Ever 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?
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