japonisme: unlocking the fat trap

13 January 2012

unlocking the fat trap

i have talked about fat before. but until january 1st, 2012, i had little in the way of stats. below are excerpts from the New York Times' fact-filled magazine piece, The Fat Trap. in the meantime, in my quest to find a decent physician, i had to interview a number of frogs. the one i have in mind is the one who responded to the question as to why he thought so few people kept weight off since losing it. with an expression saying, 'isn't it obvious?' he made it clear: for the same reason they got fat in the first place: they're lazy, and they're not quite honest. these doctors need to be educated.

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. For instance, a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the “hunger hormone,” was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study.

Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.

Researchers know that obesity tends to run in families, and recent science suggests that even the desire to eat higher-calorie foods may be influenced by heredity.

That experimental binge should have translated into a weight gain of roughly 24 pounds (based on 3,500 calories to a pound). But some gained less than 10 pounds, while others gained as much as 29 pounds.

The research shows that the changes that occur after weight loss translate to a huge caloric disadvantage of about 250 to 400 calories. For instance, one woman who entered the Columbia studies at 230 pounds was eating about 3,000 calories to maintain that weight. Once she dropped to 190 pounds, losing 17 percent of her body weight, metabolic studies determined that she needed about 2,300 daily calories to maintain the new lower weight. That may sound like plenty, but the typical 30-year-old 190-pound woman can consume about 2,600 calories to maintain her weight — 300 more calories than the woman who dieted to get there.

Scientists are still learning why a weight-reduced body behaves so differently from a similar-size body that has not dieted. Muscle biopsies taken before, during and after weight loss show that once a person drops weight, their muscle fibers undergo a transformation, making them more like highly efficient “slow twitch” muscle fibers. A result is that after losing weight, your muscles burn 20 to 25 percent fewer calories during everyday activity and moderate aerobic exercise than those of a person who is naturally at the same weight. That means a dieter who thinks she is burning 200 calories during a brisk half-hour walk is probably using closer to 150 to 160 calories.

How long this state lasts isn’t known, but preliminary research at Columbia suggests that for as many as six years after weight loss, the body continues to defend the old, higher weight by burning off far fewer calories than would be expected. The problem could persist indefinitely.

Tara Parker-Pope

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Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

I know from personal experience that the problem can persist indefinitely. When I was in my 20's, I went on an extreme low calorie diet to lost weight. For various reasons, I was over 200 pounds and desperate to get the pounds off. In spite of following a rigid low-calorie regime for YEARS (500 calories a day), I never got under 140 pounds. I had painful stomach cramps, got dizzy spells and had a lot of hunger induced fatigue. When I reached my 40's, I couldn't keep it up any longer and discovered that a piece of bread or even 1/2 of rice could cause me to pack on 2-3 pounds, They wouldn't come off and I couldn't go back to the extreme dieting. When I was working, my weight went way over the 200 pound limit. Granted, I ate poorly, didn't exercise enough and ate from stress, not from hunger. In retirement, I've lost about 35 pounds but it's been a huge struggle. I still can't eat more that 1200 calories a day and that's to maintain my weight. I do indulge in nice meals but have to immediately go back in "maintenance" eating. I KNOW from personal experience that my body is fighting me very step of the way but try to get a doctor to understand that or come up with a healthy way to lose more weight or come to terms with my metabolism. OH, and I know it's hereditary as well. My grandfather was the only naturally skinny person in my family; my mother remained thin through the use of cigarettes and diet pills. My grandmother and her sisters were all fat and as you can imagine, my mother was absolutely paranoid about weight gain and not the least bit sympathetic or understanding.
Sorry for the whole book that I've written here but it is a problem that is not well addressed by our medical establishment.

13 January, 2012 19:35  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

indeed, nancy.

13 January, 2012 20:28  
Blogger Nancy Ewart said...

Boy, I do natter on, don't I? But you raise some significant issues.

14 January, 2012 10:07  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

i don't know that a woman ever need apologize for opening her mouth, whether it's to express herself, or to pop in a luscious tart.

14 January, 2012 13:42  
Anonymous evan said...

Did you say pop tart? Cinnamon?

Never been obese, but I'm carrying an extra 20 pounds or so my Dr would like me to lose. I had been swimming 2X/week...not now- arthritic shoulder & a ruptured bicep- surgery to repair both at the end of the month...

...my theory- the body is a system, & as we age, it's a system in flux. I know my body's metabolism has slowed down a couple of times, starting at 25 & every 15-20 years since. Food sticks more persistently (as in weight gain- calories don't get burned as efficiently) & at least from swimming, even though an average workout is over 2 miles, calories don't get burned as efficiently.
A sudden significant change is going to shock the body, any body. While obesity is never healthy, I think the next biggest problem is body image, & what our current culture seems to insist is healthy & attractive.
I don't particularly like me spare tire, but I've discovered that when I'm down to what my "ideal" weight is supposed to be- I don't swim as well.

16 January, 2012 09:49  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

well, i don't think the preference for skinny when it comes to 'attractiveness' is singular to this place or time; in fact, given the statistics for infertility in over-weight women, it may even be a 'natural' preference. and though the same goes for preferences for even all things not reproduction-related, the culture still has the ability to teach girls that sexiness is not always the best option.

16 January, 2012 11:49  
Anonymous evan said...

Culture has the ability, but does it have the inclination?

Given the powers that shape our culture these days, healthy is a vry low priority...

While spending an evening watching "America's Top Model", "Runway" & "Scouted" & the plethora of ads for crispy burritos, hairclubs, anti-cholesterol meds, anti-depressives, MacDonalds "smart" meals, weightloss programs, inhalers, Rams & Fords & trailors for movies that are gloriously violent...ah, culture:P

17 January, 2012 08:12  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

what makes me even angrier is when there are those same ads on what is supposedly a strongly feminist tv show.

17 January, 2012 08:20  
Anonymous evan said...

:)...I don't actually watch "America's Top Model" etc...just surfing from one show to the next or during commercials- I'm just aware of them...the ads are the same whatever you're watching.

18 January, 2012 06:06  
Anonymous Algesiras said...

Not exactly on the topic but related, I found this link and it says very well my anger about objectifying people because of their body:
Many hugs to you! <3

18 January, 2012 10:27  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oh yes i'm sure, evan. and you only read playboy for the articles. :^)

18 January, 2012 13:24  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

algesiras -- thanks for the hugs, and for the link too. it's beautifully written and seasoned with truth and wisdom. and thanks for commenting!

18 January, 2012 13:35  
Blogger Fifi [Feeling is First] said...

I have a metabolic setpoint that kicks in when I reduce calories. Since October, I am on Very Low Carb Diet [less than 20 grams of sugar a day.] I eliminated icecream, nachos, TJ's brown sugar-maple shredded wheat, Lemon Drops, and many other pleasures. I lost 10# right away, and then stalled. Very distressing to me, a life of constant self-monitoring and deprivation, wanting and saying "No." For the trade-off, I would rather have ice cream and Lemon Drops.

From the Weight Loss registry [same NYT article]
"there are rare individuals who do manage to keep it off,” Brownell says. “You find these people are incredibly vigilant about maintaining their weight. Years later they are paying attention to every calorie, spending an hour a day on exercise. They never don’t think about their weight.”

Janice Bridge, a registry member who has successfully maintained a 135-pound weight loss for about five years, is a perfect example. “It’s one of the hardest things there is,” she says. “It’s something that has to be focused on every minute. I’m not always thinking about food, but I am always aware of food.”

18 January, 2012 15:25  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

great addition to the parts i pulled out -- thanks, fifi. well i'm trying out yet another new doctor in a couple of weeks. let's see how her brains are working.

18 January, 2012 17:37  

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