In late 2011, The New York Times Magazine published a piece by Tara Parker-Pope titled “The Fat Trap” that detailed, among other things, the difficulty even extremely dedicated people can have with keeping weight off once it’s been lost.
The phenomenon of “yo-yo dieting,” an endless cycle of losing weight before gaining it back, is well known to many people. Contrary to common wisdom, Parker-Pope’s article suggested that the difficulty many people have with maintaining weight loss could be less a failure of willpower than an issue rooted in physical changes undergone by the body upon losing fat.
In a nutshell, the piece cites research that has found in people who have lost significant amounts of weight that the body is less metabolically active, has a greater hormonal response to food, and other changes that make prolonged weight loss more difficult regardless of a person’s habits. This isn’t to say that maintaining weight loss permanently is impossible – quite the contrary – but it does explain the difficulty so many people have with it.
Luckily, according to one study this struggle may not last forever.
A new study by Signe Sørensen Torekov, associate professor of biomedical sciences at the University of Copenhagen, has been published in the European Journal of Endocrinology. The study shows that after one year of maintaining weight loss there is a marked increase in appetite suppressant hormones GLP-1 and PYY, and that the so-called “hunger hormone” ghrelin, which often increases immediately after losing weight, returns to normal levels as well.
Or as Sørensen Torekov puts it, “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.”
The study was conducted by following 20 obese individuals for one year after an 8-week low calorie diet, tracking their weight and hormonal response to food before, during, and after.
“[After a year] the body is no longer fighting against you, but actually with you, which is good news for anyone trying to lose weight,” Sørensen Torekov says.
Of course, maintaining weight loss for a whole year is easier said than done; but it’s not impossible. In addition to getting medically supervised help from a team like the one at Medical Weight Loss Solutions, people looking to keep weight off for good can follow these tips.
Studies have found that maintaining a robust and above all consistent exercise regimen is even more important to maintaining weight loss than it is to lose weight in the first place. Most experts suggest getting at least an hour of exercise per day, even if it’s just a brisk walk, to optimize weight loss outcomes.
Do you tend to overeat when you’re bored or stressed? Are you too tired from work to make it to the gym regularly? If so, you’re not alone. Know what triggers these kinds of behaviors for you,
and do what you can to mitigate those triggers. If stress makes things difficult, find a way to decompress like yoga. If it’s boredom, join social clubs or get a hobby to keep yourself occupied. If your job is making it difficult to find the time to exercise, try going to the gym in the morning instead of afternoons (or consider a career change).
This doesn’t mean you have to weigh yourself every day, but weighing in regularly, even if it’s just every two or three weeks, will make you aware if pounds are starting to creep back on before it’s too late. It will also let you better identify the kinds of behavior and habits that should be avoided.
Weight fluctuations are normal, and even if you’re trying to maintain long-term weight loss, gaining a pound or two is much less harmful that responding to that weight by throwing your hands up and quitting. Stay the course on your diet and exercise routines, keep a positive attitude, and no matter what you’ll be a happier and healthier person for it.
Contact Medical Weight Loss Solutions in Wallingford, CT for more information about medically supervised weight loss, personal training, and more.