Obesity researchers have been working for decades to understand why it is so hard to maintain weight loss. The prevailing theory — proved dramatically in a study of contestants from “The Biggest Loser” reality TV show that Hall published earlier this year — is that the body’s ability to burn calories at rest, or its resting metabolism, slows down, making it easy to regain weight.
The other piece of the equation, food intake after weight loss, has been much harder to study.
That’s because people are notoriously bad at keeping track of how much they eat.
You are doing your best and following your diet. The weight is melting off, and you’re feeling your best. But then there is that seemingly inevitable backslide, with pound after pound creeping back on despite your best efforts. It’s the ultimate Catch-22.
But before you beat yourself up, endocrinologist and obesity specialist Marcio Griebeler, MD, has some welcome news: It’s most likely not your fault.
“When you are working hard to lose your excess fat, your body is also fighting to keep your weight as it was before the dieting to your weight set point” .
What “weight set point” has to do with it!!!
Experts think as many as 80% to 95% of dieters gain back the weight they’ve worked so hard to lose. Why? (WHY?!?)
According to Dr. Griebeler, the culprit is your “weight set point”: Every body is different and the weight your body is programmed to be in also different. Your weight set point is a combination of several factors, including your:
Weight set point and metabolism play for the same team: Your metabolism burns energy at a rate that will maintain your weight set point, even if that point is heavier than the healthy weight.
“Most of the time, weight gain is gradual, and that can raise your set point gradually, too,” notes Dr. Griebeler. “But certain lifestyle changes can lower it.”
To maintain weight loss for good, experts advise focusing on these four areas:
Diet – Create a healthy, long-term, stick-with-it diet
- Learn what’s healthy — and what’s not. (A nutritionist or dietitian can help.)
- Practice portion control, even when eating healthy foods.
- Avoid empty calories, but treat yourself once in a while.
- Don’t “diet.” Instead, focus on forming healthy habits for life.
Exercise. Be an equal opportunity exerciser
- Do both aerobic exercise (three to five times a week) and resistance training (two to three times nonconsecutively each week). Shoot for at least 25 to 35 minutes on most days.
Exercise works best for keeping off the weight gain (not jumpstarting weight loss), so recognise that binging on exercise can be just as bad as binging on food. “Exercise can make people super hungry, while it makes others tired and inactive, which can negate the activity they did,”
But it’s also important to remember the cardiovascular benefits of exercise, independent of weight loss. “Exercise is always good and important,” he says.
Stress not only causes some people to eat more, but it also raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol. “If you have more cortisol, you end up with higher insulin and lower blood sugar levels,” (Cue the cravings.) To cope, put down the fork and try meditating or talking to a trusted friend.
Not getting enough sleep raises cortisol levels, too. It also affects decision-making (read: your ability to stick to healthy habits). Seven to nine hours every night is the magic number you need to help you manage stress. It also helps your body work with you — and not against you — when it comes to weight loss.
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