There's a fascinating story on the New York Times website today headlined "The Fat Trap." Click here to read the whole article, which discusses research into why those lost pounds always return. Our bodies go into an altered state after we've successfully dieted, and actually fight hard to get back the fat we worked so hard to get rid of.
More evidence -- as if we needed it -- that life isn't fair.
"For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat."
That tells me that, among other things, parents and other caregivers need to work really hard to make sure that our children don't become overweight.
It also tells me to stay vigilant in my own battle of the bulge; I've never been obese and at most have been slightly overweight, if you go by the standard weight charts. (This is the result of decades of daily exercise and trying to eat well -- not because I have an especially forgiving genetic makeup or metabolism.)
The lengthy Times article will appear in the next Sunday magazine. It goes into a lot of detail about research into why and how fat people get and stay fat. We learn about how the National Weight Control Registry tracks thousands of people who have been successful at maintaining significant weight loss. Says an official at the registry: "' We had two goals: to prove there were people who did, and to try to learn from them about what they do to achieve this long-term weight loss.' Anyone who has lost 30 pounds and kept it off for at least a year is eligible to join the study, though the average member has lost 70 pounds and remained at that weight for six years."
What are these researchers finding out?
"There is no consistent pattern to how people in the registry lost weight — some did it on Weight Watchers, others with Jenny Craig, some by cutting carbs on the Atkins diet and a very small number lost weight through surgery. But their eating and exercise habits appear to reflect what researchers find in the lab: to lose weight and keep it off, a person must eat fewer calories and exercise far more than a person who maintains the same weight naturally. Registry members exercise about an hour or more each day — the average weight-loser puts in the equivalent of a four-mile daily walk, seven days a week. They get on a scale every day in order to keep their weight within a narrow range. They eat breakfast regularly. Most watch less than half as much television as the overall population. They eat the same foods and in the same patterns consistently each day and don’t “cheat” on weekends or holidays. They also appear to eat less than most people, with estimates ranging from 50 to 300 fewer daily calories."
I'll stop here. If you're interested in knowing more, go to the article, or read the magazine next Sunday.