I have been debating whether to post this or not, because it’s a little controversial for some people, and could be downright discouraging to others. When I read this article, it struck a very real chord with me and I think it’s important for some people to know. But I will warn you – if you are at a fragile place in your weight loss/health journey, just don’t read it. It’s not exactly an “upper”. It’s not going to make you go, “Hey gang, I’m going to be all that I can beeeeee!!!” and dance around in your underwear. (That’s what happy things make me do.) Seriously, though. Just stop reading, right now, if you are feeling easily discouraged in your weight loss journey. You are great and amazing and wonderful and you will keep it up and I love you!!! (Now, STOP.)
Here it is: the NY Times article called “The Fat Trap”. Tara Parker-Pope, editor of the Well Blog at the New York Times, writes about losing weight, but more specifically, why it’s so hard to keep it off. (In other news, I’m now a HUGE fan of the Times Well Blog. Check it out, for realsies.) They published it on NEW YEAR’S DAY (which I think is just BITCHY – oh hey folks, you’re making resolutions? DREAMS ABOLISHED!!) so it’s been floating around for awhile. Some people with whom I’ve discussed it have said that it’s nothing new to them, and I can kind of see why. However, it’s more convincing this time around.
The gist? Losing weight is hard. But not only is losing weight hard, so is keeping it off. And not just oh-man-this-kind-of-sucks hard, but hard as in your-body-is-fighting-you-and-being-a-total-jerk. They have done studies (more on how I feel about these studies in a bit) where they monitored all kinds of things in people losing and keeping off weight – hormones, brain waves, metabolism, etc. What they found was more proof that keeping weight off is difficult.
Now, I’ve always known this because, even at the age of 25, I’ve been back to Weight Watchers more times than I can actually remember. I have spent a lot of my life eating terrible food and being incredibly inactive. This leads to weight gain. Duh. But every time I go to Weight Watchers I’m successful, and it makes me feel like I can do this. So why is keeping the weight off when I get there so absolutely terrifying?
Here are the main things that were interesting to me in the article:
- When observing those who had lost weight and were trying to keep it off, a “hunger” hormone was high and the hormone that suppresses hunger and boosts metabolism was low. (Uh, body? What are you doing to me?)
- Obesity is hereditary. Alright, fine. Thanks for telling me I CAN’T DO ANYTHING. I don’t give a shit about this. Moving on.
- “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.” Sigh. I always figured this was the case, but reading it in something like the NY Times was a different story. And they don’t just mean going to the gym every once in awhile and eating a salad at dinner. They’re talking about gym every day, constantly counting calories/weighing food, etc. (Ugh.)
- People who have lost weight burn less calories than those who are naturally that weight. This is just plain annoying. Ya skinny bitches.
- YOUR BRAIN. This blew my mind – scientists tracked brain patterns of people before and after weight loss as they viewed all different things, most of which were food. When the “dieter” looked at the food, there was a much greater response in the area of the brain associated with reward, and much less in the areas associated with control. Brain, you son of a bitch.
There is a lot more to the article than that (I know it’s long – read it anyway), but those are the things that really jumped out at me. However, here is what I have to say about the studies – the people tested were obviously a very small portion of the people around the world who are trying to lose weight. Everyone’s body is different, and everyone’s weight loss journey is VERY different. The other thing is – in a couple of instances, people were doing very extreme things to lose weight. Liquid diets, Atkins, Jenny Craig, etc. – I’m sorry if you’ve done these, but I think they are extreme. Once they were “done” with the diet, they obviously changed their eating habits, which I’m SURE had some effect on their body. This is why those diets don’t work.
It may sound cheesy, but so very frequently I tell myself the following – what I’m doing is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. When I get to my goal weight and maintain it and become a Lifetime member of WW, things really aren’t going to change much. I will still eat very similarly to the way that I do now, I will still go to the gym, and I will still be conscious of what I eat. Because I have to. This is my life, that is my struggle. There are much worse things, and I am thankful that I have to opportunity to be healthy.
That’s why I was hesitant about posting this – for some people, I’m sure this article elicited the “Then why the hell try??” response. But for me, it just dropped some cold, hard truth – this is difficult, and it will continue to be difficult. For every failure, there is a success story. I’ve heard such incredible, amazing, and inspirational journeys that I just can’t give up. It would be SILLY to give up. I’m making myself healthier, and I will continue to be healthy FOR THE REST OF MY DAMN LIFE. We don’t always tell people who are trying to lose weight that it might be a challenge…forever. But that’s the bottom line. Cold, hard FACTS, my friends.
OK, rant over. Think what you want. But what I think is right. :)