More on Lessons from Personal Diets and the Obesity Epidemic

Image for post
Image for post
Breakfast, personal collection

“Are you on a diet?” This question is pregnant with expectation, moral judgment, and the rest that comes from a multi-billion industry. People ask because I lost over fifty pounds. This is nothing to sneeze at. And so far, I can maintain it. I write so far because I know the odds are against me, and it is biology, not lack of willpower. Statistically maintaining weight after weight loss is a numbers game, and those are not in my favor. To be honest, it’s about five percent of those who lose weight who keep it off.

Why?

It is not falling off the wagon. It is not the sweet table calling me. It is not a lack of willpower. It is biology. As you lose weight your body goes, are we in starvation? Are we having issues finding enough calories? And that is a product of millions of years of evolution. When food was available, we gorged ourselves, when there were lean times those reserves were there to carry you through.

We live in a society with food available 24/7/365 and most of it is super processed. The standard American Diet is processed, and it is super concentrated in the calorie department. This is a social aspect that also comes with people who have no time to cook, and we also know food desserts exist, which makes it far easier to grab a burger from the drive-through on the way home.

No, you will not find a well-stocked supermarket with fresh foods, vegetables, meats, cheeses, etcetera on the wrong side of the tract. When you have to drive fifteen miles or ride three hours on the bus, the local fast food place looks damn good. After two shifts at two different jobs, you need to keep the roof over your head.

Most dismiss this aspect of the obesity epidemic, especially those who have the means to join the insert weight loss program here. they also have a well-stocked store nearby. So it must be a lack of willpower!

Which brings me to the next point. Will power has nada to do with weight loss? This is a myth pushed by a puritanical society that somehow likes to believe people cannot lose weight, or keep it off because they are bad. With the high rates of failure, you’d think people would say enough to this ideology.

So what happens when you lose weight? First your hormone balance changes. It’s not your imagination, you do get hungrier. Why? Your body is used to a certain weight, a set point. Ergo, it releases more hunger hormones, because of danger, we are starving. It’s not your body being evil. It’s just biology.

Setpoints also play a different role. You may wish to be thinner, but your body is used to a higher weight. It will fight you. With a lot of time and patience, you could lower it. But setpoints are a reality of life. Mine is higher than any ideal BMI, and that is fine. There is science emerging about the needs of people who lose weight, and likely a lower caloric need than people who have never been heavy.

When you talk to your doctor about your weight loss plan, be realistic. What can you expect to lose and maintain? Even a ten percent loss is a good thing. And it will have important benefits for your long-term health. If you are younger and do not take meds, it may be easier. If you have lost and gained and lost again, accept that your weight may never be that low again. And that is ok. The benefits are still there.

Then there is the nature of food itself. One reason we are in the pickle we are in the nature of the Standard American Diet. SAD for short. At one point it was not as rich in processed foods. There was a time when people sat at the table and ate a home-cooked meal more often than not. Mind you, wages allowed families to have a single wage earner. Women remained at home, cleaned and cooked meals. This does not mean that was the best arrangement. From many points of view, they were not. However, home-cooked foods are better than store-bought fast foods.

Then there is the Basic Metabolic Rate. There is a very good chance that after the loss of fifty-plus pounds. my basal metabolic rate is lower than that of a person who has never been overweight or obese:

>Conclusions: Formerly obese subjects had a 3–5% lower mean relative RMR than control subjects; the difference could be explained by a low RMR being more frequent among the formerly obese subjects than among the control subjects. Whether the cause of the low RMR is genetic or acquired, the existence of a low RMR is likely to contribute to the high rate of weight regain in formerly obese persons.

There is an excellent chance that I will need fewer calories just to maintain a lower weight. Meaning. even the idea of a normal range for maintenance may not work as well as we used to believe. That is neither here or there since at this point I eat when I need to eat.

One of those rare things for me is that I am rarely hungry. A common side effect is that people who lose weight get hungrier. It is their body reacts to this. I know I am lucky in this respect.

Written by

Historian by training. Former day to day reporter. Sometimes a geek who enjoys a good miniatures game.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store