Why is Losing Weight So Hard?
August 11, 2017
It often takes weeks and weeks to lose weight but eat poorly for a few days and BAM! It’s like all those endless hours of training and dieting did nothing at all. How come it is so hard to lose weight, but so easy to gain it?
The human body is built for survival; meaning it is built to keep you alive. Let’s think of the body as a machine, for explanatory purposes, and its purpose is to keep this machine running smoothly for a long time. This machine doesn’t care if you are shredded with abs, or have a little extra weight you are looking to lose. It cares about one thing and one thing only: keeping you alive and doing so as efficiently as possible.
The body does this by striving to remain in a state of homeostasis, which by definition is a state of being the same. This means that the body works hard to remain the same, and like the average person out there, it doesn’t like change. When you start dieting you are seeking a change, a change in body composition to be exact (example: losing weight, inches, etc.). This will disrupt this state of homeostasis that the body works so hard to achieve. It will usually go okay at the start but than your body starts to fight back, because as much as you want change, it doesn’t.
The body fights back.
Adaptations by the body are made in order to prevent these changes. From a human survival perspective, this is great news. But if you’re trying to fit into that new bikini you bought for a trip…not so much.
The body’s secret weapon? The “L” word, and in this case I don’t mean love. “L” stands for Leptin, a peptide hormone produced in fat cells within the body. It has a very big job: to regulate metabolism and hunger levels. When you start losing weight, the body makes adaptations, as said before, and one of them is a decrease in Leptin.
Leptin drops, what’s the big deal?
Leptin works to regulate hunger and your metabolism, so let’s flip this and look at the other side. Let’s say you start gaining weight, and your fat cells begin to increase. Leptin levels will also increase causing signals to be sent to the brain in order to increase metabolism and decrease hunger levels. Yes, I am saying that when you add weight, your body actually will fight back to help you lose it. Why? It all goes back to homeostasis: striving to stay the same.
Now you are probably confused, because after reading this you will probably like the sound of Leptin and what it is doing for you. Don’t be fooled. There is a down side to Leptin: when calorie intake decreases as a result of dieting, the fat cells will produce less Leptin.
Why is this a problem?
The fat cells will produce LESS Leptin, which tells the brain that fuel levels are LOW – which will trigger an increase in appetite and also a decrease in metabolic rate. All that is just fancy shmancy for saying that as you continue to diet and reduce calories, your metabolism will slow down and your hunger will increase. This will make dieting extremely difficult and much less enjoyable. And who’s to thank? Leptin! In the above paragraphs you were starting to like this hormone, but now probably not so much.
Yes, I am telling you that as you try to reduce your calories in order to lose weight, your body will decrease Leptin levels in order to reverse this. It will slow down your metabolism making you burn LESS calories and also increase your hunger levels so you want to EAT MORE.
Leptin isn’t sounding very nice for your weight loss journey, but for human survival it is quite the hormone.
After the above you are likely thinking, why should I even bother, right? The human body is way too smart for me, and losing weight seems, very, very difficult. Yes, those statements are true, however there are ways to trick the body, avoid the drop in Leptin and continue with weight loss.
Tricking the body:
- Don’t cut too many calories, too soon: This method might lead to quick fat loss, but eventually your body will fight back and you’ll end up gaining it all back, and then some. Start with a 5-10% reduction in calories and go from there. This will take much longer to see results, but you will be working with your body and not against it, thus leading to long-term results.
- Implement carb cycling: Incorporate periods of low, moderate and high-carb days in order to prevent the drop in Leptin.
- Incorporate cheat meals: After a period of eating in a caloric deficit, especially on a low-carb diet, your glycogen levels will be empty. This causes a drop in Leptin levels. By incorporating a cheat meal, which is a surplus of calories all at one time (ex: eating a large burger and fries), you refill this glycogen tank. This will also drive Leptin levels back up to optimal levels, thus increasing your metabolism again and controlling hunger levels.