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The fat trap

(article, Culinate staff)

As Tara Parker-Pope recently reported in the New York Times, we can't just blame lack of willpower for our struggles with maintaining healthy bodies; there are documented physical reasons for why it's so hard to lose weight and keep it off. 

The short version? Our hormones, which get confused and act like we're starving even when we're not, and our muscles, which don't burn calories as efficiently after we've lost weight. Plus our brains, which encourage us to indulge in cravings (and may actually suffer as a result).

Genes are also involved, affecting people of European and African descent more than those of Asian descent. But knowing the science, as Parker-Pope points out, can be defeating instead of inspiring, leading folks to conclude that they're doomed to be fat. 

Sadly, for the overweight, part of the solution does appear to be the old dictum to "eat less and exercise more" — except that the plump must eat far less and exercise far more than the slim. And those who do manage to keep the weight off tend to be those who dedicate their lives to the project: weighing all their food as well as themselves every day, getting rigorous daily exercise, shunning refined sugar and flour, and the like. And, Parker-Pope notes, we need a cultural shift (applauded by Slate) as well:

bq. If anything, the emerging science of weight loss teaches us that perhaps we should rethink our biases about people who are overweight. It is true that people who are overweight, including myself, get that way because they eat too many calories relative to what their bodies need. But a number of biological and genetic factors can play a role in determining exactly how much food is too much for any given individual. Clearly, weight loss is an intense struggle, one in which we are not fighting simply hunger or cravings for sweets, but our own bodies.