Why Do We Gain Weight and How to Lose Weight Permanently

Why Do We Gain Weight and How to Lose Weight Permanently

While devising Rati Beauty Diet for weight loss, we did not adhere to any of the famous diet regimens. We did not keep our diet a low-carb diet as Atkins, or a low-fat one as Dean Ornish, or a low-carb high-fat diet as keto, or one excluding grains and dairy as paleo, or a high-protein diet. We did not want to exclude any food group completely, which would put restrictions on our lifestyle and eating habits. All we excluded was processed foods in any category. And then we decided to take a balanced middle-of-the-road path for the macros and watch our calories. That’s it. Eat healthy food from all categories, count calories, and have balanced macros.

And the diet worked beautifully. Rati lost 27kg. Many others lost more than 10, 20, or even 30 kg. And seeing the success stories every day for the past one year has given us the confidence that we’re on the right path. In fact, while researching medical papers on dietary recommendations, we found the research that validated our middle-of-the-road-healthy-eating approach. Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) researchers Ingerid Arbo and Hans-Richard Brattbakk fed slightly overweight people different diets, and studied the effect of this on gene expression. The answer researchers have come up with may surprise you: the best diet, from a gene’s standpoint, is one-third protein, one-third fat and one-third carbohydrates. That’s what the research shows is the best recipe to limit your risk of most lifestyle-related diseases such as obesity, diabetes etc. The second point which this experiment (and many others) makes is that your diet affects your gene expression. We will come back to this point later. For now, understand that a simple balanced meal without processed foods is your best bet for weight loss, especially because this is the best diet you can adhere to. Excluding one food group or the other from your diet is not going to work in the long run. Another recent study done on 15,400 adults in the US and another 432,000 people in more than 20 countries around the world found that low-carb or high-fat diets may actually be harmful in the long run. An ideal diet would be to get 50-55% of calories from carbohydrates. In short, it is no wonder that Rati Beauty Diet worked.

But is our solution complete? That women lose pounds successfully on the Rati Beauty diet, reach their target weight, and now their weight worries are over? Unfortunately not.

Here are the results of a 6-years study of tracking the 14 contestants on ‘the biggest loser’ reality show, where overweight contestants attempt to lose the most weight for a 250,000 dollar grand prize-

  • The average weight of the contestant prior to the show was 328 pounds (approx. 149 kg).
  • After the 30-week show, their average weight was 200 pounds (approx. 91 kg).
  • Six years after their initial weight loss, six men and eight women from the Biggest Loser agreed to follow-up measurements at the National Institutes of Health. The results were astonishing. The average weight of the Biggest Loser contestants was back up to 290 pounds (approx. 132 kg).
  • There was only one contestant who didn’t regain any weight.

There are two harsh truths about weight loss. First, weight loss can be achieved to a great degree through diets only. Second, it is very hard to maintain the reduced weight over a long period of time if one is not careful. It requires adherence to healthy eating habits, exercising, and monitoring the calorie intake. Not only that it also requires an understanding about what makes us gain weight in the first place, and how we can fix it so that we never gain weight again.

What Makes Us Gain Weight?

Short answer, our brain.
Long answer, Genetics, processed foods, stress, bad sleep cycle etc.

Jules Hirsch, along with his colleagues Rudolph Leibel and Michael Rosenbaum, published a landmark study in 1995 after ten years of studying human subjects in the Rockefeller Hospital. Hirsch carefully monitored food intake, energy expenditure, and weight changes in 41 subjects, 18 obese men and women, and 23 people who had never been obese. During the months that these research subjects stayed in the Rockefeller Hospital, they were fed a precisely defined liquid formula diet. First the number of calories each person needed to maintain their normal weight was established. Then some subjects consumed more calories, and others fewer, in order to gain or lose ten percent of their initial weight. Those who gained weight then went on a restricted-calorie diet in order to return to baseline. Throughout the study, the researchers tracked energy expended through normal body processes at rest, through the digestion of food, and through physical activity. Both obese people and those who had never been obese reduced their energy expenditure when their weight was lower than normal, and burned calories faster when their weight was higher than normal. The study was quickly cited as a classic for showing, in humans, one of the ways in which body weight is regulated.

In essence, your body has a set determined weight. If you lose too much weight, it reduces your basal metabolic rate and tries to bring your weight up. If you increase your weight (through overfeeding), it will increase your basal metabolic rate and try to bring your weight down.

So those who increase their weight and want to keep it so will have to constantly keep their calories intake more than what the set point body weight requires, and those who have lost their body weight and want to keep it so will constantly keep their calories intake lower than what their set point body weight requires.

How does your body try to bring you to your set point weight besides energy expenditure? By trying to make you hungry in order to make you eat and increase the weight or by telling you that you are full and making you eat less and lose weight.

Our weight is controlled by hypothalamus, a small area at the base of the brain. Within the hypothalamus are nerve cells that, when activated, produce the sensation of hunger. In close proximity to these cells is another set of nerves that, when activated, take our hunger away. There appears to be at least 10 circulating hormones that influence our desire to eat.

Hunger hormone- ghrelin
Satiety hormones- leptin, insulin, amylin, PP, CCK, PYY, GLP-1, oxyntomodulin and uroguanylin.

The nerves in the hypothalamus respond to these circulating hormones and our desire to eat is determined by which of these two types of nerves dominate at a particular time.

In short, whether you are feeling a desire to eat or feeling that you are full is modulated by your hypothalamus and the set point weight that your body has determined.

And how is the set point weight determined?
Genetics, processed foods, stress, bad sleep cycle etc.

Genetics Contribution to Obesity

Let’s go back to our overfeeding experiment. If I asked you whether the responses to overfeeding were different or same in those 41 participants what would be your answer? Of course, it would be different. Different people have different metabolic rate and therefore they would response differently to overfeeding. But how about twins? They are different people but share the same DNA. So how would overfeeding responses amongst twins be?

Poehlman and Bouchard recruited six pairs (12 participants) of male monozygotic twins and overfed them by 1,000 kcal for 22 days and kept them under 24-hour supervision. Individual differences in fat mass and fat-free mass gains were observed in response to overfeeding but they were not randomly distributed. Indeed, the within-pair resemblance in the response was striking when compared to the heterogeneity found among the pairs in adiposity and fat-free mass gains. The intrapair resemblance in the response to overfeeding as assessed by the intraclass coefficient computed with the individual changes, reached 0.88 for total fat mass and 0.76 for fat-free mass. So twins, having the same DNA, had close response to overfeeding which was different from other twin pairs. So response to food was ingrained in their genes.

How about adopted children? If a kid is adopted in early childhood will he/she grow up to resemble the parents who adopted him/her or will he/she resemble the biological parents?

Denmark maintains a comprehensive adoption register with listing of both adoptive and biological parents. Stunkard and Sorensen studied 840 adult Danish adoptees (adopted kids) and found that the BMI was closer to their biological parents than the adoptive parents who reared them. The study showed that the resemblance of adult family members in body mass index (BMI) is due more to shared genes than to shared rearing environment.

A new assessment, based on a path analysis approach, concludes that the heritability of BMI reaches 34%. The level of heritability is simply the fraction of the population variation in a BMI that can be explained by genetic transmission.

Not only that, all these single-gene mutations in humans that lead to severe obesity influence how the brain regulates body fatness, suggesting that body fatness is normally regulated by the brain. As stated by 2009 review paper

There are now at least 20 single gene disorders that clearly result in an autosomal form of human obesity. Notably, so far all these disorders affect the central [i.e., brain] sensing and control of energy balance.

Genome-wide association studies look for common genetic variants that associate with higher or lower body mass index (BMI) in the general population. Of the numerous common gene variants that have been found to associate with BMI variability, and whose function is known, the large majority are expressed in the brain, particularly the hypothalamus, and some are in the leptin signalling pathway. Leptin signals to the hypothalamus which produces a feeling of satiety. Moreover, leptin signals may make it easier for people to resist the temptation of foods high in calories.

Meaning what? That if you are overweight or obese, chances are that your brain has been genetically programmed for you to overeat and gain weight.

But don’t blame it on your parents yet. Because even if you are genetically programmed, your bad food habits have given rise to the weight gain.

Processed Foods and Obesity

A very recent small-scale study of 20 adult volunteers, conducted by researchers at the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet. The ultra-processed and unprocessed meals had the same amounts of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, and participants could eat as much or as little as they wanted. On the ultra-processed diet, people ate about 500 calories more per day than they did on the unprocessed diet. They also ate faster on the ultra-processed diet and gained weight, whereas they lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet.

In short, processed foods reduce your satiety and make you eat more. In the above experiment processed foods contained hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents, and emulsifiers. How does this happen?

Sabrina Diano, from Yale School of Medicine, has been studying the role of the brain in regulating food intake, body weight and metabolism for almost 25 years. She says that her team was “intrigued by the fact that exposure to food rich in fats and carbohydrates induces a fast inflammatory response in the brain way before changes in body weight occur.”

The brain plays an important role in the process by helping us to know when and how much to eat, and by guiding the response of our metabolism. Food intake and energy expenditure are controlled by specialized neurons of the hypothalamus that respond to adipostatic and satiety factors present in the circulation. Leptin provides the most robust adipostatic signals, whereas insulin, cholecystokinin, ghrelin, GLP-1, act as modulators of the activity of such neurons. However, studies (1, 2, 3) have shown that the increased dietary consumption of saturated fats and fructose can disturb this system, leading to a progressive increase in leptin resistance, which results in obesity.

In short, consuming a diet that includes high amounts of fats and carbohydrates stimulates hypothalamic inflammation and produces leptin resistance that reduces satiety and increases hunger, and subsequently obesity. Processed foods are messing with your brain about the hunger signals.

Stress and Sleep Deprivation and Obesity

Cortisol, produced by the Adrenal glands, is body’s main stress hormone. It works with hypothalamus and pituitary gland to control your mood, motivation, and fear. Chronic stress or sleep deprivation alter cortisol levels, causing dysregulation in the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and has been associated with upper body obesity. Stress can be caused by external stressors such as employment or social strains or by intrinsic stressors such as sleep deprivation. In the past 30 years, numerous studies have shown that obesity and other metabolic risk factors are associated with lower socioeconomic status, job strain, sleep deprivation, and depression. (1, 2, 3, 4)

Above weight gain factors cause leptin and insulin resistance in the body, make you eat more and slowly make you gain weight. A slow, gradual weight gain will fool your body into thinking that your set point should be higher -and in fact, that does reset your set point. Then, when you try to lose weight, your body defends that higher weight, making weight loss more difficult.

How to Lose Weight Effectively?

Just as it’s possible to reset your set point to a higher point, it’s also possible to lower it. The secret is to work with, not against, your body’s natural tendencies and lose weight slowly, one drop at a time.

Here are some things you need to do in order to lose weight-

  • Avoid Processed Foods and Refined Carbs- sausage, pepperoni bacon, cookies, pastries, ice cream, french fries, fruit juices, processed cheese, pizza, agave nectar, industry-produced vegetable oils, fast food meals, candy bar, margarine, sweetened coffee drinks, white bread, breakfast cereals, bagels, cakes, white rice, waffles, noodles, flavored yogurt, granola bars, store-bought smoothies, baked potato chips, sports drinks and sugar.
  • Follow a wholesome nutritious diet, such as Rati Beauty diet– full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy, white meat, eggs, seafood, and poultry.
  • Be Active and Exercise Regularly- walk at least 10k steps everyday, go to gym regularly.
  • Have at least 8 hours of sleep daily
  • Release your stress through meditation, listening to music, long walks etc.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol- alcohol fires up certain neurons, called AgRP, located in the hypothalamus, which not only increases appetite, but also decreases metabolism and energy levels.
  • Avoid saturated and trans fat- diets high in saturated and trans fats caused most hypothalamic inflammation as studies showed (1, 2). Avoid butter, margarine, shortening, beef, lamb or pork fat, dark chicken fat and poultry skin, coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, lard, high-fat dairy foods
  • Do not give up when you encounter a weight loss plateau- A weight loss plateau means that you have probably hit a new set point. Once you hit your set point, your body likely needs about four to eight weeks to adjust to your new weight. Then you’ll establish a new set point, and your body will respond like that’s your new normal.
  • Count Calories- Maintain a Food journal recording food and drinks you have, along with quantity and time. A food journal will keep you accountable.
  • Find support- talk to family members, friends or colleagues who encourage and support you in your weight loss journey and seek their help whenever needed.

Weight loss is long and slow process, just like weight gain. However, it is doable and you will find it easier if you adopt to your healthy eating patterns as soon as possible. However, the next step of maintaining you weight is still more challenging.

How to Maintain Weight After You’ve Reached Your Target Weight

Throughout your weight loss journey and even after you have reached your target weight, you have to consistently try and reverse your hypothalamic inflammation, leptin resistance, and insulin resistance. As your leptin and insulin sensitivity improves it will be easier for your body to shift your weight set point and maintain the new set point. Study shows that inhibiting hypothalamic inflammation reverses insulin resistance

Here are some steps you can follow to decrease hypothalamic inflammation, leptin and insulin resistance-

  • Try alternate day fasting or Intermittent Fasting with Rati Beauty Diet- Alternate-day fasting has been shown to produce anti-inflammatory effect on neuroimmune system. In another study, which was based on the fasting practices of Ramadan, a spiritual practice for Muslims, fasting from dawn to sunset for 30 days played a crucial role in improving insulin resistance and protecting against the risks from a high-fat, high-sugar diet.
  • Increase Intake of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (omega-3 and omega-6)- salmon, fish oil, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, flaxseed oil, sunflower oil, etc. Studies (1, 2) show that polyunsaturated fatty acids reduce insulin resistance and improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Eliminate Sugar, Refined Carbs, Processed Foods from your Diet
  • Continue with healthy balanced diet such as Rati Beauty Diet- a long-term adherence to our meals and recipes will slowly solidify your healthy eating habits.
  • Exercise at least 30 min daily

Weight loss does not end just after losing weight. There are two steps to weight loss, losing the weight and successfully maintaining it. Both the steps require dietary intervention to fix body’s homeostasis in the brain. A successful weight loss strategy involves a long-term change in lifestyle. That is why we have been promoting Rati Beauty Diet as a lifestyle change and not just a short-term diet program. While food corporations push more processed foods in our face to make profits and change our perception through slick advertising (white rice is an example), it pays to be aware of what we should put in our body and take control of our food.

Stay Healthy!

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