We are in the second month of 2018. If you made a New Year’s resolution about losing weight, either you have seen the first few pounds of success or you have given up on the effort. Either way, weight loss is often peddled as a simple process but science is revealing how complex it really is.
First of all, the basics remain the same. You will need to move more and eat less to be successful. But you may be surprised to learn that “willpower”, “calories in, calories out” or “fat-free/low fat” may not be the most important approaches to make this happen.
One strategy the body uses after weight loss is to slow down the basal metabolism or the number of calories your body burns at rest. Your body is rejecting this lower weight and is doing what it can to regain those lost pounds. By slowing down the amount of energy the body burns minute to minute, these extra unused calories are turned back into fat. This one explanation why most people regain some, if not all, of the weight they worked so hard to lose.
To prevent weight regain, scientists have observed that every day behaviors play a role. People who are keeping the off the weight eat breakfast and are exercising an hour each day. And each week they are stepping on the scale and watching fewer than 10 hours of TV. Read more about successful weight management stories from people who have done it.
And what about the diet choices for weight loss?
The main take away here is that different approaches work for different people. “Why?” is the question facing science today. Both genetic and environmental factors are yielding some answers.
One factor may be the type of bacteria present in the gut. Unhealthy bacteria may promote weight gain while the lack of healthy bacteria may hinder weight loss. A plant based diet has been shown to improve the balance of the trillions of bacteria found in the gut.
Another factor comes from researching brown and beige fat. These types of body fat BURN calories instead of storing them. When activated, they can burn a few hundred calories a day. We know that cooler temperatures make them work harder. And it is possible that certain types of food can do the same. Finding a way to keep them turned on may be an important strategy for long-term weight control.
And one other factor is how calories are processed in the cells. Mitochondria are responsible for turning food into fuel. This energy is either burned right away in the form of glucose or stored as fat to be used later as energy. Certain foods may be more likely to become fat instead of glucose. And after weight loss the body may just turn more food into stored fat. For people who have lost weight, eating 20% fewer calories than before may be necessary to keep those fat stores from coming back.
While the biology may be complex, it is clear that maintaining a healthier weight has benefits. Losing 10% of your weight will improve your blood pressure and blood sugar. This greatly decreases your risk for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Now that you are armed with a better understanding of what it takes to be successful, use this information to help you make better weight management choices for the rest of 2018.
DHAC can help you reach and maintain your weight loss goal. Each member of our Exercise Physiology staff holds a degree in Exercise Science. You will find that their expertise and commitment will help you develop a safe and effective approach to weight control.
-Cathy Mullooly, Diabetes and Exercise Consultant at Dedham Health