Super Slimmers – myth busting

Channel 4 aired a programme looking at ‘super slimmers’ who all lost large amounts of weight, following a variety of different plans and methods. The show went on to look at where they are now and whether they have kept off the lost weight.

None of the people featured have regained all the weight they had lost. So one might imagine a programme focussing on this success. Obesity is a chronic condition and notoriously difficult to manage effectively long term.

Does dieting work?

What struck us at Broccoli & Brains is that none of the people featured have regained all the weight they had lost. Yet the message to the obese seems to be not to bother to lose weight, as you’re only going to regain it all again. To us, this verges on criminal as even small amounts of weight loss are beneficial to health. It can improve your life expectancy by up to 10 years, reverse Type 2 diabetes, improve heart health and arthritis – the list goes on.

The message from the programme that 40 per cent of people that achieve extreme weight loss put it all, or more, back on, is not true – research from the International Journal of Clinical Practice reveals that those who lose a large amount of weight following LighterLife’s very low calorie diet with unique behaviour change programme, go on to maintain at least 72% of their initial weight loss two years later. Most people, following other diets, will have regained all of their weight.

Professor of health psychology at the University of Minnesota, Tracy Mann, was quoted as saying that “extreme weight loss is almost impossible to maintain because of changes to metabolism and hormone levels”. We believe this is factually inaccurate and draws unfair, and unrepresentative, conclusions. There is independent, peer reviewed, research which clearly shows otherwise.

Does dieting affect your metabolic rate?

Metabolic change during weight loss is a much misunderstood phenomenon. Metabolic rate is mainly determined by your weight; the heavier you are, the more you can eat without getting fatter. Think of the amount of fuel a Rolls Royce uses compared to driving the same distance in a Mini. As far back as 1912 Harris-Benedict showed that during the first couple of weeks on a weight loss diet, metabolism rate reduced by 15% and when the diet stopped, metabolism went back up by 15%. But here’s the point, you now weigh less than you did before the diet, so the new metabolic rate is appropriate for your new weight.  If you go back to eating the amount you did before you lost weight, you will go back to that weight.

This metabolic change is often attributed to dieting ‘damaging’ metabolic rate, but this lower metabolic rate is the appropriate rate for the new body size.  Anyone of the same, gender, age and lifestyle will have a similar metabolic rate, regardless of what their weight has been before. (Two Minis of similar engine size, age and driving style will have similar fuel needs).

Many don’t realise that their body requires less calories to fuel it when they’re smaller, which is why support post weight loss is vital. And it’s why LighterLife has a long term weight maintenance plan.

Do my hormones mean I can’t lose weight?

Dr Thomas Barber, an endocrinologist at University Hospital, Coventry is quoted as saying: “when we put on weight, too much leptin is produced, causing overeating”. Leptin has been a hormone of interest in obesity research since 1994 when it was discovered that a particular strain of obese mouse, couldn’t produce leptin at all. When they treated the mouse with leptin it stopped eating so much and started losing weight. For years it was hoped that a solution to the obesity epidemic had been found. But recent research shows this not to be the case.

Part of our mission is to dispel the many dieting myths. There is much confusion out there and such articles and TV programmes are contributing to the obesity epidemic. Successful long term weight management needs long term support to help people develop all the skills they will need for living their new life. Keeping the weight off is as much about managing life as managing the scales.