Scientists believe they have figured out the key maintaining weight loss — time. Roughly one year to be precise. For the first 12 months after we slim down the body is actually fighting hard to put the weight back on. It’s a knock-down drag-out brawl between willpower and forces beyond our control.
Yo-yo dieting is an all too familiar scenario for anyone who has ever tried to shed excess pounds. Months in the gym and a strict diet yield great results with shrinking waists and smaller, healthier looks. An almost euphoric feeling sets in with compliments and glances in the mirror boosting our egos.
But sadly, the feeling of being on top of the world rarely lasts. In fact, more often than not it doesn’t last long at all.
Within months or even weeks of reaching the target weight everything starts to unravel. Pounds start piling on and the clothes you just bought no longer fit as old habits begin to rear their ugly head. Eventually, the scale shows a number that is higher than when you started. It all happened so quickly.
However, if you are able to fight and maintain the weight loss for a year new research shows you have a better chance of keeping it off for good. And it all has to do with a critical hormonal change that helps to curb your appetite.
A University of Copenhagen study tracked 20 obese individuals who lost an average of 13 percent of their body weight on an 8-week crash diet. They were counseled by a dietician for a year and given a weight maintenance protocol to follow.
At the end of the 52-week period scientists discovered their bodies were producing higher levels of the appetite suppressing hormones GLP-1 and PYY. Obese people typically have low levels of GLP-1.
“The interesting and uplifting news in this study is that if you are able to maintain your weight loss for a longer period of time, it seems as if you have ‘passed the critical point’, and after this point, it will actually become easier for you to maintain your weight loss than is was immediately after the initial weight loss,” Associate Professor Signe Sorensen Torekov from the Department of Biomedical Sciences and Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research said. “Thus, the body is no longer fighting against you, but actually with you.”
Scientists compared blood samples taken prior to the study, following initial weight loss and after 12 months of maintenance. The hormone ghrelin, also known as “the hunger hormone,” receded after spiking at the conclusion of the initial crash diet.
“This study shows that if an overweight person is able to maintain an initial weight loss – in this case for a year – the body will eventually ‘accept’ this new weight and thus not fight against it, as is otherwise normally the case when you are in a calorie-deficit state,” Torekov said.