Why losing weight long-term is so hard?

On average, men go 3-4 times on different diets in their lifetime, women 7 times. If you’ve tried to diet yourself, chances are you’ve experienced the hardship of the process and might be wondering why losing weight and keeping it off is so hard?


The group of top scientists in the US and Canada, recently just gave some answers to that question. They’ve issued an opinion paper that summarizes what is known about weight loss from research—and speculates on what we should be doing about it.


Here’s a condensed study review.


Why long-term weight loss is so hard

For every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of weight lost, the Resting Energy Expenditure (the amount of calories required for a 24-hour period by the body during a non-active period) decreases by as much as 19 Calories. This means, if you lose 10 kg (22 lb), you’ll burn about 190 fewer daily Calories than you did prior to losing the weight in your resting state (smaller bodies burn fewer calories than larger bodies).

The reduction in that resting energy expenditure means, that to sustain your new weight, you have to eat less than someone who’s been that weight their whole life. Moreover, this metabolic adaptation “persists for as long as 6 years in individuals who managed to maintain a lowered body weight.” (It may even last longer—this is just as far out as it’s been tested.)

A National Institutes of Health study concluded that for every one kg (2.2 lb) of weight lost, “the drive to eat increased by more than 100 Calories per day above pre-weight loss values.” And that this increase in appetite can last as long as one year.

I know what you’re thinking, but don’t panic, read on.


The conclusions that scientists came to are as follows;

“Culture, social factors, religion, interest and ability to cook, sleep hygiene, stress, and schedules all impact food choices and eating patterns.” There are many factors involved, which many of us don’t even think about. Most of us focus mainly on what or how much to eat and/or exercise.

Weight loss can certainly help to improve health. But, that an overemphasis on weight loss can also backfire. A weight-centred approach “... can lead to negative food and body preoccupation, repeated cycles of weight loss and regain, and distraction from other personal health goals and wider health determinants, including self-esteem.”


They agree that “a holistic approach to achieve a healthier lifestyle is necessary to maximize quality of life.”

The holistic approach involves a “whole-person”, “whole-life” practises concerning all of the domains of human existence. This has been defined by Precision Nutrition as deep health:

Ø Physical Health – how the body feel, functions and performs.

Ø Mental and Cognitive Health

Ø Emotional Health

Ø Relational and Social Health

Ø Existential Health

Ø Environmental Health

All these areas of deep health are interconnected; improving in one area can help improve the others.


The main takeaways.

We have been told over and over by diet books, social media’s self-proclaimed fitness and nutrition gurus that weight loss can be easy, if we only stick to the rules; calorie deficit, macros split, exercising more, going low or high carb, going high or low fat, excluding certain foods entirely etc. If we can’t follow or stick to the rules, it is implied that we are weak or lack discipline.

Hopefully you can see by now that the difficulty with weight loss isn’t the result of some personal failure. The problem isn’t one of “discipline” or “weakness.”


Long-term weight loss is about building fundamental skills that improve deep health (physical, mental, emotional, social, existential and environmental health). In turn, deep health “gives back” - helping you sustain your progress.


This approach obviously isn’t a quick fix. But it creates a positive feedback loop that helps you grow into new lifestyle habits and behaviours naturally. Ultimately, this makes weight loss more sustainable and easier. (But still: NOT EASY!)


Needing guidance and help is completely normal, not the exception.


Arleta on Track

Nutrition Coach

Resources:

Article: The deep health coaching secret

PN Academy: Research Insider

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