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Biology

The human body has in-built mechanisms to protect itself from starvation – this can make it hard to maintain weight loss.

The body is designed with an important defense system to prevent starvation. But when we gain excess body fat, this system defends our higher fat level.

Body fat produces an important hormone, leptin, which signals the brain how much fat is stored. When fat levels fall and leptin falls, the brain interprets this as starvation and switches metabolism to energy saving, and changes appetite to increased hunger and decreased fullness. This works well to keep our body weight from falling. 

But this system is not so good at adapting when we gain extra fat. The body’s response to high leptin levels doesn’t always work… the brain seems to have “leptin resistance.” When we try to lose weight, fat and leptin levels fall and the body increases hunger, decreases fullness and conserves energy. This resists weight loss and promotes weight regain. When we try to lose weight and keep it off, we are in a ‘tug of war’ with our body’s regulatory system.

Proven strategies to fight weight regain are to adopt behavior that help overcome the biology. These include monitoring weight, eating regular and healthy meals and engaging in daily physical activity.

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