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The Science of Metabolism

January 15, 2018

Remember that show The Biggest Loser

 

This is the show where the participants took part in an extremely vigorous exercise program while at the same time followed a severe calorie-restricted diet and all lost lots of weight.

 

Yes, they did lose a ton of weight; but did you ever wonder why there was never a reunion show?   It's because the majority of them gained all the weight back, and then some. Over the long run, this traditional strategy of "eat less and move more" just doesn't work.   It’s been proven time and time again that it is next to impossible to keep the weight off when lost this way.  This process of significant weight loss, followed by a total regain I call “the boomerang effect.”   

 

Why does this happen? The answer lies in understanding what is happening to their basal metabolic rate, also known as BMR.

One’s BMR slows down significantly over time on a calorie restricted diet, and in a study published in the Obesity Journal last year, it revealed that their BMR didn’t recover even after 6 years.  Their metabolism continued to be sluggish and slow, and for the small minority of folks who are able to keep their weight off, it is a daily struggle; over time, it is next to impossible to sustain the level of calorie deficit in order to maintain the weight loss.  We all know someone (perhaps you know them really well) who has lost weight only to gain it back, and then some.   It’s the exception if someone is actually able to sustain weight loss and keep the weight off.

 

Yet, the advice continues year after year: Eat less and Move more.  Eat small frequent meals to improve your metabolism, they say.  The problem with this is that it may work in the short term, but it then stops working and is not effective in the long run.   

 

Unfortunately, calorie restriction only leads to a lower basal metabolic rate (BMR) or slower metabolism.  

 

Take it from someone who has struggled with my weight my entire adult life. This approach never worked and yet I somehow continued to try it over and over again. Year after year.  Each time, I failed, I felt a deeper sense of defectiveness. 

   

I did eventually figure out that the key to sustainable weight loss is very different than you might think.   It’s not about counting calories or excessive exercise. It’s about completely turning upside down the calorie deficit paradigm. It’s about learning to understand which key hormones are involved in weight gain and metabolism.  I finally had success when I was able to manipulate the hormones that strongly influenced my weight.  These are the same hormones that drive diabetes and other metabolic issues such as high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. 

 

I now know that it is realistic to have permanent weight loss without lowering the metabolic rate.  It turns out to be a very sustainable approach; I lost the weight and kept it off.   The good news is that I didn’t feel like I was fighting my body anymore.  My body and I were actually working together.  But the best part of all, I no longer felt defective.

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Polly Halpern