Why is it so hard to keep weight off?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • Most of us who try to diet have lost weight.  In fact, we may have lost it several times, only to regain the weight, feel depressed and thwarted and start all over again. Why can we lose weight but not keep the weight off? Some will say the willpower needed to stay vigilant 24/7 for pretty much the rest of your life is just an impossible long term commitment for most people. Others say we begin to convince ourselves that we "are cured," and so we indulge infrequently at first, while the scale doesn't seem to budge, only to indulge on a more regular basis and eat our way back to our original weight or an even higher weight. What gives?

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    I have always said that if you suffer from the disease called obesity, you need to do the hard work on your emotional issues as well as your waistline issues, and your relationship with food may require psychological therapy. Most dieters will not acknowledge that particular part of the diet treatment plan. Most people also refuse to keep their food environment pristine, meaning no temptations in the home, ongoing objective assessment of portion sizes, and a commitment to staying on a pretty disciplined eating and exercise program, even after they hit goal weight. Certainly these habits may help to prevent weight gain, but a recent study suggests something else may also be happening to undermine your weight maintenance efforts.

     

    A group of Australian researchers investigated whether some initial hormonal fluctuations that typically occur in the early days and months after a person begins a diet, actually persist for longer than originally postulated. These hormone levels prod the person to be hungrier, in response to the body's sensing dramatic weight loss and wanting to "correct the situation," which means pushing you to have a physical desire to eat more than your new diet stipulates. The study used a small group of test subjects, 50 people, and 16 of them quit before they lost the goal weight of 10%. The dieters who did participate for the full duration of the study were only fed 500-550 calories/day to instigate a 10% weight loss or on average 29 pounds. Leptin, an appetite hormone, fell to lower levels as expected after the initial weight loss, but the surprise was that it remained low, meaning that it made the participants unreasonably hungry even a year after goal weight had been achieved. Ghrelin and peptide YY, which typically spike during the early period of weight loss, remained elevated as well and they both also act to prod a person to eat and satisfy hunger.

     

    Researchers concluded that studying and developing treatments to modify these hormone levels might help people to sustain their weight loss more easily. Certainly the study helps to partially explain why, a full year later, dieters confess to struggling to maintain their appetite and their weight despite the "success" on the diet and their happiness with weight loss.

     

Published On: November 08, 2011