The struggle to lose weight… sigh. We've all been there at one time or another and to one extreme or another. But whether you're trying to lose the last 10 pounds or have much more weight to shed in order to feel good in your own skin, there's a good chance you've struggled with dieting at some point. And according to a new study reported in the New York Times, that might be the exact thing that keeps people from being able to lose weight, keep it off, and stay healthy.
"This study is just the latest example of research showing that in the long run dieting is rarely effective, doesn't reliably improve health and does more harm than good. There is a better way to eat."The study centered around participants who had appeared on the TV program The Biggest Loser and showed that six years after they dropped an average of 129 pounds on the show, the former participants were burning an average of 500 calories less every day than other people their age and weight. In addition, they did not continue to lose weight or keep off the unwanted pounds after the show stopped filming, but instead the participants had regained around 70 percent of the weight they had lost. Predictably, the diet industry didn't like the findings about how to actually lose weight and keep it off, reported the New York Times.
"The diet industry reacted defensively, arguing that the participants had lost weight too fast or ate the wrong kinds of food – that diets do work, if you pick the right one."Here's the lowdown: It's not all about willpower and resisting that candy bar or slice of cake. Instead, it turns out that something called "metabolic suppression" has a LOT to do with how and why we gain or lose weight. Metabolic suppression is described as a tool used automatically by the brain to keep the body within a certain weight range, known as the "set point." The set point varies from one person to the next and is largely determined by genes and life experiences. So, when a person goes on a diet to lose weight, and it drops below the set point, the person begins burning fewer calories and – here's the scary part – also begins producing hunger-inducing hormones that make eating feel even more rewarding. Whether a person is suffering from a major eating disorder and goes from a healthy 120 pounds to a very unhealthy 80 pounds, or a person starts at 300 and diets down to 200 – as in the Biggest Loser – the same thing happens and the brain declares a state of emergency that makes it very difficult to continue to lose weight.
"This coordinated brain response is a major reason that dieters find weight loss so hard to achieve and maintain."Perhaps surprisingly, two former contestants on the Biggest Loser don't find the new study disheartening at all. In fact, Olivia Ward – who won the show's 11th season – and her sister Hannah Curlee – who came in second – both say they feel the study is "encouraging," according to MarketWatch. "Nobody talks about how, after you lose weight, it's 10 times harder to keep it off than to take it off," stated Ward.
The researchers who followed up with Ward, Curlee, and other contestants found most had gained back a "significant" amount of the weight, along with slower metabolisms than expected.So, what's the answer for those who want to lose weight and be healthy? The short of it is this and it's nothing new: Eat healthy, get some exercise, and focus on choosing lean proteins, eat your fruits and veggies, and avoid simple carbohydrates.
The obesity study concluded that despite contestants' weight regain, they were "overall quite successful at long-term weight loss compared with other lifestyle interventions," adding that "weight loss wasn't impossible," and that "long-term weight loss requires vigilant combat against persistent metabolic adaptation that acts to proportionally counter ongoing efforts to reduce body weight."
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