The Real Reason We Can't Lose Weight


scaleEver since college, I've been losing and regaining the same 10-15 pounds – over and over and over again. Each time, I struggle to shed the excess weight by eating less and exercising, watching the numbers on the scale slowly decline until I hit my goal. But then I'm able to bask in my skinny jeans for only a short while before I feel my belly again pushing against the zipper and bloom over the top. The numbers on the scale seem to leap back up to where they were before I even realize it. And I feel helpless to stop them. It's as if my body just feels more comfortable at the higher weight.  That's where it wants to be – no matter what I want.

Turns out, my sense of helplessness when it comes to weight loss is entirely justified.

Writing in the New York Times magazine, Tara Parker-Pope reveals that research has proven what many of us have sensed ourselves: Once we put on weight, our bodies adjust in ways that make it incredibly difficult not just to take off but nearly impossible to keep off.

For years, the advice to the overweight and obese has been that we simply need to eat less and exercise more. While there is truth to this guidance, it fails to take into account that the human body continues to fight against weight loss long after dieting has stopped. This translates into a sobering reality: once we become fat, most of us, despite our best efforts, will probably stay fat.

Honestly, at first I found Parker-Pope's article, unprettily titled "The Fat Trap,"  dispiriting. Am I doomed to repeat this constant gain-weight-lose-weight-regain-weight cycle all my life? But on further reflection, I've concluded it might be liberating. Perhaps, instead of focusing on the 10 to 15 pounds I'd like to lose, I should instead simply concentrate on not gaining more weight on top of that – which would be hard to take off again – and learn to accept and love myself as I am (muffin-top and all).

Surely people who are obese may have a different perspective (there are serious health issues that come into play when you are grossly overweight). But maybe those of us who struggle with only a few extra pounds should just cut ourselves a break and stop torturing ourselves to fit into our "skinny jeans." After all, we're not teenagers anymore – some of us have carried babies in those persistently flabby abdomens. Why should we expect our bodies not to reflect that fact?

Now, if you'll excuse me. I'm going to cross "lose weight" off my list of New Year's resolutions and go eat one of those holiday cookies I've been denying myself for days. And you know what? I plan to enjoy it!

Have you struggled to keep weight off once you've lost it?


Image via puuikibeach/Flickr

diets, eating habits, exercise, weight loss


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jaxmadre jaxmadre

It depends WHAT you're eating.  Are you eating 400 calories of cupcake, or 400 calories of meat/veggies? It does make a difference. All calories are not created equal.

katyq katyq

The type of calories you eat matter. I cut out simple carbs years ago and that alone made me shed pounds.


Also, the claim that fat people stay fat goes against weight loss statistics.

OkieG... OkieGirl74

As a formerly morbidly obese woman, I will NEVER give up the fight.  I have fought too hard to lose the weight and will never allow myself to go back.  I realize that it is a fight I will fight every day for the rest of my life but I stick by the saying "nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels"

pjbarbie pjbarbie

To avoid having a muffin top try wearing pants in your correct size.

Also, it is easier to NOT eat the calorie than it is to work it off - not suggesting starvation, but better choices.

Alain... Alainalynn

I think she is trying to say that it is okay to treat yourself every once and a while. Being 10-15 pounds above your ideal weight isnt going to kill you either. If I had to choose between being slightly thinner or between eating foods that I like (in moderation of course) I would choose to keep the food and keep the weight.

butte... butterflymkm

It has been proven over and over that yo yo dieting is actually MUCH more harmful than just living with your extra 10lbs

Kelmo... Kelmom1228

Shmeh. I'm 30, I've had a child, and I weigh the same as I did in high school. Things definitely look different though, and a bit more flabby.

.LoVe... .LoVeMyBuG.

So tired of the weight battle :(

lovem... lovemylittle1

Eh, once I lose weight, I don't have any trouble maintaining. Losing weight is not really hard for me, just annoying. But When I do reach my goal weight, I can't maintain it eating pretty much anything I want. - and no, I'm not an exercise freak.

Kayla... KaylaMillar

I don't have a hard time.maintaining. its the losing that stinks!

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