The reason overweight people can't seem to keep weight off post-diet is pretty simple; They eat too much.
Why this happens, however, is much more complex. Nerd Herders probably know that the reason I feel this happens is well-covered in Dr. David Keller's book The End of Overeating. Long story short, the food industry provides us with engineered sustenance made so addictive with chemicals, sodium, fat, and sugar that it rewires our brains to overeat.
A new study in the New England Journal of Medicine dovetails into this theory nicely. Instead of focusing on external forces, however, it focuses on internal forces: our hormones. According to the New York Times, researchers found that when people lose weight, it affects a number of hormones in the brain. Specifically, leptin, which tells the brain how much body fat is present, drops and ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, increases. The reason for this is pretty obvious (to me, at least). While we live in a time of plenty, our brains are still hard-wired to live several thousand years ago, when a sudden drop in calories meant potential starvation, thus activating our internal hunter/gatherer for a little pep-talk. Our bodies like having fat and still haven't evolved to deal with how rotund we can truly get.
But back to 2011. The researchers continued to monitor these people and, after a year, their hormones were still out of whack. That ghrelin and leptin really, really wanted them to eat.
This isn't the first time that wonky hormones have been blamed for diet issues. You might remember that earlier this year, a study came out showing a lack of sleep could lead to ghrelin and leptin imbalances as well.
Admittedly and as the article points out, this new study had a few holes in it. The first thing that pops out for me is that the subjects were put on a 10-week, 500 calorie a day diet. If researchers did that to me, not only would my hormones go nuts, but my entire brain might lurch out through my nostrils and try to consume the scientists in a desperate bid for nourishment. In other words, who knows if a less extreme diet might have less extreme longterm effects. That said, the study still adds to growing evidence that further analysis of hormone balance and how it relates to weight loss needs to happen.
However, I'm a little troubled by this line: "A solution might be to restore hormones to normal levels by giving drugs after dieters lose weight."
Yikes! Seems to me that, much like obesity, the headlines are filled with stories about the overuse of psychopharmaceuticals in America. Sometimes a brain can mess with its user to the point that a pill is the only solution, but we're not talking schizophrenia or severe depression here. What we are talking about is knowing exactly why you want that McRib so badly, despite knowing it's basically (or potentially literally) just a salty, sugary piece of poop on a bun. It seems to me that taking ownership of that knowledge and being mindful of why you're driven to do things, is 78.5% of the battle.
Every day, countless parents tell their teenagers to take control of their hormones. Millions of high schoolers make it through prom every year without getting knocked up - or knocking someone else up - all thanks to self-control. Although, now that I think about, the threat of damnation and hellfire (see Commandment 7) or severe beating (see Commandment 5) probably go a long way towards helping Little Jimmy keep Littler Jimmy in his pants. While opening some kind of Whoop Ass Weight Loss Clinic is probably out of the question legally, I see no reason why we couldn't add an amendment to the Ten Commandments. Perhaps an Eleventh commandment along the lines of "Thou Shall Not Eat Crap Thou Doesn't Need to Eat."
They do that, right? I mean, The Vatican is always tweaking and fine-tuning doctrine. How do I do this? Is there a form I need to fill out? Or do I contact my local bishop? The Church can talk people into believing that the Earth was made in 6 days and Noah tracked two of all 30 million species of animal and fit them all on his ark. Certainly, they can talk them out of drinking Starbucks Crapachinos.
On second thought, that might take a miracle. Someone get Pat Robertson on the horn.