I recently ran across this little gem on Cracked.com entitled “Fat is Officially Incurable (According to Science)” which offers a surprisingly accurate portrayal about just how likely those “before” and “after” shots in advertisements are to reflect the long-term experience of real, live people. While proceeding with tongue firmly inserted in cheek, the author offers a nice summary of some of the scientific evidence offered regarding long-term weight loss:
- Probability of long-term maintenance of very modest weight loss (10-15 pounds)–Very low
- Probability of a fat person becoming (and staying) a thin person–Practically Non-existant.
One of my favorite things about this article (besides David Wong’s deliciously snarky attitude) is the plethora of links to some other wonderful content that I’ve read, but probably forgotten about.
For example, a lot of the math about Weight Watchers “success stories” (including why you may be 20 times more likely to survive being shot in the head than you are to reach and maintain your WW “goal weight”) is derived from this wonderful blog post by fat fu.
And David also references this comprehensive NY Times Article in which Tara Parker-Pope breaks down a lot of the recent research about why permanent weight loss can be so difficult. She talks about a lot of the physiological changes that can happen with weight loss including:
- Increased hunger hormones like ghrelin that make us feel more hungry.
- Decreased leptin and peptide yy in the body which help to signal when our bodies are full.
- Lowered metabolism.
- Increased percentages of slow-twitch muscle fibers that make our bodies use calories more efficiently and burn fewer calories during physical activities.
- Increased “reward response” to food in the brain leading to more intense cravings for and obsession about food.
Tara also reminds us that these changes in the body are often long-term–lasting months or even years after the dieting has stopped. And while both she and David Wong admit that there are some “rare creatures” found in the National Weight Control Registry who have maintained significant weight loss, the vast majority of us are unlikely to experience the same results.
I don’t say this to depress you. But I do feel very strongly that those of us who work in the health and fitness industries have a responsibility to help our clients to build realistic expectations. Very, very few of us will lose a lot of weight and keep it off. A very slightly larger number of us will lose a little bit of weight and keep it off. But most of us will neither lose a significant amount of weight nor will we keep it off. Does that mean we need to give up on either wellness or well-being? Nope! As it turns out, bodies respond very well to healthy behaviors regardless of whether or not they are accompanied by any weight loss. We can choose to de-couple wellness from weight loss and focus on simply doing the things that make us feel well. So in my mind, it really makes more sense to take this Health At Every Size(R) or HAES approach and let the body’s weight settle where it will.
And even though telling the truth has seriously blunted my book sales and ruined my chances of ever starring in my own late-night, cheesy infomercial, I still must tell it. Oh well, I’m more of a morning person anyway.
The Fat Chick