News stories in the last couple weeks have delivered a crushing blow to those struggling with weight loss:
You can't win, will power is useless because hormonal changes that come with overeating and weight gain perpetuate a state of hunger which actually gets worse when you lose weight.
Don't dispare the study was a goofy one. That might be a bit harsh.. better to say that this single study does not tell the whole story, but rather a story that is specific to the conditions of the study (1), which was going on a 500 calorie per day starvation diet.
After 10 weeks of starving on a diet that is totally unrealistic and would never be recommended by any health professional, weight loss occurred (of course, you're starving). What also occurred is the hormones that regulate hunger changed; hormones that stimulate hunger increased, and those that suppress appetite decreased.
The most interesting study finding was that one year after the initial weight loss the shift in hormonal balance remained out of balance, causing the study participants to feel hungry and also needing more calories to feel satisfied from eating.
The real conclusion hear is not that weight loss is impossible but rather that if you try drastic measures like crash dieting and extremely low calorie diets you will cause significant changes in hormone levels that govern appetite which will strongly influence regaining the weight you lost.
Permanent weight loss is possible, but only about 5 to 10% of people are successful. How is this done?
Change your love affair with overeating. It's important to learn the caloric value of foods so you can know how to meet your daily needs, and in light of these discoveries of hormonal imbalances driving appetite, it's important to be able to self talk and cognitively process your sense of hunger, "I get that I feel hungry, but do I feel hungry because of a true caloric need, or is this the hunger caused by hormonal imbalance?"
If you've had enough calories and still feel hungry the hunger will be from hormonal imbalance. Initially you will use your will power to resist eating when this happens. Over time you will adapt to eating less, but unless our ingrained sense of gratification from overeating is also addressed we'll forever be trapped in a dysfunctional love affair with food.
With the self talk try something like, "I'm going to feel so good about myself by eating healthy.. this is the right thing to do." Repetition is the key. Just like practicing musical scales on a instrument, learning to type, or learning anything for that matter, the brain needs to experience repetition so it can adapt.. lot's of repetition.
Expect relapses and expect a long term process. Want to lose weight quick and keep it off forever? Most likely not going to work for you so don't bother trying. Want to earn a living by winning the lottery? Quick weight loss is just as unrealistic.
If you look at how much we admire overeating, and how much we long for it every day, it's easy to see why eating healthy can be so challenging.. almost nobody does it, and almost nobody supports it.
Despite these real challenges, successful weight loss is possible, it can be done, and it feels really good.
Healthy eating is far more satisfying than overeating, teach your brain to automate that association and you'll feel a natural desire to eat healthy, instead of overeating, and that is truly liberating.
1) Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss — NEJM