In The Weight Loss Battle: Fighting Your Own Biology

Have you ever lost weight, only to have that number on the scale creep back up months or years later? Well it turns out your body might be plotting against you.

By WFAE’s Roger Sarow

You know it is winter because the TV airwaves are filled with celebs touting weight loss plans. Pitch persons range from Marie Osmond to Charles Barkley.

Some health professionals treat weight control as though it’s the world’s simplest math problem – lose more calories through exercise than you add through eating – and the weight should automatically drop off.

The painful truth is that more Americans struggle with their weight than not. Many dieters say if weight loss were simple, they wouldn’t be tempted to shred their calorie counter booklets.

But wait. Or weight.  The really hard part is keeping the pounds off. There are now serious experts saying that repeated weight gains after losses – yo-yo dieting – may bring additional health hazards.

There is increasing speculation that your body’s metabolism may work against you to ratchet your weight up. That makes sense to those of us who have experienced sudden cravings for fatty or sweet foods, or overwhelming urges to eat heavily when placed near large amounts of food.

I want to call your attention to a recent Talk of the Nation show on WFAE. Neal Conan interviewed Tara Parker-Pope, a New York Times writer, about her insightful piece called The Fat Trap. It looks at the science behind weight gain and weight management and specifically, a unique study conducted in Australia.

Anyone who has ever dieted knows that lost pounds often return, and most of us assume the reason is a lack of discipline or a failure of willpower. But Proietto [a physician at the University of Melbourne] suspected that there was more to it, and he decided to take a closer look at the biological state of the body after weight loss.

The study followed 34 obese men and women on a very strict low-calorie diet. After losing an average of 30 pounds each, most of the participants regained some of the weight in the following year and they also reported feeling more hungry than before the weight loss.

While researchers have known for decades that the body undergoes various metabolic and hormonal changes while it’s losing weight, the Australian team detected something new. A full year after significant weight loss, these men and women remained in what could be described as a biologically altered state. Their still-plump bodies were acting as if they were starving and were working overtime to regain the pounds they lost.

Find out how the researchers explain this reaction in ‘The Fat Trap’ from The New York Times here. It’s a complex issue and there’s more research to be done; but in the meantime, let’s hope that our approaching Spring – and the chance to enjoy more outdoor exercise – will lighten our spirits as well as our bathroom scales.

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