Some people are seemingly “meant” to stay fat. No matter how hard they diet, no matter how much they exercise, their fat deposits seem to crawl back on them in a few months after shedding them. Is it the body trying to maintain ideal body weight, encoded somewhere in its depths? Or is their lifestyle to blame?
Our brain is a wonderful machine, but it can be stubborn at times. It has a “set point”, a body weight it perceives is ideal for us, and will do anything to maintain it. Said “set point” is not the same for all humans – it differs based on genetics and life experience. And when our body weight drops below it, our brain will do anything, including suppressing our metabolism, to reach it once again.
The tools our brain uses to maintain our ideal body weight are various, from growing the secretion of hunger-inducing hormones to lowering our resting metabolic rate, so we consume fewer calories. In a study, researchers looked at the participants of “The Biggest Loser”, who lost massive amounts of weight during the show. They found that six years after going through hell to lose fat, all participants regained 70% of the weight they lost, and burned 500 fewer calories when resting compared to others in their age group.
The perception of the ideal body weight
No matter if it’s healthy or not, your brain considers your “set point” to be the ideal weight for you. When losing a lot of weight, your brain will perceive it as starving and will fight to preserve as much energy as possible for you to survive. This is the reason why losing fat and maintaining your body weight afterward is so hard. Even those who successfully reduce their body weight and make permanent lifestyle changes will gain back most of their weight in the long run. This is a fact even the diet industry recognizes – not openly, though, as this would mean the end of their business for good.
Dieting for weight loss is not effective in the long run
Dieting is not the ideal way of losing fat and maintaining a healthy body weight. In a lengthy piece on the brain’s fight against weight loss, neuroscientist and science writer Sandra Aamodt tells us about how our brain fights to build back what we worked so hard to demolish: fat deposits. Almost half of all dieters become fatter than before in the long run, she writes. And non-dieters are much less likely to become obese later in life.
And the big question is
Could being “fat and fit” be a much better – and more realistic – goal as losing your fat deposits?