until her trip. She normally consumes around 2,000 calories a day and her weight stay around the same number. Phyllis decides to only eat 750 calories per day. She also starts to run on the treadmill 5 times per week. She experiences very rapid weight loss and is very happy with her results. As the beach trip is getting closer, the weight loss starts to become slower and slower,so she decides to do a juice fast for the week before the trip.
She exceeds her goal of 30 lbs and enjoys her trip while eating whatever she wants.Unfortunately, she gains over 10 lbs back while on the trip but is unable to make herself go back to only eating 750 calories per day when she gets back. Over time, her weight keeps creeping back until she is even heavier than where she started. This is an all-too-common experience and is relatable for many of us. Sure, there are situations when some quick weight loss is needed, but it is far from the optimal way for long-term change.
While Phyllis was crash dieting, her metabolism was becoming slower and slower. Before, she had typically burned around 2,000 calories per day and was able to maintain her weight. During the diet, her metabolism adapted so that her body was burning far fewer calories per day so that it could still store energy even with the low caloric intake. In addition to adjusting to the new diet, her body also had to slow down her metabolism due to the frequent cardio. Once her body realized that not only was it not getting enough calories per day but that it was also losing hundreds of calories from the new cardio exercise, it had to drastically slow down her metabolism in order to preserve whatever energy it could. So when Phyllis went back to eating 2,000 or more calories per day, her body was still burning far fewer calories per day so it was
happy to put all of the weight back on once the diet was over.
This is why long-term weight loss is not something that can be achieved easily from rapid success. The human body is just not made that way. Those that successfully lose a large amount of weight are those that make changes to their lifestyle that become permanent. Slow and steady wins the race. Now that we’ve gone over the why, next week we will start to go over some healthy ways to achieve those long-lasting results.
-Joshua White PA-C