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How Our Bodies Respond To Weight Loss

The most common myth about obesity and excess weight is that all we have to do to reach a healthier weight is eat less and move more. This overly-simplistic view ignores the reality of how our bodies work, and specifically how they react to weight loss. Here’s what actually happens:

If I eat less and move more, my brain thinks that’s happening because there’s a famine (and I’m going to starve) so it responds in three ways:

1. It slows my metabolism down, so I’ll burn fewer calories.

2. It increases my hunger hormones, so I’m hungrier and more likely to eat.

3. It lowers my fullness hormones, so I’m much less likely to feel full or satisfied.

It is these three mechanisms that the body uses to regain weight that explain why obesity is a chronic medical condition, “just like asthma, just like depression” says Dr. Laura Reardon, an obesity expert in Halifax.

Even the most motivated dieters are working against their own biology, and ultimately, almost everyone gains the weight back, often plus a little more.  This is why successful weight management is not about “just having more willpower” – any program or approach that only focuses on behavior is not going to work over the long-run for most people.

Here’s the good news… there’s a different, and more effective, approach. Medical treatments (such as medications or bariatric surgery) can counterbalance the body’s response to weight loss, specifically addressing the way our hunger and fullness hormones change. These treatments can help people be successful over the long-run by addressing the biological response that ultimately causes weight regain. 

As medical expert Dr. Sean Wharton puts it, “There are resources to help you to keep that weight off, and it’s not willpower. You failed with willpower over and over again. So it’s got to be something different, such as bariatric surgery, medications, or cognitive behavioral therapy. So there’s hope. There’s an answer out there.”

Getting that answer starts with speaking to your doctor about which medical treatment may be right for you, and getting a referral to a weight management specialist, if necessary. It’s time to think differently about reaching a healthier weight… and you can find a physician near you who specializes in the medical treatment of weight here.

If you’d like a personalized action plan to help you reach your best weight, click here.