Occasionally, I trip over articles about the causes and treatments of obesity that I like enough to stash in my Evernote account, so I can address them in future blog posts. Here’s something I’ve been sitting on for a while.
In January, Tara Parker-Pope, editor of the NYT’s health and wellness blog (Well) wrote an article for the NYT Magazine that was both interesting and disconcerting. The article cited scientific findings that confirm that my weight loss journey is not really a long trip with a defined beginning and an end. Rather, it’s an unending challenge – something I need to focus on for the rest of my life, but not for the reasons I thought.
I’m Irked Just Thinking About It
The article, “The Fat Trap“, shared details about Ms. Parker-Pope’s personal struggles with weight loss and presented findings from recent weight loss and maintenance studies. Chock full of interesting points, here’s the statement that really caught my attention:
“…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.“
So, after I lose all the weight I need to lose, I STILL won’t be on equal footing with someone at the same weight who never had a weight problem. In fact, I’ll have an estimated “caloric disadvantage of about 250-400 calories.”
Net/Net: To remain at my final target, I must compensate for my caloric disadvantage by eating less and exercising more than a diet “civilian” at the same weight – FOREVER!
WTH?!? After all my work to get to a healthy weight, I have to work harder than never-been-fat folks to stay at the same weight?? Totally not fair.
Why? And Why Me?
Per the article, here’s why my innards (and similarly stout people’s) prefer to remain living of Fatty Land:
“Muscle biopsies taken before, during and after weight loss show that once a person drops weight, their muscle fibers undergo a transformation, making them more like highly efficient “slow twitch” muscle fibers. A result is that after losing weight, your muscles burn 20 to 25 percent fewer calories during everyday activity and moderate aerobic exercise than those of a person who is naturally at the same weight.”
On the one hand, I appreciate gaining a better understanding of the challenges I face, so I can better prepare for them. Learning more about how my body functions is helpful.
On the other hand, it’s incredibly frustrating to know I must work harder to maintain my target weight than “normal” folks (forever and ever and ever and ever).
Currently, no one can pinpoint exactly how long you can remain overweight before your body resets its permanent internal settings to “remain fat”. Hope they discover that critical fact soon. Let’s get on that stat, almighty scientists!
It’s too late for me, but not for others who may be slipping into a gluttonous, sedentary lifestyle. I’m not saying that knowing will necessarily stop anyone from binging on a box of mac and cheese or snarfing down a pint of ice cream in a single sitting (ahhhh…memories!). But hopefully, more information leads to more informed decisions. Maybe some people will eat more mindfully. A girl can dream.
Apparently, this is the price I pay for maintaining my heft for an extended period of time. Regrets? I have a few…and then some. [sigh]
Ms. Parker-Pope understood this information could DE-motivate people working to lose weight. She wrote:
Clearly, weight loss is an intense struggle, one in which we are not fighting simply hunger or cravings for sweets, but our own bodies…So where does that leave a person who wants to lose a sizable amount of weight? Weight-loss scientists say they believe that once more people understand the genetic and biological challenges of keeping weight off, doctors and patients will approach weight loss more realistically and more compassionately.”
For me, this article was a bummer, but it didn’t negatively impact my resolve. It just opened my eyes to some additional challenges I’m likely to face, so I can better prepare for that final (forever!) maintenance phase. I remain committed to achieving my health goals.
What do you think? Is this simply interesting food for thought (pun intended) or will it prompt you to modify your approach to losing or maintaining weight?