Scrolling through my Facebook feed this morning, I stumbled across Gina Kolata’s article in the New York Times about a breakthrough new study, “After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight.”
The shocking results? Significant weight loss has permanent effects on the metabolism. Years after losing large amounts of weight, former contestants were left with metabolisms that burned 500-800 calories less than the average person their size. Most of them gained back large amounts of weight, some even more than they lost on the show. The one who managed to maintain her weight loss did so by constant deprivation, exercising hours per day and eating very little. It wasn’t just metabolism working against them. They also experienced an increase in the hormone leptin, a hunger triggering chemical, which elevates with weight loss.
They concluded that their own bodies sabotaged these dieters. Various mechanisms in the body collaborate in an effort to put back on the lost weight not for a time, as many of us suspect, but indefinitely.
And every fat person shouts, “Duh! This is what we’ve been trying to tell you!”
This is not a breakthrough. This is not even surprising.
We know this.
Swayed by the voices that have proclaimed fat as the enemy, we have waged war against these bodies of ours. Our weapons have been many and varied: a myriad of supplements, diets, and exercise plans.
We have lost 50 pounds, gained 70. We have mustered our strength for another try, lost 40 pounds, and gained 50. We have tried again, only losing 30, then gaining 45. Each time it gets more difficult. Every diet seems less successful than the one before it. Our bodies fight back.
I know this. I see how my skinny friends can eat cheeseburgers or enjoy dessert and not seem to gain weight. Yet I have to skip every dessert, skimp on every meal in order to maintain weight, much less lose any. I have clients that munch on candy and sip soda hour after hour while we meet. Chocolate seems to expand my thighs by its aroma alone. My body fights back.
A woman I know was despairing the other day because the same diet that, years ago, resulted in over 30 pounds of weight loss in a couple of months for her was failing her this time. She eats pre-packaged, low-calorie, low-carb things out of foil packets all day. Once a day she eats a bowl full of raw veggies with diet dressing. After 5 months, she’s only lost 15 pounds. Her body fights back.
We have been told that our struggles with our weights are our own darn faults. We just need will power!
If we could only eat less.
If we would only exercise more.
All we need is a calorie deficit, burn a few more than we consume long enough and, voila!, we’ll be skinny.
It was a lie all along. (We kind of suspected it was)
So dump those abusive diets. Write Jenny Craig a Dear John letter.
“It wasn’t me. It was you.”
Do not let this article be an excuse to abuse the only body you’ve got to live in. Instead, I propose a truce with your body. Feast on delicious, satisfying, nutritious foods. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. Keep food in its proper perspective; it is the stuff we run on, neither a savior nor a demon. Be strong, be active, move your body whatever your size. But don’t measure your results by the scale. Don’t starve yourself. Don’t spend thousands of dollars over the course of your lifetime on pills, shakes, wraps, personal trainers, and pre-packaged meals.
Stop fighting your body.