My comment on the “Fat Trap” article from the New York TimesPosted: January 1, 2012
I just read The Fat Trap, an article about how hard it is for people who have been obese and lost weight to keep weight off because of significant hormonal and metabolic changes. To summarize, the article says these people are in a biologically altered state after they lose weight; a state that causes them to put the weight back on much more rapidly than someone who has never been heavy. The article is well done and worth the read. And while I agree that there is much more to weight loss and keeping it off than “eat less, move more,” I think the researchers are wrong here. Most importantly, I think fat people will read this piece and give up hope that they will never be able to lose the weight and keep it off.
It is in the beginning of the article, where the author describes how the experiment was conducted, that I knew what the outcomes for these obese people would be without having to read another word. Here is an excerpt that lays out how the experiment was conducted:
“Beginning in 2009, he and his team recruited 50 obese men and women. The men weighed an average of 233 pounds; the women weighed about 200 pounds. Although some people dropped out of the study, most of the patients stuck with the extreme low-calorie diet, which consisted of special shakes called Optifast and two cups of low-starch vegetables, totaling just 500 to 550 calories a day for eight weeks. Ten weeks in, the dieters lost an average of 30 pounds.
At that point, the 34 patients who remained stopped dieting and began working to maintain the new lower weight. Nutritionists counseled them in person and by phone, promoting regular exercise and urging them to eat more vegetables and less fat. But despite the effort, they slowly began to put on weight. After a year, the patients already had regained an average of 11 of the pounds they struggled so hard to lose. They also reported feeling far more hungry and preoccupied with food than before they lost the weight.” (The Fat Trap from the New York Times)
Of course these obese people started gaining weight back immediately–they were STARVING. On top of that, they were not educated about how to manage their cravings and how healthy fats are the key to maintaining blood sugar. Instead, this cutting-edge research that attempts to go deeper than the clap trap peddled as solid nutrition advice and obesity research (basically the law of thermodynamics applied to a biochemical process a la “eat less, move more”). They completely miss the boat by using the old, tired low-fat, starvation diet approach with obese people who need to be nourished with ample protein, carbs and FAT to lose weight, not to be starved.
While I think it is great that these obesity researchers are attempting to go deeper and explain the complexities of obesity (and that it is not just a matter of will power), I am so disheartened that they are using nutrition advice that has so clearly failed the obese. We need to get the fresh ideas around the new science of weight loss (read Darlene Kvist’s article about this new approach) to these researchers so that they don’t add to the hopelessness so many obese people already feel about their weight.
I would love to hear what you think of the article! Leave a comment.