So you’ve lost the weight and are extremely chuffed. Your life goes back to normal, people can once again approach you without fear of disembowelment, the sun seems brighter, birds twitter happily, and life is just peachy. It’s been a long [insert time period here] of exercise and self denial, but it was worth it. You’ve reached your target weight and all your clothes fit perfectly. A week or two later you weigh yourself only to find that the laboriously shed pounds seem to be sneaking up like distant relatives after you’ve won the lotto.
Every individual that has ever struggled with obesity has lived this story. Losing the weight is a piece of, um, cake compared to keeping it off.
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In the study, 20 obese but otherwise healthy subjects were put on a low-calorie powder diet and lost, on average, 13 percent of their body weight. They then entered a 52-week maintenance program, involving dieticians and lifestyle changes, as well as diet calendar tracking. If they noticed a gain in weight, they were permitted to replace no more than two meals a day with a low-calorie diet product. The participants’ blood was tested before weight loss, after weight loss, and after 52 weeks of weight maintenance.
“This study shows that if an overweight person is able to maintain an initial weight loss — in this case for a year — the body will eventually ‘accept’ this new weight and thus not fight against it, as is otherwise normally the case when you are in a calorie-deficit state,” says Associate Professor Signe Sorensen Torekov from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research.
As the body gains weight, new, higher “norms” are set. Once weight is lost, the body compensates in an attempt to get back to what it sees as its normal weight. The study has found that after a year of weight loss maintenance, two hormones responsible for inhibiting appetite, GPL-1 and PPY, increased and Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, returned to normal after an initial post-diet increase. This indicates that the two appetite inhibiting hormones can re-adjust, thereby lowering the body’s previous “norm” regarding weight.
“We know that obese people have low levels of the appetite inhibiting hormone GLP-1. The good thing is that now we are able to show that you can actually increase the levels of this hormone as well as the appetite inhibiting hormone PYY by weight loss and that the levels are kept high (=increased appetite inhibition) when you maintain your weight loss for a year,” says first author of the study MD and PhD student Eva Winning Iepsen.
“The interesting and uplifting news in this study is that if you are able to maintain your weight loss for a longer period of time, it seems as if you have ‘passed the critical point’, and after this point, it will actually become easier for you to maintain your weight loss than is was immediately after the initial weight loss. Thus, the body is no longer fighting against you, but actually with you, which is good news for anyone trying to lose weight,” Associate Professor Signe Sorensen Torekov said.
It seems the secret to permanent weight loss has been revealed, all that now needs to be done is to find the perfect weight loss program. Dr. David Ludwig, an endocrinologist and professor of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, has published a book, Always Hungry, in which he highlights the importance of a well balanced diet when losing weight. “Hunger is very powerful and very primal, you can ignore it for a few days or weeks or months, or trick it by drinking lots of water or going for a walk, but it’s very hard to ignore it permanently.”
[Photo by Julia Ewan/The Washington Post/Getty Images]
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