Emotional Health

Healthy Weight Control: Is it Possible?

The average American is actually now more likely to be overweight than not to be. Many are clinically obese. Sadly, the more weight you lose, the harder it may be to keep it off. A study of contestants on The Biggest Loser revealed that after six years, only one contestant had managed to maintain the weight loss. Researchers are discovering some of the reasons for this and new research may lead to tools that can help.

There are several things working against the person who loses a significant amount of weight. The metabolism tends to slow down after long-term dieting, meaning that you will burn fewer calories. Also, an experiment with a diabetes drug that causes people to expel extra calories in their urine showed that after a calorie deficit the appetite increases, even if you are not aware of the deficit. They are even discovering that changes in the way energy is metabolized can occur in those who have lost large amounts of weight, due to factors involving excess skin, etc.

Investigator Kenneth McLeod writes:

“Our research has shown that for typical middle-aged women, cardiac output will drop about 20 percent when sitting quietly. For individuals who have recently lost weight, the fluid-pooling situation can be greater because their skin is now much looser, providing much more space for fluids to pool. This is especially the case for people experiencing rapid weight loss, as their skin has not had time to contract.”

If cardiac output slows, then your metabolic rate slows down, equaling fewer calories expended. This is yet another card stacked against people who are trying to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

These findings are challenging the old rules. “Eat fewer calories than you expend”—the formula for weight loss has been known for a long time, right? Not necessarily, according to science writer Gary Taubes. In a series of carefully researched books, he attempts to illuminate the complicated interactions among these factors, including why so many people have trouble losing weight and why most successful dieters regain their weight. But while new research has begun to answer some of these questions, it still leaves the person who just wants to be thinner facing terrible odds.

Given all this, what can be done to increase the odds? How can dieters stay motivated to make the changes that will lead to long-term success? A closer look at some of the new research may be able to help. Many of our long-held assumptions are being proved wrong. Next week we will examine the new “science” of weight control and offer suggestions for developing healthier ideas and habits about this difficult issue.


How Your Appetite Can Sabotage Weight Loss,” WebMD, October 14, 2016.

Gay, Roxane. (2017). Hunger: A Memoir of My Body.

Why Do So Many People Regain Weight After Going on a Diet?The Washington Post, December 29, 2016.

Taubes, Gary. (2007). Good Calories, Bad Calories.

Taubes, Gary, (2011). Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About it.

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  • Julia July 15, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    I have never been obese, but I have been overweight (164 pounds at 5’5″ and not muscular). At one point in my early 50’s (am now 70) I lost 17 pounds very slowly, over maybe four years? with Weight Watchers and the mantra: I’m going to lose weight no matter how long it takes, keep it off, and I’m not going to feel deprived (ie if I really want something, I will have it). Maybe ten years ago I began drifting up and what has worked for me is that whenever I have felt unwell for a few days and am down one or two pounds (weighing daily helps me) I decide not to regain it. I am now about 137. Although I exercise regularly, I am disabled and therefore am pretty sure that my exercise does not contribute to weight loss, though it surely does to my health.