Research shows dieting affects the way your brain works and hormone changes encourage you to eat and store even more fat. It shows that in most cases dieters put on more weight than they lose.
There is a huge amount of scientific evidence that points to a demoralising fact for the 25 per cent of the population in the UK that are trying to lose weight, our basic human biology is the greatest enemy of all.
When you have worked as long as we have with clients that are desperate to lose or control their weight you realise that diets don’t work. We are generally the last resort, clients have tried and failed on every diet you can think of. What I would like to show you in this article is that most people try dieting and when that fails they then come for hypnotherapy. However, hypnotherapy can be very effective at countering the reason why diets fail so the sensible strategy would be to have hypnotherapy during and after dieting.
Two years ago, a team of researchers at the University of Melbourne, including Joseph Proietto, a professor of medicine, discovered one of the possible reasons. His team recruited 50 obese men and women, and put them through a gruelling eight week programme of an extreme 500-550 calories a day diet.
At the end of the programme, they had dropped an average of 30lb. They then spent a year having counselling with the aim of sticking to a lifestyle of healthy eating. But the participants regained 11lb on average. They also said that they felt far hungrier and more preoccupied with food than before losing weight. If they had had hypnotherapy during the follow up period I suspect the end result would have been very different.
As the researchers reported in The New England Journal of Medicine, the volunteers’ hormones were working overtime, making them react as though they were starving and in need of weight-gain. Their levels of an appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin, were about 20 per cent higher than at the start of the study. Meanwhile, their levels of an appetite suppressing hormone, peptide YY, were unusually low.
Furthermore, levels of leptin, a hormone that increases the metabolic rate and reduces the hunger feeling, also remained lower than expected.
Proietto describes this effect as ‘a co-ordinated defence mechanism with multiple components all directed toward making us put on weight’. In other words, the body had launched a backlash against dieting.
This research points to the fact that the human body has been designed by thousands of years of evolution to survive long periods of starvation.
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Our bodies have strong mechanisms to stop weight loss, but are not designed to stop weight gain. If, by whatever method, you manage to lose 10% of your weight, your body believes there’s a shortage of food. So it burns less fuel by slowing your metabolism.
The body learns to manage with fewer calories by changing your metabolic rate. The problem arises when you stop dieting and start eating more again, because now that your metabolic rate is low you don’t need more food so those extra calories are stored as fat.
This effect, at around eight weeks of dieting and research, suggests it might be up to six years. So what does this mean? Studies by Columbia University show that this metabolic slowdown means that just to maintain a stable weight, people have to eat around 400 calories less a day post-diet than before dieting. However, using hypnotherapy we believe that we can get the brain to speed up the metabolic rate whilst actually eating less. Increasing the speed of weight loss and establishing a way of keeping the weight off.
It’s also thought the brain changes in the way it reacts to food. This wilts our willpower, according to Michael Rosenbaum, a researcher at Columbia University Medical Centre who studies the body’s response to weight loss.
‘After you’ve lost weight, there’s an increase in the emotional response to food,’ he says, adding that there is also ‘a decrease in the activity of brain systems that might be more involved in restraint’. Hypnotherapy can be helpful here as well, by increasing the motivation to resist inappropriate foods and the desire for healthy foods.
In 2010, neuroscientists at Columbia University Medical Centre, Rosenbaum and his colleague, Joy Hirsch, scanned the brains of people before and after weight loss while they viewed objects such as chocolate, broccoli, grapes and mobile phones.
After losing weight, the scans showed a greater response in the areas associated with reward and a lower response in those associated with self-control.
And in 2011, scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York discovered that when starved of food, brain cells actually consume each other. This causes the release of fats, which in turn results in higher levels of a powerful brain chemical that stimulates appetite, the journal Cell Metabolism reports. All bad news for dieters, as going without food could make them even hungrier.
“diets don’t work in the long run”
This explains why an analysis of 31 long-term clinical studies found that diets don’t work in the long run. Within five years about two-thirds of dieters put back the weight — and more. The researchers from the University of California discovered that dieting works in the short term, with people losing up to 10 per cent of their weight on any number of diets in the first six months of any regimen. But after this, the weight returns, and often more is added, says their report in the journal American Psychologist.
The analysis concluded that most volunteers would have been better off not dieting. Their weight would be pretty much the same and their bodies would not have wear and tear from yo-yo dieting.
This backfire effect is worst among teenagers: people who start habitually dieting young tend to be significantly heavier after five years than teens who never dieted. This mix of biology and psychology translates into a sobering reality: once we become overweight, most of us will probably remain that way.
Ultimately, of course, we should be more wary of piling on the pounds, than relying on diets to reverse the damage. As Tam Fry, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, says: ‘The way that the body protects itself against weight-loss diets is quite incredible. Putting on weight is for most people, sadly, a one-way street.’
Source: The Daily Mail