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The Fat Trap

 
 
jespah
 
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 05:30 am
The NY Times recently ran an article about weight loss, and what happens to the body's metabolism.

I do not wish to reprint the entire article (it's a bit long), but the gist of it is something that I have suspected for a long time - a lot of weight loss changes you, no matter how much you exercise, how slowly or quickly you lose, what your age is, what your gender is, how much water you drink, whether the planets are aligned, etc.

Essentially, lose a lot of weight (and I have lost over 130 pounds so fall into that category readily), and get a slower metabolism. And then you have to live on even fewer calories.

It is not just, fewer calories in, more exercise in and, magic! You lose weight. At least it isn't with big-time weight losers (yep, that's me, and others here, BTW). Instead, we may lose, and even lose a lot, and then our bodies decide to sabotage our efforts.

Right now, I weigh about 213 or so (I used to be 346; my weight loss pictures are on my Facebook page for anyone to see). I eat 1600 - 1800 calories per day. I do about 20 minutes of weight training in the morning (50 lb. weights). I walk a good half an hour or more every weekday, and a good hour and a half each day on most weekends. I don't drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. I drink eleven. I watch my salt, I don't overdo fat or carbs and I rarely touch alcohol or any form of junk food. I make my own meals most days, and during the week, unless we go out to lunch (once per week, to Chinatown), I am vegan until sundown. I ran ten 5K races last year, one more than the prior year.

Given all of that, I should be losing weight like a house on fire. I am not.

Instead, last year, I gained 8 pounds. And that was a victory, for the previous year, I gained a good 20 or so.

Why?

According to the article, my body now has less of a need for calories. If I had been 213 pounds or so without dieting (e. g. on my way up and not on my way down), my caloric needs would be greater. There is something (not understood yet, of course, damn) which essentially robs me of a normal metabolism. As Green Witch noted here, she weighs a good 65 pounds less than I do and would, most likely, lose weight on my regimen (I absolutely believe her).

On this topic, my own struggles are out there, as are Joe Nation's, ossobucco's and others - and there are other big-time weight losers on A2K, like mac11 (I miss her!). For those of you who tell us to just have a cookie already, or that we are starving ourselves, or that a little self-control (surely we must be cheating, or lying or lazy or otherwise morally corrupt and bankrupt in our ways!), I tell you to read this article and think about what you are saying.

For this is a battle and, regardless of your support and your kindness it is, ultimately, a rather lonely one.

Let's talk about the article.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 15 • Views: 11,869 • Replies: 92

 
roger
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 06:25 am
@jespah,
Holy Mackeral! I thought exercise was supposed to speed up the metabolism. I feel a good nap coming on. I should have trusted my instincts.
rosborne979
 
  4  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 06:27 am
@jespah,
I'm not a big weight loser (at 210lbs I'm only about 30lbs over what I should be), but I've tended to battle that slight excess all my life. But I sympathize with your challenge.

Don't forget to add into the equation that you're getting older. So as you improve your regime, you're body is also constantly updating (reducing) its metabolic needs. So for weight loss to continue we probably have to plan on tightening things up (less calories and more exercise) on an indefinite basis. By the time we're 90 we should probably be eating virtually nothing and exercising all day. Smile
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 06:50 am
Whether or not one considers oneself to be overweight, the metabolism slows down after age 30. I dealt with this in the 1980s, when i was just recently past the age of 30. I was able to reduce my weight significantly, from about 235 lbs. to 178 lbs. I only very slowly went back up to 190 lbs., which was a good weight for me. But to accomplish the weight loss, i had to completely alter my eating habits, and to keep the weight off, i had to get what many people would consider to be an extraordinary amount of exercise. In those days, i walked from 50 to 100 miles a week, usualy around 70 to 80 miles a week.

These days, i eat what i like to eat, within reason, and i get a modest amount of exercise. I don't worry about it any longer.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 07:45 am
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
By the time we're 90 we should probably be eating virtually nothing and exercising all day. Smile


hamburgboy is up against that wall (or close to it). He will be 82 in a few months. He was always quite fit and trim. From about 55 - 75, he and mrs. hamburgboy walked and swam a LOT every day. They ate well. In the year or so before mrs. hamburgboy's death, the exercising was cut way back as she had cataract surgery and then a hip replacement. His weight started to go up. It has been annoying and a real project for him to try and get rid of that weight. He eats extremely modestly (in comparison to 5 or 6 years ago), and exercises quite a bit every single day (cross-trainer/WIIfit/walking/carpet-bowling ...) - but weight loss is proving to be very difficult. An adjustment in medication helped somewhat, but he's not where he wants to be. To lose more, it really does seem that he'd have to exercise around the clock and eat only celery.
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  3  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 11:21 am
@rosborne979,
rosborne979 wrote:
...Don't forget to add into the equation that you're getting older. So as you improve your regime, you're body is also constantly updating (reducing) its metabolic needs. So for weight loss to continue we probably have to plan on tightening things up (less calories and more exercise) on an indefinite basis. By the time we're 90 we should probably be eating virtually nothing and exercising all day. Smile


Yep. I'll be 50 in September. We'll be having a cake made of air, water and the tiniest bit of lemon oil.
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 11:33 am
@jespah,
That doesn't sound very appetizing, jes! I'll send you a low-fat, sugar-free muffin, how about that?
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 11:48 am
@roger,
roger wrote:

.. I thought exercise was supposed to speed up the metabolism.

There's a statistical marker called muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) predicting obesity; stands to reason that something is very wrong with any metabolism that allows someone to become obese to begin with - and somehow (sorry not sure how) MSNA tracks that defect while the person is still normal-sized. By the time he has become obese it's too late to fix his metabolism, so his MSNA remains problematic even after all excess weight is lost.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  4  
Reply Fri 6 Jan, 2012 12:11 pm
@roger,
Found a forthcoming article on one of the medical databases, will post abstract in a sec, just wanted to make sure you know you're right: exercise does boost metabolic rate, but only in normal people, not in the obese, - not even after they've lost the extra weight. This result holds independently of age group.

P.S. sorry not allowed to post forthcoming articles (they're embargoed until publication date) but found an article from last year reaching same conclusion:
Quote:
Sympathetic Neural Adaptation to Hypocaloric Diet With or Without Exercise Training in Obese Metabolic Syndrome Subjects.

Quote:
Abstract:
OBJECTIVE--Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) overactivity contributes to the pathogenesis and target organ complications of obesity. This study was conducted to examine the effects of lifestyle interventions (weight loss alone or together with exercise) on SNS function. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS--Untreated men and women (mean age 55 ± 1 year; BMI 32.3 ± 0.5 kg/m²) who fulfilled Adult Treatment Panel III metabolic syndrome criteria were randomly allocated to either dietary weight loss (WL, n = 20), dietary weight loss and moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (WL+EX, n = 20), or no treatment (control, n = 19). Whole-body norepinephrine kinetics, muscle sympathetic nerve activity by microneurography, baroreflex sensitivity, fitness (maximal oxygen consumption), metabolic, and anthropometric measurements were made at baseline and 12 weeks. RESULTS--Body weight decreased by -7.1 ± 0.6 and -8.4 ± 1.0 kg in the WL and WL+EX groups, respectively (both P < 0.001). Fitness increased by 19 ± 4% (P < 0.001) in the WL+EX group only. Resting SNS activity decreased similarly in the WL and WL+EX groups: norepinephrine spillover by -96 ± 30 and -101 ± 34 ng/min (both P < 0.01) and muscle sympathetic nerve activity by -12 ± 6 and -19 ± 4 bursts/100 heart beats, respectively (both P < 0.01), but remained unchanged in control subjects. Blood pressure, baroreflex sensitivity, and metabolic parameters improved significantly and similarly in the two life-style intervention groups.

CONCLUSIONS--[i]The addition of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise training to a weight loss program does not confer additional benefits on resting SNS activity. This suggests that weight loss is the prime mover in sympathetic neural adaptation to a hypocaloric diet.[/u][/i]

Article published in Diabetes 59:71-79, 2010

0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 12:17 pm
@jespah,
If you enter the full title of the article as it appeared on the cover of NYT magazine you can get the full text on a free (non-subscription) link.
Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/01/magazine/tara-parker-pope-fat-trap.html?_r=2&ref=magazine&pagewanted=all
http://www.theberkeleydiet.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/timesmag-247x300.jpg
0 Replies
 
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 12:41 pm
Ah, thank you.

And thank you to all who have responded. I keep seeing this article everywhere (of course, I have also been putting it everywhere).

It would be nice to have a treatment, a regimen, or something that would actually work, given the current state of our science. And I mean for maintenance. Maintenance programs have abysmal failure rates - generally only a 5% success rate and that is no exagerration. But anything like that is probably years away. Right now, I'll settle for some attitude shifting, to not be told that if I was just vigilant I would lose, and then the next person telling me I need to lighten up and not be so damned serious about it all the time.

It's maddening, and can be disheartening.
Mame
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 12:52 pm
@jespah,
You (and mac11 and yes, i miss her too) have done an amazing job and you should be proud of yourself, jes. I read that article yesterday, thank you, and was discussing it with a nurse friend last night. In fact, I just emailed it to her. It's so unfair!

I think the next step is to appreciate what you've done and what you've become. I know that sounds corny, but if you take the heat off, you never know - things could happen. And in the meantime, you're liking your new body.

Funny how our bodies are so individual - I know what does and doesn't work for me and that's very different from other people I know.

I hope they come up with something really revolutionary for all people who suffer from this. I've read some of that diet thread Joe Nation started and could not survive on what you eat - you're amazing. And you've lost so much! You've basically lost a whole person, jes! Kudos for keeping at it and being so successful.



0 Replies
 
Rockhead
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 01:07 pm
@jespah,
I wonder that maybe it is a safety system built into us as humans...

I had lost almost 75 pounds to illness, and after stabilizing, my diet is restrictive and I don't eat for pleasure. but I have put back on almost 20 pounds.

I was amazed when I went to the doc last month. it has to be metabolism related, beyond the part where I am digesting a little better than I was. I bet most days I eat less than 1500 calories. and I never exercise for the sake of practicing exercises.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 01:10 pm
I know I've quoted this a thousand times, but Atul Gawande gets to the heart of it:

"We are a species that has evolved to survive starvation, not to resist abundance."

For all but the last few nanoseconds of human existence, being able to put on fat easily has been something that was protective.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 01:55 pm
@jespah,
One other thing you might try Jes is to vary the type of exercise you do. I also think the body becomes adapted to virtually anything you throw at it, not just reduced calories, but also the type of exercise you are doing and the particular muscles you are using.

Any time you get settled into an exercise routine, I think your body will automatically try to use its available calories most efficiently within that routine, and as a result it won't have the same reduction capacity as it did before.

I think there have been some studies on variability of exercise patterns and finding the optimum length of time for doing something before changing it. I think it's something like 4 or 6 months before you need to change again.

Also remember that the human body isn't evolved to get much beyond about 35 or so (just long enough to raise the next generation), so everything we get beyond that is really a success.
jespah
 
  1  
Reply Sat 7 Jan, 2012 05:53 pm
@rosborne979,
I do different weight training - Mondays and Thursdays are the same, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and then Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays - so it's a pattern but it's a mixed pattern. Cardio is generally walking mainly because I can do it readily. I swam during the summer. If it would snow (and I am not asking it to), I would shovel. So some of that is opportunity- and time-based.

Eek, so I am almost 15 years past my expiration date? That explains a lot.

Thanks, Mame, Rocky, rosborne and soz. Yeah, I agree - we are still a species built to stand and get past starvation. Lots of lovely mechanisms are in place for that, eh?
High Seas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 01:53 pm
@jespah,
jespah wrote:

Maintenance programs have abysmal failure rates - generally only a 5% success rate ....

It's maddening, and can be disheartening.

At the 2-year mark that 5% "success rate" holds constant for all addiction "treatment programs", including those for alcoholics and heroin addicts.

But there's a big unexplained difference between the obese and those other 2 groups of addicts: for untold millenia people have drunk wine with dinner, taken drugs for pain, and of course eaten, but only a tiny percentage ever became alcoholic or started taking massive doses of drugs for no medical reason, or became obese - until the last few decades. The problem of losing weight and keeping it off is secondary: the primary problem is how so many of us (at this point a majority of the adult population) gained so much excess weight to begin with. The percentages for addictions to alcohol and drugs have remained constant - only addictions to food have skyrocketed. Most biochemists suspect the addition of refined sugar to the human diet combined with hormone-like substances generated by plastics, or a combination of both. The human DNA hasn't changed, so it's got to be something new in our environment.
0 Replies
 
High Seas
 
  1  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 02:43 pm
@rosborne979,
Sigma of 10 to 15% of body weight, doesn't belong to the same order of magnitude - here we have people who gained (and also lost) 200 or 300%!
Criteria for addictions (general, not limited to food): http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/addiction/AddictionPublicHealthandPolicyImplications_Addiction_6.11.pdf
Quote:
Criteria
1. Tolerance, as defined by either of the following:
A. The need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to
achieve intoxication or desired effect.
B. Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same
amount of the substance.
2. Withdrawal, as manifested by either of the following:
A. The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance.
B. The same (or closely related) substance is taken to relieve or
avoid withdrawal symptoms.
3. Taking the substance often in larger amounts or over a longer period
than was intended.
4. There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful effort to cut down or
control substance use.
5. Spending a great deal of time in activities necessary to obtain or use
the substance or to recover from its effects.
6. Giving up social, occupational, or recreational activities because of
substance use.
7. Continuing the substance use with the knowledge that it is causing
or exacerbating a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological
problem.

jespah
 
  2  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 05:16 pm
@High Seas,
Interesting. Thanks for the added info.
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Tue 10 Jan, 2012 08:34 pm
@jespah,
jespah wrote:
I do different weight training - Mondays and Thursdays are the same, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and then Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays - so it's a pattern but it's a mixed pattern. Cardio is generally walking mainly because I can do it readily. I swam during the summer. If it would snow (and I am not asking it to), I would shovel. So some of that is opportunity- and time-based
Sounds like you're doing everything right. I don't think I could do any better.

At some level, pure physics (thermodynamics, chemistry, calories in, calories burned) will win the day, but I don't know how difficult it might be. As my father once said, "nobody ever got fat from something that DIDN'T get past their teeth". In a literal sense that's true, but it's a very austere way to approach the challenge.

I'm pretty much out of ideas, but I'll add one other observation I've made, even if it's not a "workable" solution. I discovered years ago that whenever I visited warm sunny beaches and spent time in those environments, I tended to lose weight automatically. I don't know why. I suspect that I ate less and did more activities and wasn't even aware of it. But I also think there was something more to it related to how much fun I was having. So there may be a psychological component to weight loss as well... something to do with reducing stress or something like that.

(my prescription is to win the lottery, move to Aruba, live on the beach and ride jet skis in the waves every day) Smile
 

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