The Cruel Twist of Dieting
So what is it that makes dieting such a challenge? Why do so many smart and ambitious people succeed in losing weight only to gain it back as months and years pass? For most, it isn’t willpower, it isn’t intelligence, devotion or lack of trying…..it’s biology and we are only now starting to understand it! There is much more to weight loss than exercising and calorie counting; the biological functions in our bodies play a MAJOR role in not only the way we lose weight, but how we keep it off.
“…it’s indeed biology, not simply a lack of willpower, that makes it so hard to lose weight.” – “The Weight Loss Trap: Why Your Dieting Isn’t Working” Time
For all the people out there who have successfully dieted and lost weight just to gain it right back – you’re not alone. Many people like you are left asking questions like:
- Why did the weight come back after all these years of exercising and calorie counting?
- Why did I gain more weight back then I lost in the first place?
- How can I do so well at the beginning of a diet and then hit a plateau and even start gaining weight back when I have not broken the diet and still have a lot more to lose?
- Why do celebrities and influencers, who have what seems to be luxurious dieting, chefs to prepare healthy meals and personal trainers, still struggle with maintaining a healthy weight?
So many long time dieters wrestle with these types of questions every single day. The truth of the matter is that most people who have successfully lost weight and maintain healthy eating and an exercise regimen tend to see it creep back on as the weeks, months and years pass by.
Kevin Hall, a scientist at the National Institutes of Health, found that more than 80% of people with obesity who lose weight gain it back.
At New York Bariatric Group we see this all the time; chronic yo-yo dieters come in and out of our offices continuously, frustrated that their low calorie diet and extensive exercise program seem to fail them. This finding does not make us worried but rather it makes us wonder WHY. Through research and various weight loss studies, it seems to be that the answer to our questions is clear – THERE IS A CRUEL TWIST TO THE BIOLOGY OF DIETING. Humans are programmed to retain excess weight.
Referring to the metabolism of successful dieters:
“In a cruel twist, it (their metabolism) remained low, BURNING ABOUT 700 FEWER CALORIES per day than it did before they started losing weight in the first place.”
– Kevin Hall, scientist at the National Institutes of Health
Dr. Hall conducted a study on 14 past contestants from the popular weight loss TV show, The Biggest Loser. What he found was astounding – that even with strict meal plans and intense workout regimens, over time, 13 of the 14 contestants, on average, gained back 66% of the weight they’d lost on the show. Four of them even became heavier than they were before the competition. Dr. Hall offered rational for his findings:
- When we lose weight our resting metabolism, how much energy your body uses when at rest, slows down.
- Yet, as seen with The Biggest Loser contestants, as we gain weight back, our resting metabolism does not speed up with it. As a result, most people who lose weight gain back the pounds they lost at a rate of two to four pounds per year.
However the findings from Dr. Kevin Hall are only the tip of the iceberg. Resting metabolism is not the only biological factor influencing our weight loss process. Further research highlights the role genes, various chemicals and our own microbiome play when it comes to our bodies and weight loss:
- Over the past several years, researchers have identified nearly 100 genetic markers that appear to be linked to being obese or being overweight, and there’s no doubt genes play an important role in how some people break down calories and store fat.
- Another hot area of research is the link between weight gain and chemicals we are exposed to every day, such as bisphenol A (BPA). Such chemicals have the ability to mimic human hormones, and some scientists worry that they may be wreaking havoc on the delicate endocrine system, driving fat storage.
- Eran Elinav and Eran Segal, researchers for the Personalized Nutrition Project at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, believe the variation in diet success may lie in the way people’s microbiomes react to different foods.
These factors contribute to dieters failing and humans getting more and more obese across the globe. As our lifestyles tend to get more sedentary our collective weight is rising. The cruel twist is that after dieting even a serious exercise regimen may not reset your weight to an appropriate BMI.
Bariatric surgery has the best long term rate of success. Procedures like the vertical sleeve gastrectomy help our patients lose 50% or more of their excess weight and more importantly they keep it off long term. There have been many studies on the long term success of weight loss surgery, and even more studies on the failure of dieting. In recent years weight loss surgery has gotten much less invasive, easier to recover from and safer. In fact, it’s very safe.
Many of our patients are over a decade out from their weight loss surgery and are still maintaining weight loss of 100+ pounds. Bariatric surgery is the most effective tool available to the public and is often covered by health insurance. Log on to NYBG.com for a consultation to see if weight loss surgery is right for you.