Is Losing Weight More Complicated Than We Think?
Some folk like to trot out this old chestnut - if you want to lose weight, eat less and move more. But is it that simple?
On a physical front, yes it is. Obesity and weight gain are often down to a calories versus activity imbalance, i.e. eating more than we burn off, but studies show that with extra weight comes psychological issues that make it harder to burn excess pounds.
The body fights weight loss
A very low-calorie diet might be a last resort for overweight folks, but it doesn't always work.
Hungry bodies will try to hold onto fat and conserve energy because they think it's a period of food scarcity. It's an evolutionary throwback. Metabolism slows down to burn less calories, and the brain responds by making us feel more hungry. It's also thought the brain changes in the way it reacts to food.
A study from the American University's Center for Behavioral Neuroscience and Purdue University showed that diets high in saturated fats and refined sugar rewire the brain. This can leave the individual overeating unhealthy foods and unable to lose weight.
Their research focused on the hippocampus, the brain area responsible for memory and learning, and found that high-fat diets impacted its ability to 'suppress unwanted thoughts that would cause them to stop at reasonable servings of food.'
Exercise seems harder
Another study has shown that distances are perceived as further and slopes steeper by overweight individuals.
Dr Witt of Colorado State University conducted studies involving both healthy weight and overweight individuals.
In one of their studies, 66 people were asked to estimate how far away a traffic cone was. Those of a healthy weight suggested 15 metres, whilst the overweight suggested 30m. Other studies show that overweight individuals believe slopes are steeper than they are in reality. Dr Witt believes this is an unconscious process used to save overweight people the extra effort needed to exercise and that people have no control over it.
It's important research because it may indicate why overweight people struggle to exercise - they see the task as harder and more daunting. It also highlights why healthy weight individuals have intolerance for overweight peers. The two really do see life differently.
Dr Witt suggests wearing telescopic glasses might help the overweight overcome mental barriers to exercise and help them out of the vicious cycle they are trapped in. With evolution and brain chemicals fighting against them, obese and overweight folk have a tough time losing weight.
Get the right support
Never-the-less, weight management is an important aspect of health. People who are overweight are more prone to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other life-altering illnesses.
A healthy weight is imperative for a healthy life, so those perceived steeper slopes and distances need to be conquered despite the extra effort it involves.
If you are trying to lose weight, see your doctor or healthy-living nurse for some support. It all starts with a single workout and a realistic eating plan. Professionals are there to help, so make use of them!