Every January 1st, millions of Americans resolve to lose weight in the New Year. But whether they’re trying to 15 pounds or 150, most will not succeed. According to Dr. Jessica Bartfield, who specializes in nutrition and weight management at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care, as little as 20 percent of people will achieve successful weight loss and maintenance. Dr. Bartfield explained in an article published by ScienceDaily that there are four main lifestyle factors that contribute to why people fail to lose weight:
First, most people underestimate the number of calories that they’re consuming. To become more aware of the calories you’re putting in your mouth, Bartfield suggests using tools like measuring cups or a food scale to accurately calculate portion size. Additionally, keeping a food journal of everything you eat–including drinks and “bites” or “tastes” of food–can help increase self-awareness.
The second reason why people have a hard time shedding weight is that they overestimate their activity and calories burned. In order to lose a pound a week through exercise alone, most people would need to engage in 60 minutes or more of vigorous activity every day. She suggests setting a more attainable goal, such as trying to increase movement throughout the day and to engage in 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days of the week.
Dr. Bartfield said that the third main reason why dieters fail is that they have poor timing with meals. She suggests eating a healthy snack or meal every 3 to 4 hours to keep a steady level of glucose in the system, keep metabolism running properly and maintain optimal energy.
The last diet-buster is surprisingly not related to food or exercise, but sleep. Inadequate sleep can interfere with appetite. “Studies have shown that people who get fewer than six hours of sleep have higher levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that stimulates appetite, particularly for high- carbohydrate/high- calorie foods,” Dr. Bartfield said. In addition, less sleep raises levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, which can lead to weight gain.
We spoke with Dr. Sunil Bhoyrul, expert weight loss surgeon in San Diego about the article. He said, “Although these reasons for diets failing are all true, we also know that after you deposit excessive amounts of fat around your organs (sometimes referred to as visceral fat), there is sometimes a change in your “weight thermostat”. The weight thermostat is part of the brain (the hypothalamus) that works through hormonal pathways to preserve and maintain high levels of body fat. (Preserving body fat had survival advantages for human being thousands of years ago who were at risk of starving to death, especially during winter months). If the weight thermostat has been reset, there is a tendency to regain weight, despite your best efforts to lose it.”
Dr. Bhoyrul explained that there are now genetic markers that suggest whether you may at risk for this type of rapid weight regain, despite your best efforts to lose weight. He concluded, “Some medications, and sometimes weight loss surgery, are probably the best current option for this group of patients, but research into this type of weight gain is very exciting and likely to change our approach to weight loss in the next few years.”
Weight loss surgeries, such as the Lap Band and gastric sleeve, can be highly effective in inducing sustainable weight loss, resolving health conditions like high blood pressure, and improving quality of life. However, surgery is a weight loss tool that requires patients to make changes in order to achieve and maintain success; for optimal results, it is essential for weight loss surgery patients to adopt healthy lifestyle choices, including proper diet, adequate sleep and exercise. You can learn more about the health and social benefits of weight loss surgery here.