HAWMC Day #17 – Learned the Hard Way

Posted on April 17, 2012


Today’s Prompt: What’s a lesson you learned the hard way? Write about it for 15 today.

I didn’t have to think too hard about today’s post 🙂 The hardest lesson I’ve learned is the permanent damage weight gain causes my body.

Tara Parker-Pope wrote an excellent article in December 2011 on the “Fat Trap.” Here’s one of the many sentences that sobered me up:

“While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat.”

As a Registered Dietitian, I was surprised by the information and as a person who struggles with weight, I was frustrated that I had let my weight spiral out of control.

According to researchers quoted in the article that after significant weight loss, the body believes that it is starving and works hard to get you to eat to regain the weight, i.e. trying to return to its place of homeostasis. Significantly, levels of leptin, the hormone that suppresses appetite, were found to be lower.

“I think many people who are anxious to lose weight don’t fully understand what the consequences are going to be, nor does the medical community fully explain this to people,” Rudolph Leibel, an obesity researcher at Columbia University in New York, says. “We don’t want to make them feel hopeless, but we do want to make them understand that they are trying to buck a biological system that is going to try to make it hard for them.”

Gaining weight and then losing it changes the body’s hormonal and metabolic process. It’s not just about will power! While it’s a comforting fact to know that I didn’t personally sabatoge my weight loss/maintenance in the past, the realization that I am fighting against nature was a little overwhelming when I read the story. I AM responsible for altering the way my body functions and now that I’ve lost 39lbs, I’m going to likely battle my body to remain at my ideal weight for the rest of my life.

“After you’ve lost weight, your brain has a greater emotional response to food,” Rosenbaum says. “You want it more, but the areas of the brain involved in restraint are less active.” Combine that with a body that is now burning fewer calories than expected, he says, “and you’ve created the perfect storm for weight regain.”

I will not be able to take a day off from physical activity. Even then, I will burn less calories doing the same activity as someone who hasn’t lost a significant amount of weight. I will always have to keep careful track of my caloric intake. I will have to learn how to handle being hungry and thinking about food more frequently. And I will continue to weigh myself diligently.

This is by far the hardest lesson I’ve learned. I want to share with others that the better option is to keep close to your ideal weight and if you’ve gained weight, it’s best to take it off as soon as possible because these post-diet metabolic changes that occur don’t happen overnight and may even take years but why wait it out? Lose the weight now! I also want to help those in my situation to know that they can lose the weight and maintain it, too. That’s the greatest lesson I have to share.

I am not discouraged! The alternative is far worse and now that I have an understanding of how my body is responding, I can plan. Aside from regular intense exercise, I’ve chosen to follow a high raw vegan diet where I can eat freely of the abundance of the earth.

Knowledge is power. I am ALREADY a success story.

– Kareen, RD