Why Does My Fat Just Keep Coming Back?

woman standing on scale in disbelief

(BlackDoctor.org) — All you have to do is wheel your grocery cart into a checkout line to see the cautionary tales screaming at you from the tabloids: celebrities struggling to get thin and stay that way.

It makes you wonder: “If these rich and powerful people, with their personal trainers and private chefs, can’t win the weight war, what chance do I have?”

It doesn’t help that the statistics are grim: By some estimates, more than 80 percent of people who have lost weight regain all of it, or more, after two years. Recent studies have also linked the gain-lose-gain cycle to such potentially life-threatening conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, depression, heart disease, and cancer.

Understanding Metabolic Math

While small fluctuations on the scale are normal, the unhealthy behavior that experts refer to as “weight cycling” is not. Cycling is defined as a significant increase or decrease of body weight (generally 10 pounds or more) that occurs multiple times.

Experts believe a yo-yo pattern is often the result of a diet that’s too restrictive, and a study reported in the journal Obesity backs that up: “It found that people who followed a very low-calorie diet regained significantly more weight than those on a more forgiving plan,” says Judith Beck, Ph.D., director of the Beck Institute of Cognitive Therapy and author of The Beck Diet Solution. “If you lose weight on 1,200 calories a day, the minute you go up to 1,300 is the minute you start gaining weight.”

Why does your own metabolism thwart you? Simple, says Kelly Brownell, M.D., director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University: “The body may perceive dieting as a threat to its survival. It might not know the difference between Atkins and famine.”

Born to Rebound?

It’s bad enough that your body fights you when you try to lose weight. Now there’s compelling research to show that some people may be hardwired to yo-yo.

The problem, most experts feel, is that most people have never learned the skills needed for long-term behavior change. “They haven’t been taught how to motivate themselves every day,” Brownell says, “or how to respond to negative thoughts and recognize a mistake as a one-time thing.”

Risky Bigness

While watching the numbers on the scale fluctuate wildly is a blues inducer and clothes-budget buster, there are far more compelling reasons to be steady. For one, your metabolism might be affected — and not in the way you probably hoped.

Lost muscle. The more times you yo-yo, the theory goes, the more fat your body gains in each rebound. Because muscle burns 10 times more calories than fat does, your metabolism eventually will slow to a crawl. “If you go on a very strict diet and gain the weight back quickly, you might lose a lot of muscle and regain a lot of fat,” says Keith Ayoob, M.D., R.D., an associate professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “Then your metabolism operates on a slower idle, which means it’s going to be harder to lose weight as time goes on.”

Added stress to the body. “Losing and gaining regularly takes a huge toll on your body,” Ayoob says. Beyond aesthetics, such as a loss of skin elasticity, regaining weight burdens your arteries and skeletal system, and may stress the liver, which can become covered in fat.

Added heart problems. Yo-yoing also does a number on your ticker: A study in Clinical Cardiology found that women who weight cycle five times or more during their lifetimes may be damaging their hearts in the process.

Lost immunity. But perhaps most startling is the dangerous and lasting effect weight cycling has on the immune system. According to the first study of the long-term impacts of yo-yo dieting, women who repeatedly lost and gained weight had lower immune function, particularly lower counts of natural killer cells.

“These cells are important for fending off infections and are also vital in fighting the early stages of cancer,” says Cornelia Ulrich, M.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Low killer-cell activity is associated with higher rates of cancer. I

With so many drawbacks, you might wonder if you’d be better off just accepting your belly rolls. But the perils of being overweight still outweigh the risks of yo-yoing. So how do you quit the cycle for good? Despite what you read in the tabloids, it is possible.

Ultimately, What You Need To Do Is…

• Be realistic. “Make sure your diet is one you can stick with,” says Anne Fletcher, R.D., author of Thin for Life. No crash diets or fads that will be impossible to maintain. In fact, reconsider the whole notion of dieting as a temporary fix. Think of what you’re doing as a permanent lifestyle shift.

• Be patient. Don’t try to lose too much too soon. A healthy goal for slimming down, according to the National Institutes of Health, is to reduce your weight by approximately 10 percent over six months.

• Be supported. Researchers have found that socializing with others who have successfully lost weight improves your odds of maintaining your own weight loss. So enlist a buddy or join a group.

• Be analytical. Record your mood changes and hunger levels so you can learn to distinguish when you’re eating for emotional reasons.

• Be vigilant. “If you lose 30 pounds and then gain three, it’s easy to think that’s no big deal. But it’s a slippery slope,” says Gary Foster, Ph.D., director of the Center of Obesity Research and Education at Temple University in Philadelphia. Especially if you have a history of yo-yoing. Weigh yourself weekly, and have a clear plan of action ready if the scale swings too far.

• Be flexible. “Switch eating plans if you get bored,” says Michael Dansinger, M.D., weight-loss and nutrition advisor for The Biggest Loser and assistant professor at Tufts School of Medicine in Boston. Research indicates you’re more likely to be successful.

• Be active. Besides consuming a low-calorie, low-fat diet and being mindful about self-monitoring, you must exercise. This doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon: Half an hour of walking every day is all you need to burn calories, build muscle, temper cravings, and increase “feel good” endorphin levels.

• Be optimistic. “One of the most important tips for being a successful weight loser is not to let past failed attempts keep you from trying again,” Dansinger says. Every time you fail, you get more insight about what to do differently next time.

 

Diabetes Powerhouse Foods

variation of dried beans

(BlackDoctor.org) — Everyone knows you have to cut back on or eliminate certain foods once you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

But there are also foods that can help with managing type 2 diabetes, either by providing powerhouse portions of nutrients or by helping quell the ebb and flow of your blood sugar levels.

“Diabetes superfoods are foods that are low-fat and high in nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” says dietitian Sue McLaughlin, RD, CDE, a certified diabetes educator and president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association.

Making these foods part of a comprehensive diabetes diet can make a real difference in managing diabetes.

Beans

Incredibly high in fiber and protein, just a half-cup of any type of beans will provide about a third of your daily requirement of fiber and as much protein as an ounce of meat. Because of this, beans are wonderful for managing blood glucose levels, giving the body nutrients to slowly digest and process. “They help control the post-meal blood sugar rise,” McLaughlin says. Beans also are great sources of magnesium and potassium.

Fish

“Salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, halibut, and herring are high in omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to be heart-healthy, as long as these [fish] are not breaded and deep-fried,” McLaughlin says. One study also suggests that eating fish at least twice a week may protect people with diabetes against kidney problems.

Nuts

Nuts are very filling and contain high levels of unsaturated fats, the kind that contributes to “good” cholesterol. Some nuts and seeds like walnuts and flaxseeds contain omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts also deliver healthy doses of fiber and magnesium.

Berries  

All berries contain good levels of antioxidants, says McLaughlin. They are heart-healthy, cancer-preventing, and fat-free. Compared with other fruits, “they provide a comparatively low amount of calories and carbohydrates considering their serving size,” McLaughlin says. Berries also contain vitamins and fiber.

Broccoli

High in vitamins A and C, broccoli is another low-carbohydrate, low-calorie, high-fiber food that has antioxidant and anti-cancer properties, McLaughlin says. Broccoli also is very filling, a plus for people who need to lose weight. “Try eating a six-inch salad plate full of cooked broccoli,” she says. “It will fill you up and give you 75 calories at most.”

Sweet Potatoes

Many people with type 2 diabetes love potatoes, but can’t afford the starch. Sweet potatoes are a great alternative, McLaughlin says. They are high in fiber and vitamins A and C.

Dark, Leafy Green Vegetables

Spinach, collard greens, and kale pack high levels of nutrients like vitamins A and C and calcium, as well as being low in calories and carbohydrates. Other great choices in this group include bok choy and mustard greens.

Whole Grains

Any time you want bread, pasta, or cereal, you need to make sure it’s made with whole grains. The germ and bran contained in whole grains have large amounts of nutrients like magnesium, chromium, omega-3 fatty acids, and folate; these are stripped out of wheat when it’s processed into white flour products. Whole-grain foods also contain lots of fiber.

Tomatoes

Here’s another colorful vegetable that contains large amounts of nutrients like iron and vitamins C and E. Tomatoes are very versatile and can be used in many different recipes. Cooked tomato products like stewed tomatoes and ketchup also deliver the important nutrient lycopene.