On maintaining weight loss


Category : Medical Rants

Alex Hutchinson who writes a wonderful column in Runner’s World (Sweat Science) provided a very interesting column that relates to weight loss maintenance.  We know that exercise can help with weight loss, but that you must also eat more carefully.  This column – the Jute Diet – explains why exercise makes weight maintenance easier.

What you see is that, above a certain level of physical activity, caloric intake increases linearly and weight is stable. For these workers, the body’s “balance” mechanism is functioning, and those who burn more calories also consume proportionately more calories.

But below a certain level of physical activity, the appetite balance breaks down. Caloric intake rises again, and these workers are the ones who gain weight. The researchers call this “the sedentary zone,” and suggest that the regulation of food intake breaks down in this zone because “in his hundreds of years of evolution, man did not have any opportunity for sedentary life except very recently.”

To me, this picture helps reconcile some of the conflicting findings of diet and exercise studies. People who exercise a lot tend to see a direct connection between how much they exercise, how much they eat, and how much they weight (in line with studies that have repeatedly found that the more you exercise, the more accurate your appetite is at estimating how much you need to eat). They’re on the right-hand side of these graphs. For people who don’t exercise a lot, on the other hand, diet, exercise and weight are decoupled.

I really do not think a great deal about my diet these days, but I do exercise almost every day.  It appears that my exercise is helping me with maintenance.  Since maintenance is traditionally difficult, this information is pure gold.

Comments (1)

This actually explains a lot for me! I’ve found that since I’ve been exercising regularly for the past several months, I’m able to just “listen to my body” and eat when I’m hungry and I’ve been neither gaining nor losing weight. Which is actually okay with me since I’m trying to gain muscle and have a little fat to lose, I’m presumably losing a bit of fat and gaining a bit of muscle at the same time (known as recomping).

I just thought it was interesting since I figured if I didn’t track everything I’d end up gaining weight, but I’m actually just eating right around maintenance without tracking anything at all and just eating when I’m hungry.

The body is neat, isn’t it? 😉

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