Extra pounds shed. Diet mode on. Still feeling hungry? You may have to battle with it for the rest of your life.
Weight loss may be difficult but maintaining a healthy weight after weight loss could be worse, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology, and Metabolism. Hunger pangs in obese people even after weight loss are due to two factors; hormones and energy conservation.
Weight loss but possible to maintain?
Researchers from Norwegian University of Science and Technology studied the appetite of more than 30 obese patients (out weighing 125 kilograms on an average) who participated in a two-year weight loss program. They underwent regular exercises, different tests, and nutritional education for the first three weeks at a treatment center specialized in addressing obesity. This was repeated about every six months. In the first three weeks, the participants lost nearly five kilos, while they lost 11 kilos on an average after two years. According to study author Catia Martins, most people with obesity are able to lose weight, even on their own, but research shows that only 20% manage to maintain the new lower weight.
Hormone and resistance to diet increases
Ghrelin is the hormone responsible for increased hunger pangs. “Everyone has this hormone, but if you’ve been overweight and then lose weight, the hormone level increases,” says Martins. The level of ghrelin remained high in all the subjects through the two years. Apart from the hormone, energy conservation is also responsible to keep the hunger feelings high. “A person who’s been very obese has needed more energy just to breathe, sleep, digest food or walk. When the body loses weight, less energy is needed for these basic functions, simply because the body is lighter,” says Martins. Although the body is now lighter, the body tries to get back to its previous weight, just to be on the safe side.
Obesity – A chronic disease
Obesity is nothing less than a chronic disease and should be treated like one. “It’s important to know which physiological mechanisms resist weight loss. Of course, there are individual differences. People can lose motivation and have trouble following the diet and exercise advice. All of this makes it difficult to maintain the new lower weight. Obesity is a daily struggle for the rest of one’s life. We have to stop treating it as a short-term illness by giving patients some support and help, and then just letting them fend for themselves,” concluded Martins.