The article itself is well worth reading, although there a more statistics in there than in many scientific articles I’ve read so it is not the easiest read.
It reminded me however of the enormous complexity of weight loss and how the body has been programmed to fights against it and defend a weight that is biologically predetermined. The article is written from the perspective of obesity, but applies to anorexia and bulimia as well.
The article discuses how we already know that efforts at weight control trigger metabolic and hormonal changes that work to defend a higher weight. However, newer research showed that...
“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..’
also ... “researchers have so far confirmed 32 distinct genetic variations associated with obesity or body-mass index”.
If this applies to obesity it also applies to anorexia (in particular given the evidence of genetic contribution to this illness) and also bulimia nervosa. This explains why those suffering from the eating disorders become so preoccupied with food weight and shape during the course of the illness. It is also why continued weight loss becomes harder and harder work with greater suffering leading to less “reward”.
The article describes neurobiological research helping us to understand the link between starving and binge eating.
“Another way that the body seems to fight weight loss is by altering the way the brain responds to food. Rosenbaum and his colleague Joy Hirsch, a neuroscientist also at Columbia, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track the brain patterns of people before and after weight loss while they looked at objects like grapes, Gummi Bears, chocolate, broccoli, cellphones and yo-yos. After weight loss, when the dieter looked at food, the scans showed a bigger response in the parts of the brain associated with reward and a lower response in the areas associated with control. This suggests that the body, in order to get back to its pre-diet weight, induces cravings by making the person feel more excited about food and giving him or her less willpower to resist a high-calorie treat.
“After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” Rosenbaum says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.”
The struggle against the body is one that is endless and rigged against you. The cost are enormous.
The article tells the story of one person who has successfully maintained her weight loss from obesity, which, as we know is a rare occurrence. Although the woman reports being happy with her daily routine it was hauntingly familiar.
“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.”
So she never lets up. Since October 2006 she has weighed herself every morning and recorded the result in a weight diary. She even carries a scale with her when she travels. In the past six years, she made only one exception to this routine: a two-week, no-weigh vacation in Hawaii.
She also weighs everything in the kitchen. She knows that lettuce is about 5 calories a cup, while flour is about 400. If she goes out to dinner, she conducts a Web search first to look at the menu and calculate calories to help her decide what to order. ... She writes down everything she eats. At night, she transfers all the information to an electronic record”.
To maintain a normal weight she needs to engage in many of the behaviours patients with eating disorders perform in the same ritualised way. This of course dosent mean that she has an eating disorder but I wonder if there are not more fulfilling things to focus on than measuring food and knowing how many calories you burn off during gardening.
I thought the article worth sharing as knowing about the futility of trying to fight the body may be helpful in evaluating the pro’s and con’s of continuing on in a fruitless battle.