Battling the Bulge

Clinical nutritionist Ishi Khosla reveals the major reasons why most people are unable to maintain weight loss, and gives us some easy tips on how we can get rid of those extra pounds, permanently
By Ishi Khosla

I‘ve often heard stories of people who followed a diet plan, but dropped it midway through, and all the weight they had lost, piled back on. The result: they are not motivated enough to start all over again. Losing weight is definitely easier than keeping the pounds at bay, and those who have been on weight-loss journeys know this all too well. The longer you’re able to keep yourself from putting on weight, the better the chances are that it will stay
away. And it takes more than just a diet to keep the pounds at bay – a good weight-loss programme must be combined with behavioural modifications for long-term success.

Regain goes beyond going back to old eating habits. As you drop weight, the body triggers mechanisms that encourage it to put on weight. Many studies have shown that when overweight or obese people lose weight, their bodies respond vigorously by undergoing changes in hormones that affect hunger and satiety. Leptin, a hormone produced by fat cells, regulates the appetite, i.e. it tells you when to stop eating. When the body loses fat cells, the levels of leptin it produces decrease. Lowered leptin levels trigger hunger and makes it harder for an individual to make do with lesser food. Further, researchers have found that these hormonal changes may persist and even become permanent.

The nature of the diet followed also makes a difference. Following fads or going back and forth on diets also triggers the rebound effect. Yo-yo dieting lowers your metabolism by 5–10 percent, favouring regain. Then there is the issue of behaviour, or changing habits. Without permanent changes in usual and unhealthy patterns of eating and living, it is highly unlikely that weight loss will stick. For example, the benefits of eating dinner early will last only until you do. But changing a habit is not that easy, particularly if there’s no support from family and friends.

What we, therefore, know is that maintaining a diet programme is very difficult. Its importance and management must be clearly emphasised in the backdrop of our altered biology. So those who regain weight must not feel guilty about their failed efforts, will powers and challenging food environments.

What needs to be understood is that the effort and habits must be kept up consistently and monitored even after you have lost weight. More importantly, remember that going back and forth on diets is a recipe to becoming permanently obese. So stay vigilant and work hard to reap the benefits of your efforts.