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Doing Life Together

scaleI’ve been working with weight loss for years now and was excited to see what the TV show, The Biggest Loser, would do in terms of helping those with obesity. I stopped watching the show because I feared what would happen in the long run–people would regain the weight after a year or so. And that is what has happened.

As I read the stories of those who were on the show now struggling to keep the weight off, my heart sank for them. It’s tough to keep the weight off because the solutions to obesity are not as easy as reducing calories and exercising.

Weight loss has to do with so many factors including resting metabolism and hormones. Resting metabolism is the calories a person burns when at rest. Quick weight loss slows down that resting metabolism and the body fights to stay at the new weight.

Then you add hormones to the slowing of metabolism and you have a person who is hungry and whose biology tells them to eat more.  One of those hormones, leptin, is supposed to say, “Hey, we have enough food and fat storage, stop eating.” But in obese people, the body doesn’t say we have enough so stop. Obesity involves a malfunctioning metabolic system that researchers are still trying to figure out in order to  know how to correct the metabolic problems.

When we are dealing with obesity, Dr. Rosenbaum, obesity researcher from Columbia University,  says, “The difficult in keeping weight off reflects biology, not a pathological lack of willpower affecting two-thirds of the U.S.A.”

Dr. David Ludwig, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center  at Boston Children’s Hospital is looking for new approaches to weight loss. He agrees, the person who can ignore the biological signals for hungry and continue to restrict calories, has a tough road ahead. A slower metabolism and constant hunger make weight loss maintenance difficult for the average person.

So let’s be careful not to cheer The Biggest Losers for their valiant efforts to lose weight, but then condemn them for regaining the weight. The biology operating against them is a significant factor in the weight gain-one that researchers are still trying to figure out.

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