Friday, January 20, 2012

Psychology Today Article: Spring The Fat Trap "Weight fluctuations are avoidable"

Springing The Fat Trap

Weight fluctuations are avoidable.
Tara Parker-Pope at The New York Times recently authored one of the more depressing articles about the obesity problem. She accurately described research and personal history that supported the sorrowful conclusion that diets do not guarantee permanent weight loss. She then went on to report that weight gained after a diet may push the now ex-dieter into an even heavier weight than before the diet started.
What the article pointed out was how fast weight is regained after a diet. People with multiple sizes of clothes in their closets know the peril of thinking dieting will result in permanent weight loss. They know that every low weight will be followed by a return to a higher weight, if not immediately, then soon thereafter. Over a lifetime, their weight profile will resemble the stock market during one of its more chaotic years. Apparently, after substantial weight loss, the levels and activities of hormones and other substances that control hunger, fat stores and metabolic rate are impaired, thus causing the body to veer to its pre-dieting weight. Those people with a genetic profile associated with obesity might as well stock up on Rocky Road ice cream and potato chips because their fat trap is deep enough to prevent any rescue.

Does anyone succeed? Yes, but the number is far fewer than those who fail. But it is important to realize that an estimation of how many have succeeded is totally inaccurate because most former fatties do not announce their success to folk who know them only as thin people.
"Hi. My name is Judy and when I was in second grade, my classmates called me Fatso." This is true—I was called that awful name—but I usually do not greet people with this self-revelation. I learned that my skinny primary care doctor was quite pudgy in high school when his wife told me. He never said a word. A close college friend tried every popular diet while we were in school without success. When she graduated, she lost 40 pounds in a year and has never gained an ounce back. Even her husband never knew her as fat. Our stories don't make it into magazine articles or onto talk shows, and we rarely offer our bodies to researchers so that the reasons for our success can be discerned.
There are obvious reasons why weight is regained after diet:

1. Muscle is lost, calorie output is decreased, metabolism is slowed and a permanent decrease in calorie intake is necessary to maintain weight loss.
The solution: Quickly build muscle mass, increase physical activity and resign yourself to eating less.

2. Quick weight loss is pathological. The body is stressed just as if weight were lost because of a serious infection, surgery or inability to digest or absorb food. Forces in the body are mobilized to regain and restore body mass.
The solution: Avoid these kinds of diets.

3. Triggers that caused weight gain crawl out of wherever they were hiding while you were on a diet and cause you to start overeating again.
The solution: Identify these triggers before starting on a diet to remove or disarm them. Practice techniques to stop them from interfering with your eating while on the diet and, like physical therapy after a bad back flare up, never stop protecting yourself against their reoccurrence.

4. The longing to return to a pre-dieting eating and drinking style pre-empts healthy, calorie-controlled food choices made on the diet.
The solution: Either drag out your larger-sized clothes or decide to give up the uncontrolled eating that caused weight gain. This may seem harsh, but so is being condemned to a chronic medical problem caused by obesity.

5. Successful stretching of the stomach by gradually increasing portion size so eating large amounts of food becomes easy.
The solution: Make yourself feel full before starting a meal by increasing serotonin. Do this by eating about 130 calories of a fat-free or very low-fat carbohydrate food 30 minutes before a meal. Serotonin causes satiety so portion size can be easily controlled.

6. Food becomes the go-to recreation.
The solution: Try non-eating recreations while on a diet. By its conclusion, you will have an itinerary of non-caloric distractions. This could include activities that range from pole dancing to dating websites to learning ancient Greek.

7. Emotions overwhelm willpower and eating to feel less stressed, less depressed and more calm is more important than maintaining weight loss.
The solution: Eat about 30 grams of a low or fat-free carbohydrate snack twice daily on an empty stomach. This is best done as a late afternoon and mid-evening snack. Serotonin will be produced and your mood will shift from distressed to tranquil.

8. Inadequate sleep and persistent tiredness cause automatic, mindless eating in order to stay awake.
The solution: Do not go to the kitchen. Go to bed. Search out ways of getting enough sleep. Its lack not only causes weight gain—it even affects cognitive function.

9. Genetic predisposition to obesity seems a convenient rationalization for weight gain.
The solution: Regardless of genes, everyone loses weight in a famine. You don't have to starve, but watchful eating and consistent exercise trump an inherited tendency to gain weight.

10. Antidepressants and related medications cause substantial weight gain. A side effect of these medications is inhibition of satisfaction after eating.
The solution: Avoid food plans that avoid carbohydrates. Increase a sense of contentedness and satiety by increasing serotonin before a meal. A small fat-free or low-fat carbohydrate food (like a small roll) eaten 45 minutes before the meal counteracts the effect of the medication by making you feel full.

You don't have to be stuck in the fat trap described by Ms. Parker-Pope. Follow these simple suggestions and you will be released to live a healthy, thin life.

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