Weight Loss Plateau - Dr Gily
If you wondered why after an initial, relatively easy to obtain weight loss you hit a plateau that makes further weight loss almost impossible, this article is for you.
Why Is It So Difficult to Lose Weight?
Every person who tries to lose weight discovers sooner or later that losing those extra pounds is not as easy as it seems, and maintaining the lost weight is even more difficult. Our body seems to be prone to accumulate more and more. It then defends it's weight in both aggressive and cunning ways that defeat even our best efforts. Often, after the first few pounds that are easy to shed, the rhythm of weight loss decreases substantially. Then we hit a plateau, followed by a return to where we started from - or even higher.
Weight Control Brain Regulation and The Set Point Theory
The set point theory states that every individual has a personal metabolic rate that maintains a given weight, independent of the caloric intake. We now know that weight regulation is a complex, redundant process mediated by multiple areas in the brain. Several key centers involved in this process are located in the hypothalamus.
One study has found that modest (about 10%) weight loss has a significant impact on energy regulation in the sense that, increasing muscle efficiency. In other words, when we lose weight, our muscles become more efficient and burn less calories for the same work. This effect was greater than the one caused by a lower body weight.
The substrate of this effect is, at least in part, represented by changes in the levels of thyroid hormones associated with weight loss.
This explains why, as we lose more and more weight, it becomes increasingly difficult to continue to lose at the same rate, even though we stick with the program. Many dieters become discouraged when they hit this plateau phase, give up, and before long they find themselves back to square one... Oftentimes, the weight gain continues over and above the previous balance level, ultimately settling at a higher number.
Brain Remodeling With Weight Gain
New research indicates that the hypothalamic centers involved in weight regulation undergo complex changes with weight gain. We are talking here of literally brain remodeling, a process somewhat neuro-chemically similar to what happens during learning, also called synaptic plasticity
What Does This Mean For My Efforts to Lose Weight?
- Since the body defends aggressively higher weights, prevention of weight gain makes a lot of sense. Once you reached those higher numbers, it will be much more difficult to get back you your ideal weight without hitting the plateau and regain phases.
- If you are already have extra pounds, the only realistic strategy for long-term weight maintenance is permanent, life-long lifestyle changes in your diet and exercise habits that will enable you first to lose the extra pounds and then to maintain the new, lower weight.
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