The human body is very good at maintaining body weight. The human body likes to sit at a pre-determined body weight range. Scientists call this the set point. Generally, following normal eating patterns your body might drift up and down a few kilos according to season or environmental prompts that cause you to eat food. Your body maintains its weight by making you feel hungry by releasing hormones and prompting you to eat. In reverse, it also burns more energy through heat (to an extent) when you have eaten too much. Think back to a time when you ate too much food, you might have felt hot for a few hours after.
In short, the body has mechanisms in place to combat variations in food intake. As a result, your body is maintained at a stable weight unless changes to eating and exercise patterns are made on a consistent basis.
There are a number of things that can drift our set point up or down. For example, chronic overeating or lack of exercise. This is what occurs in the case of developing overweight and obesity. On the slip side, we can push our natural set point down through regular exercise and healthier eating patterns.
When someone tries to lose weight through restrictive dieting, the body goes into famine mode and things occur hormonally to stop the weight loss. After only a few hours of restricting carbohydrates, blood sugar levels drop and we start to feel hungry. In some instances, you may even get sugar cravings. This usually prompts dieters to cave in and seek out carbohydrates and sugars to combat this. Derailing the entire process of dieting and leaving the dieter feeling like a failure.
Another hormone, leptin, plays a huge role in how much and when you eat. Leptin is a hormone that is released when we eat food. It controls the amount of fat our body stores it’s also an appetite suppressant. Without leptin we would feel hungry all the time. This is exactly what happens on restrictive eating plans. Low levels of leptin cause extreme hunger and people derail their dieting plans.
Similar things happen with exercise. Some people can feel hungry post-exercise, causing them to overeat more than what they burnt off doing the training in the first place.
Why does our body fight back after losing weight?
Our body fights against weight loss because we are trying to work against our genetics. Our genes are primed for survival. The body is designed to store fat for times of need. In our modern life, this is a bad thing because we have food in abundance and no reason to do physical activity unless we want to. We have ancient genes in a modern world, which is killing us.
Dieting and trying to stay slim is trying to override the body’s natural biological drive to survive. Research has shown that 80% of people’s weight rebounds after sliming. Only 20% of people who lose weight actually maintain the loss long term. The reason why these people keep it off has nothing to do with the type of diet they choose, they keep it off because of the behaviours and new routines ingrained into their daily lives.
Does this mean we should just give up on losing weight?
You shouldn’t give up, but you should certainly give up dieting. When you diet or exercise in extreme amounts, you typically end up binge eating later on or worse still reverting back to non-dieting, non-exercising ways, giving up and feeling like a failure. Do yourself a favour and just stop doing it!
You set yourself up for failure every time you start a new fad diet. Consisted failures do nothing for your sense of self-worth and self-esteem.
Try moderation instead, this means; being able to enjoy foods you love in a manner that you can maintain your body weight and good health. If you need help with your diet or getting started you may want to seek help from a professional, like a dietitian.
Often people find it hard to stop eating fun foods like chocolate, ice cream and lollies because these fun foods are placed on a pedestal, as something we love but can’t have. Dieters get sugar cravings, and dream of food because they are too focused on eating “good” and not having “bad” foods. This perpetuates the restrictive “diet”, binge “not on a diet” cycle.
The trick to managing weight permanently is to ditch the dieting rules and stop comparing your food choices to others. Food is neither bad nor good; it’s just different foods for different occasions, like a birthday cake on a birthday or a Sunday roast on a Sunday.
The most successful weight losers from the National Weight Registry do not diet. They do however eat mindfully. This means you make conscious decisions about food choices, rather than subconscious eating or eating due to emotion. They track their food by keeping a food diary or a mental tally of what they have had that day.
Successful weight losers stay active, participating in regular activity for at least 60min a day, most just walk. And they limit screen time from the computer and TV to less than 10 hours per week, which means sedentary time is reduced and there’s less chance to eat in front of the TV.
Setting up your home environment or office to include healthier food choices, and less visual prompts for junk food also helps.
Rather than vowing to diet again, get your weight in check once and for all by taking the slower approach. Become mindful of your food choices and change your behaviours and environment. Outsmart your old genes with new behaviours that will be sustainable and easy to maintain.
If you need help in getting started with healthier eating habits reach out and book an appointment.