This will be quick. I’m really enjoying my break from blogging. This morning I wrote in my sorely ignored journal. I felt happy sitting at my daughter’s desk in her room while the girls played and I scribbled away. Despite the technology-laden world I live in and usually embrace, the most soothing way to write for me is still often the old-fashioned way with a pretty notebook and slender pen in hand.
Our weekend was magical, joyful, and exhausting. That’s just the way it is with littles underfoot. Mary Elizabeth and I were fighting colds. Now Thomas is bit on the snotty side.
Anyway, I just wanted to pop in here really quickly to let you guys know about an interview I have scheduled for tomorrow. I’ll be on Radio Maria chatting about Weightless with Ken Huck on the Meet the Author program at 3 p.m. EST. I hope some of you can tune in.
Related to this and my anti-dieting position, the Brave Lass (AKA Kamilla) recently brought an interesting article from the New York Times to my attention. “The Fat Trap” explores why so many people lose weight only to gain it back again. In the first few paragraphs the article discusses a study that involved obese people going on a low-calorie diet. Most of the participants were very motivated to slim down and lost an average of 30 pounds 10 weeks in to the diet. Yet, despite their efforts to maintain the weight loss, they slowly gained the pounds back, and many reported feeling hungrier and being more preoccupied with food than before.
The dieters experienced significant biological changes as well:
“…a gastric hormone called ghrelin, often dubbed the ‘hunger hormone’ was about 20 percent higher than at the start of the study. Another hormone associated with suppressing hunger, peptide YY, was also abnormally low. Levels of leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and increases metabolism, also remained lower than expected. A cocktail of other hormones associated with hunger and metabolism all remained significantly changed compared to pre-dieting levels. It was almost as if weight loss had put their bodies into a unique metabolic state, a sort of post-dieting syndrome that set them apart from people who hadn’t tried to lose weight in the first place.”
What seemed odd to me is the diet these poor people embraced to lose those 30 pounds was only around 500 calories a day. Of course, their bodies felt starved. Of course, they couldn’t maintain that kind of restrictive meal plan (they weren’t asked to maintain it and while it might make sense that they wouldn’t gain weight if they were simply burning the same amount of calories as they were taking in, other factors were clearly at play).
I’ve never been obese. I understand there are some very real physical and oftentimes emotional obstacles to overcome, and genetics can play a big role in how much weight we carry. The article delves into genetic factors as well and shares a study that involved twins embracing an “experimental binge,” and discovering that the weight gain varied widely among the participants, suggesting a sort of “biological determinism” that “can make a person susceptible to weight gain or weight loss. However, I also didn’t understand why the author and researchers purported it to be so surprising that participants gained their weight back and appeared to have altered their metabolisms and hormone levels even a year after the low calorie eating plan. I don’t care how much weight a person has to lose; limiting someone to 500 calories – many consumed as liquids – is no way to set him or her up for long-term weight loss success. Nor does it seem overly shocking to me that such a restrictive plan would mess with the body on a physical level.
To be fair, the article later mentions that researchers are conducting a study using slower weight-loss to see if this is more sustainable; however, a quote from the article points out that “…the pace of weight loss is unlikely to make a difference, because the body’s warning system is based solely on how much fat a person loses, not how quickly he or she loses it.”The pace isn’t what concerns me so much as the extreme deprivation. On the other hand, as the author concludes in the last paragraph, it might be “somewhat liberating to learn there are factors other than [your] character at work when it comes to gaining and losing weight.” This is something I passionately believe. We have to separate our self-worth from our ability to lose weight.
I’m not a nutritionist or scientist. Much of what I believe is based on anecdotal truths I’ve mined in my own journey from having an eating disorder and struggling with how to eat the right amount. I’ve said it before, but I’ll keep repeating myself: Until we learn to eat real food, to listen to our bodies’ physical cues, to heal emotional wounds of the past that might be causing us to reach for more food than we need, and turn to God to satisfy our hunger pangs, to stop expressing our despair in food binges or extreme diets, we’re going to keep struggling, losing and gaining those same pounds over and over again.
Just some food for thought for you as we begin to look forward to a hopeful and healthful 2012.
I’ll be back with more regular posts soon.