As my blog title says, I am one regular guy writing about diet, exercise, etc. Professionally, I worked 20 years as a financial journalist. After writing this blog for nearly seven years, I consider myself to be a newbie health journalist, but still just a regular guy. I still find myself in deep waters when it comes to body chemistry among other medical subjects.
So when I ran across the extensive write up on metabolism by WebMD, I thought I would share some of it. You can read the whole thing by clicking the link.
Metabolism is the body’s engine. It’s the energy you burn just to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your other organs running. Unless you’re an elite athlete, resting metabolism accounts for 60% to 75% of all the calories you burn each day, and it varies a lot from person to person.
If you’re counting calories, knowing your resting metabolism can help you figure out how much you can eat without gaining weight.
People who have a naturally high metabolic rate can eat more, without gaining weight, than people who burn calories at a slower pace.
The bad news: It’s hard to boost your resting metabolism much beyond its natural set point, though it is possible to slow it down.
Are you familiar with the TV show The Biggest Loser? I know it has been around a while and has a certain popularity. I watched it a few times, but was never comfortable with it. It seemed so unnatural and I had a feeling it wasn’t truly healthy either.
“When we lose weight, our bodies fight hard to regain it.
“Eric Ravussin, PhD, director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, likens this resistance to weight loss to what happens when you pull on a spring.
“The more you pull your weight away from your natural settling point, the more your body is going to resist,” he says.
One way the body resists weight loss is to slow down its resting metabolism. The more rapid and extreme the weight loss, the more metabolism appears to slow.”
Kevin Hall, PhD, a senior investigator at the National Institutes of Health, spent 6 years following contestants from season eight of “The Biggest Loser” reality show.
The show takes obese people and pairs them with trainers who push them through extreme exercise — up to 4 1/2 hours each day — and strict diets so they quickly lose weight.
At the end of the competition, which lasts for 7 months, some people had lost as much as half their starting weight.
The trouble is that their metabolisms slowed even as the pounds flew off.
By the end of the show, when they were at their lowest weight, their resting metabolisms had dropped by more than 600 calories a day, on average.
Researchers had expected some slowing in their daily calorie burn, but the metabolic plunge was even more than scientists had predicted. And contrary to what experts had expected, their metabolisms never adjusted after their extreme weight loss. In some cases, they slowed even more.
Thirteen of the 14 contestants regained some of the weight they lost. Four contestants are heavier now than before they joined the show. Some have said their junk food cravings are still there, though their capacity to burn them off isn’t.
“We took a look at this extreme case of very huge lifestyle changes, huge amounts of weight loss because we wanted to see how strongly the body responds when you intervene to such a large degree. The answer is pretty darn strongly,” Hall says.
Hall thinks that hormones — particularly the hormone leptin, which banishes hunger — may play a role.
In a different study, “Biggest Loser” contestants had 80% less leptin at the end of their weight loss than a similar group of people who’d lost weight after bariatric surgery.
Scientists are currently testing whether giving leptin injections after weight loss might preserve metabolism and prevent weight regain.
Until there’s a drug to prevent weight regain, the take-home message here, says Ravussin, is that slow and steady is a better way to lose weight if you want to have a better chance of keeping it off.
Even better, Hall says, is to try to change the way you think of weight loss. Instead of going on a diet — dramatically cutting calories and killing yourself at the gym — to get to a certain weight, he says it’s better to focus on adopting habits you’ll be able to stick with over the long run. (my emphasis)
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Maybe I already have in the numerous posts on adopting a healthy lifestyle and forgetting about ‘losing weight’ per se.
Eat less; more more; live longer.