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Archive for the ‘Why You Can’t (Or Don’t) Lose Weight And Keep It Off’ Category

OMG! You Really Can Get Fat Just Looking At Food!

Posted by Lori on August 3, 2009

From The Right Bite by Stephanie Dalvit-McPhillips:

There was a  remarkable study that was conducted at Yale University by Dr. Judith Rodin. She showed that the mere thought of food can start the food deposition process. In experiments, people were instructed not to eat for eighteen hours. At the end of this time, blood samples were drawn from people in the study as they were being told that they could soon eat the juicy mouth-watering steaks charbroiling before them. Results of these tests revealed that in all cases, insulin levels skyrocketed, causing blood sugar to be stored as fat and glycogen well before our famished subjects had taken their first bite.


The human body is an amazing thing.


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Lap Bands: Why Diet and Exercise Doesn’t Work

Posted by Lori on July 13, 2009

Oh, I can feel the flames of public disapproval hotly licking my little pink toes under the desk just for typing that outrageous title. One thing that we are not allowed to admit in our culture is that obesity is anything but a failure of will power among low class, trailer-living, Springer-loving, fried Coca-Cola-scarfing, Mountain Dew-guzzling harbingers of the apocolypse.  But guess what? Obesity is a chronic disease and willpower has very little to do with curing it.

I was cruising the internet trying to find out if there is anything new with any of my favorite researchers. I found a three part article from  blogger  Maggie Mahar that talks about the PBS documentary Fat: What No One Is Telling You – a documentary that you must see. The entire show is online. Anyway, Miss Mahar follows up with a few of the researchers interviewed in the documentary. In the first entry, she talks about the variety of characters the film covers – the somewhat zaftig redhead who exercises three hours a day to keep the weight off, the former athlete who gained 125 pounds when she went to work for Microsoft, and the slender producer’s obese twin brother who is going in for a gastric bypass.

Although many physicians still “believe that obesity is caused by eating too much and not exercising enough, such thinking is too simplistic,” says Dr Robert Lustig, of the Division of Pediatric Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco. An expert in the field, he knows that obesity is “a chronic condition.” And we don’t have a cure.

This is why, even when patients enter medically supervised weight-loss programs, and stick with the rules, Lustig explains, “95 percent” regain whatever pounds they lose.

“This is not simply ‘energy in and energy out.’  If it were we would have solved it a long time ago,” says Harvard’s Dr. Lee Kaplan, who heads the Weight Reduction Program at Mass General Hospital and has established a new, comprehensive basic and clinical research program.

So what jumps out at me here is the statement that obesity is a “chronic problem” and Maggie’s reflection that we “don’t have a cure’. In addition, that 95% of  patients that enter medically supervised weight loss programs, regain whatever weight they lose. 95% – that’s a staggering rate of failure. We know this to be true from our own experience and the experience of our family and friends, and the experience of the celebrities who wrestle with obesity.

She then touches on a  review of the film from the Amazon website that gets at something that I think is incredibly important – namely, the degree to which we attempt to control the actions of obese people with shaming devices. I see it in discussions of weight loss surgery all the time. Obese people are shamed away from weight loss surgery all the time by the insistence that surgery is taking the easy way out – as if people must be saddled with the most difficult way possible to lose weight in order to restore their lost morality. Weight loss surgery patients live longer lives and happier lives than obese people who attempt to lose weight through diet and exercise.  Attempting to shame someone out of a procedure that will adds years to their life and volumes of joy is a truly destructive and sadistic impulse.

“I happened upon this movie on PBS when I was on a business trip, and it essentially helped to kick-start my journey into a healthier lifestyle, where I have lost 40 lbs already in a 150lb long term goal,” the reviewer wrote.

“I remember being deeply and personally moved by the stories, but it was also a game-changing flood of information about the latest biological research that did the trick for me. It allowed me to see the issue not in terms of will power and laziness (as is all too common in popular culture as well as years of medical haranguing), but in terms of physical compulsion akin to and even surpassing opiate addiction.

“Why was this new information so critical in my current success, where previously I had tried and failed? It is definitely that it shatters the myth that weight loss is as simple as consuming less than you expend—a glib and harmful misstatement of the problem as profound as saying that beating heroin addiction is as simple as going cold turkey. You’d think that learning exactly how hard it is, really, to lose weight would be discouraging, but it was exactly the opposite. After years of people, including my doctor and nutritionist, breezily tossing off advice and plans of action, I finally learned what I was up against.
Then I declared war on it.”

In Part II, she talks about how obesity is a disease where the body rejects the cure. I bet no one has ever said that to you before.

If you have ever dieted you may already know that, once you lose some weight, your metabolism slows down and you burn fewer calories. For all your body knows, you are stranded on a desert island, starving to death. So it tries to “help.” The brain is wired to eat and store fat to protect against starvation. In fact, when you lose weight, the human body has redundant systems to try to save you. That’s how the human species has survived.

She discusses the contributions of Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, an obesity researcher at Rockefeller University, to understanding our modern dilemma:

Friedman is famous for his 1994 discovery of the gene that codes for leptin. And for a brief moment in the mid-1990s, the MIT Technology Review explains, “leptin seemed to be a potential wonder cure for obesity.” Researchers hoped that leptin injection would turn up the POMC neuron that inhibits hunger. But leptin injections work for only a small percentage of the obese. It turns out that the majority [of obese people] do produce leptin, but their bodies actually resist the effects of the hormone by blocking its ability to turn up the hunger-suppressing action of the POMC neuron. So their appetites remain large, and they keep eating—and gaining weight—until they reach the point at which the resistance stops. Where that point lies, Friedman believes, is determined by genetic makeup.

Ahhh, genetics. The one thing that we are never allowed to blame our obesity on. Of course, we are willing participants in the deception that genetics are irrelevant because if they are irrelevant, then we still have some hope of getting our weight back to normal and maintaining it.

Some people appear to be hardwired to be particularly ravenous. When access to food is unlimited, say hunger-gene experts, these people can will themselves to eat less, but their efforts will almost inevitably be overridden by the far more powerful force of genetics. Studies show that invariably, weight loss is followed by weight gain, making obesity a life-long struggle. “You just have to keep falling off the horse and getting back on again,” says one woman who appears in “Fat.” A physician in the film points out that trying to continue eating less is like trying to run upstairs without breathing faster. “You can do it for a while, but not for that long.”

She goes on to discuss gastric bypass surgery and how it impacts the communication between the brain and the gut:

At Mass General, Dr. Lee Kaplan agrees: “We have two brains—in the stomach and ‘upstairs.’ The brain in the gut can disturb the brain in the head.”

“Neuro-chemical signals that flow between the two brains,” Kaplan adds and we have discovered that gastric bypass surgery (a.k.a. “stomach-stapling”) interrupts that flow.

Until recently, physicians believed that patients lost weight because the surgery reduced the size of the stomach, forcing them to eat less. But once again, it’s not that simple. Researchers performing gastric bypass surgery on rats have discovered that the surgery severs nerves in the bowel that communicate with the brain—and that this is tied to weight loss.

In Part III of her article, we learn a little bit about the mystery of exercising and dieting but not losing weight even as we get more fit. Turns out that’s good for us as well:

Nevertheless, for those who cannot lose weight, “Exercise without weight loss is an effective strategy for obesity reduction” according to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2005.”

What exactly does “obesity reduction without weight loss” mean?  The obese men who participated in aerobic exercise, five times per week for 60 min, did not shed pounds. The study was designed to make sure that they wouldn’t: “To allow us to test the hypothesis that significant obesity reduction could occur despite the absence of change in body weight, all subjects were asked to maintain body weight, and they consumed the calories required to compensate for the energy expended during the exercise sessions,” the researchers explain.

Nevertheless, both the obese men and the control group of lean men who participated in the study watched their waist circumference shrink. Cardio-respiratory fitness increased in both groups, as did skeletal muscle with total fat was reduced.

These changes were roughly equal in both groups. But when it came time to measure abdominal fat, reductions in the obese group were significantly greater.

As the articles closes, she includes this observation:

I would add only that our obsession with whether or not people meet cultural norms for beauty—rather than whether they are happy and healthy—fuels the prejudice against obesity that can make even physicians cruel when their patients fail to lose weight. As the public health nurse in “Fat” observes: “These are free-range fat people, just trying to do their best in a culture that hates them.”

I hope you watch the documentary. Use this information to move forward in your life. Why should you eat right and exercise even if you aren’t losing weight? Because it is good for you and you’ll be happier, healthier and you will live longer. But also, once you understand that 95% of people who enter a medically supervised weight loss program fail to keep the pounds off, you can quit feeling guilty and simply get on with your life. If you’re more than 50 pounds overweight, it’s time to think about weight loss surgery. If you were going to be in that 5% who kept weight off, you’d probably know by now. If you have to give dieting one last shot, do so and do it with everything that you’ve got. Call your doctor, not Jenny Craig. Get the best advice you can. Get out and exercise, and throw any junk food you have out. And if it fails one more time, make the call about weight loss surgery.

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Fight, Flight or Let’s Have Dinner

Posted by Lori on October 12, 2008

I was checking in with Dr. Terry Simpson’s podcasts to see if he has anything new up – sure enough, he does. But I started at the beginning with his podcasts on emotional eating. He makes the point that stress causes us to eat, because our ancient bodies are programmed from thousands of years of hunger being the biggest stressor in life. The people who survived famines were people who stored food effectively and you and I are the descendants of those people. I guess that’s what you’d call a mixed blessing. He talks about the fact that the hormones that our body creates when we’re stressed cause us to feel hunger – that’s not your imagination. But he encourages you to get up and take a walk. Dr. Simpson is big on walking dogs, but, of course, one can’t leave work to go home and take Phideaux for a stroll down the street. He suggests you do what smokers do – get up and leave the scene for a moment. Walk a memo to someone rather than email it. Go to the bathroom if you can.

All of Dr. Simpson’s podcasts are interesting. He’s a smart guy who obviously loves what he does. He prides himself on being accessible to his patients even to the point of answering emails via his Blackberry between patients. I’m going to listen to a few more. He has several on Lap Bands. It’s a great resource.

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Obesity Isn’t Your Fault and How To Change It!

Posted by Lori on October 11, 2008

For those of you who are new to this blog and are wrestling with obesity, the first thing I want to say is that it’s time to give up your guilt. I know you’re thinking that if you just wouldn’t have eaten that cheesecake when you were twelve, and if you could cut back on your lunch and not have dessert every night, you could buy oodles of those darling little Stella McCartney frocks and some lighter than air Christian Louboutins, and float around town like the beguiling little waif you really are. But the human body doesn’t work that way – DNA has intervened. Around 75% of your excess weight is caused by genetics – that is what the diet industry doesn’t want you to know. You know those disclaimers that you see in television and magazine ads for various weight loss programs “Results not typical.”? That’s what it’s referring to.

Think about what 75% of excess weight means – if you’re 5’6″ and your ideal weight is 135 but you weigh 195, 45 pounds of that is genetic in origin and your body is going to put it right back on as soon as you take it off. They did a fascinating study in Canada. They put a group of obese women on 500 calorie a day diets and exercise programs. They lived in the hospital so that their food intake could be controlled. No surprise – they all lost weight. Then the scientists upped their calories to 800 per day and kept the exercise going. Guess what? They all gained weight. Your body is more than capable of adjusting your metabolism to keep your weight stable where DNA commands it to be. That’s what you’re up against. Your ancient body has figured out innumerable ways to keep your weight where it thinks you should be.

That’s where weight loss surgery comes in. When you eat food and you’re full, stretch receptors in the top of your tummy are activated and let your brain know that you’ve eaten plenty. If you’re full with every meal, your body will burn the calories and keep your weight stable. But once you go on a diet, those stretch receptors let your brain know that you aren’t full and it starts cranking your metabolism down. Your body will want to conserve calories to keep your weight where it thinks you should be. That’s one of the reasons you can’t keep it off once you lose it. Weight loss surgery though, changes that. Weight loss surgery, because it makes your stomach smaller, tricks your brain into thinking that you’re full – so your metabolism stays steady. You’re eating less food, but you’re burning it just as quickly as you did before so you lose weight, and you keep it off.

I read a heartbreaking post from a young woman a few months ago who had lost 120 pounds and got herself down to 110. Of course, she put it right back on and after a few trips to the psychologist resolved that she was averse to male attention and was thus sabotaging her own efforts. She was determined to own her failure, and no scientific study I pointed her to could set her free. She was totally captivated by her magical thinking. I wonder how many more cycles she’ll need to burn through before she subordinates her ego to double-blind, peer reviewed science?

Of course, you don’t need to have weight loss surgery to lose weight and keep it off. But doing so otherwise requires changing your eating habits, dramatically increasing the amount of exercise, and keeping your calories at diet level for the rest of your life – or until you don’t mind gaining the weight back. that’s a lot of work. A lot of self-discipline. Most people fail.

Also, you can simple decide that obesity isn’t the end of the world and just love yourself as you are. If that’s what you decide to do, you have my full support. Get yourself out there, get your hair done and buy yourself nice clothes – you deserve it. You have children, family and friends who all want you to live a long and happy life. Take care of yourself for their sake, if not your own. Eat right and get out for walk everyday. Buy a dog if you need inspiration for the walk. Or just dance – get a dance tape, find a place you can dance in private if you must, and just move to the beat for a half hour a day. Once you get good at it, do it twice a day.

But if you hate being obese, quit blaming yourself for your genes and move on. If you want to lose the weight, and you’re more than 50 pounds overweight, you owe it to yourself to look into weight loss surgery. Lap Bands are non-invasive, reversible and adjustable. You won’t lose weight as quickly as with a gastric bypass, but you will lose as much and keep it off as long. That’s what really matters.

I’ll be back tomorrow linking some studies to this post and bringing some new stories. I’ve been gone on a project for several months, and I apologize for my absence, but I’m back now and I’m cooking up some good interviews for you. Come back for more!

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Lap Bands, Red Wine and Fat Cells

Posted by Lori on May 12, 2008

Dr. Paul O’Brien is right! We do get to have our glass of red wine with a Lap Band! Not that I’m much of a drinker, but I would like to live longer. Being an American with no health insurance, I get scared sometimes.

I was googling “weight loss” + genetics + fat and found this study from researchers at Oregon State University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Ottawa about SIRT-1 – a gene which can reduce the development of new fat cells and increase metabolism. Ooooo la la! Well, it seems this gene’s activities can be increased by resveratrol, a compound found in grape skins.

The study was done with mice as a research model, and a remaining challenge will be to see if the same results are observed in a higher vertebrate model, including humans.
The research outlined the processes of fat formation and usage at a cellular and genetic level. It also analyzed the metabolic function of resveratrol, a polyphenol and antioxidant found at high levels in grape skins.

“When cells were exposed to resveratrol, our studies showed a pretty dramatic reduction in the conversion to fat cells and a lesser but still significant increase in the mobilization of existing fat, or the rate at which the cells metabolized stored fat,” said Mark Leid, a professor of pharmacology in the OSU College of Pharmacy. “This clearly could be one of the explanations for the health benefits that some researchers believe can be linked to moderate red wine consumption.”


n trying to determine the molecular basis for this genetic link to longevity, the new study found that SIRT1 increases the use of fat and reduces the formation of new fat cells – apparently it represses one or more fat-regulating proteins and other genes that drive fat storage following calorie restriction. This may have been an evolutionary adaptation for the body to sense short term famine and counter it by increasing the burning of stored body fat, researchers say.

So, there ya go – I get to have a glass of red wine while I’m blogging and you get to have a glass of red wine while you’re reading my blog. 🙂

One more in my series Why You Can’t (Or Don’t) Lose Weight and Keep It Off. I’ve got more to report comin’ up in the next few days.

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Exercise, Weight Loss, and Metabolism

Posted by Lori on May 10, 2008

Here is a fascinating exchange from the New York Times’ head science writer, Gina Kolata about her book, RETHINKING THIN. Here is the book excerpt in question.

This excerpt makes that case that changing the body’s weight above (resp. below) some intrinsic value causes the body to increase (resp. decrease) its metabolism. The research seems good on this.

This doesn’t mean that people are powerless to reach their desired weight. There seem to be effective ways to increase a body’s metabolism beyond adjusting caloric intake. It seems like increasing muscle mass, doing aerobic exercise, drinking caffeine, and eating small amounts throughout the day all can increase your metabolism. Are any of these things known to be effective in counteracting the body’s use of metabolic rate to maintain some given weight?
— Posted by A. Johnson

May 7th,
11:49 pm
The real issue is, how realistic is the desired weight? In studies, many obese people state a dream weight but almost no one achieves it and of those who do, almost no one maintains it. It can be very difficult to become as thin as you might want to be and stay that thin. On the other hand, many people can successfully lose modest amounts of weight and keep those pounds off. But you asked about other methods to increase the metabolism. Exercise can increase the number of calories you need but it does not increase your metabolism. And the amount of calories most people burn, particularly with moderate exercise, is not very significant, 100 or 200 calories per session. Increasing muscle mass does nothing for metabolism – that’s an exercise myth. The reason is that any added muscle is minuscule compared with the total amount of skeletal muscle in the body and muscle has a very low metabolic rate when it is at rest, which is most of the time. A man who weighs 70 kilograms, or 154 pounds, for example, has about 28 kilograms of muscle. His muscles, when he is at rest, burn 22 percent of his body’s calories — the brain uses the same amount and so does the liver. If the man lifts weights and gains 2 kilograms, or 4.4 pounds of muscles, his metabolic rate would increase by 24 calories a day. The average amount of muscle that men gain after a serious 12-week course of weight lifting is 2 kilograms.

— Posted by Gina Kolata

One more in a series on why you can’t (or don’t) lose weight and keep it off or what the diet and excercise industry doesn’t want you to know. This stuff really ticks me off.

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Caffeine, Insulin, Fat and Weight Loss

Posted by Lori on April 21, 2008

As I mentioned earlier today, Gwen of Gwen’s WLS Journey was stuck on a weight loss plateau for several days. She’s lost eighty pounds with her Lap Band and is now down to losing her final fifteen. She finally laid off coffee over the weekend and voila! she dropped a pound and a quarter.

Duke University did a study on caffeine and Type II diabetics and discovered that it caused blood sugar levels to spike through out the day after meals. We don’t know whether it does the same for non-diabetics or not, but we do know that Dr. Atkins found his patients didn’t lose weight as well when they were drinking coffee. In my case, I could barely register as being ketosis if I drink any caffeine whatsoever regardless of how meticulous I am about keeping my carbs below induction level.

Here’s a quick little video from the Mayo Clinic for diabetics about how blood glucose and insulin are created and function in your body.

Calories Per Hour puts what happens next very simply:

Our pancreas creates a hormone called insulin that transports blood sugar into our body’s cells where it is used for energy. When we eat refined grains that have had most of their fiber stripped away, sugar, or other carbohydrate-rich foods that are quickly processed into blood sugar, the pancreas goes into overtime to produce the insulin necessary for all this blood sugar to be used for energy. This insulin surge tells our body that plenty of energy is readily available and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it.

From the Duke study:

Participants took capsules containing caffeine equal to about four cups of coffee on one day and then identical capsules that contained a placebo on another day. Everyone had the same nutrition drink for breakfast, but were free to eat whatever they liked for lunch and dinner.

The researchers found that when the participants consumed caffeine, their average daily sugar levels went up 8 per cent. Caffeine also exaggerated the rise in glucose after meals: increasing by 9 percent after breakfast, 15 percent after lunch and 26 per cent after dinner.

“We’re not sure what it is about caffeine that drives glucose levels up, but we have a couple of theories,” says Lane, who is the lead author of the study. “It could be that caffeine interferes with the process that moves glucose from the blood and into muscle and other cells in the body where it is used for fuel. It may also be that caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline – the ‘fight or flight” hormone that we know can also boost sugar levels.”

For those of you who aren’t losing weight, try laying off the caffeine and see if it makes a difference. We all love our coffee and tea, but most of us would rather be skinny. 🙂

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Successful Long Term Weight Loss With The Lap Band

Posted by Lori on April 16, 2008

Diets and exercise just don’t work – let’s face it. Fewer than 5% of people who lose weight through diet and exercise manage to keep it off. There are reasons for this, as I have written about before, that have nothing to do with self-discipline. You can’t lose weight and keep it off for some very sturdy evolutionary reasons – your body likes having all that handy-dandy energy just packed away for a rainy day. Or more precisely, a non-rainy season. So when you lose weight, after a certain amount, your body starts cranking down your metabolism. Youve been losing weight on 1200 calories a day? No more. That fifteen pounds you’ve lost that has you feeling svelte is gonna come right back, if your body has any say over the situation. And your body does have say over the situation. So, your metabolism goes down and your hunger level goes up. Your body floods you with chemicals that make you feel hungrier than you’ve ever felt. Oh, you think you’re just being undisciplined and you feel guilty for eating. But that’s not what’s happening. Your body is pushing you to eat, eat, eat, and it’s slowing your metabolism down so that you can pack the weight right back on. Good bye, little red dress. Hello, big black dress. Have you ever stood in the kitchen eating something, hating yourself for eating it because you’re actually losing weight, but you can’t stop because you’re so darn hungry? That’s normal. That’s your body functioning as it should. The curious thing is that obese people’s bodies functions normally when they’re heavy and their bodies cease to function normally when they lose weight. Factor in that we now know that around 75% of weight gain is genetic, and we’re all in a dire situation.

Look, there are lots of reasons to lose weight besides vanity – you’ll live longer. And if you’re like most people, you have family who love you and want you to live as long as possible. That right there is good reason to do it. You’ll be happier. And more physically comfortable. And you’ll probably earn more money. And have more sex. So with all those motivations, if losing weight was really possible, you would do it. Some of us master the literally Sisyphean task of weight loss and peel off 120 pounds or maybe more. But then, because of biological imperatives, we gain it back again. Over and over.

That’s where Lap Bands come in. Dr. Favretti, one of the first surgeons to work with Lap Bands, completed a 12 year study on the effectiveness of Lap Bands and the news is good – people don’t gain the weight back. The study covered over 1700 patients over twelve years both morbidly obese and super obese. The average weight of the patients started out around 260 pounds plus or minus 37 pounds with an average BMI of 42.6 – that’s our 5’3″ woman at 236 pounds or our 5’10” guy at 292 pounds. At the end, they weighed on average 185 pounds plus or minus 60 pounds with an average BMI of 31.6 – putting our woman at 175 pounds and our man at 216.

If you want to check your BMI, you can do so here at the Centennial Treatment Center For Obesity in Nashville, Tennessee.

I know all of you reading this think, “Oh no, I want to lose a lot more weight than that!” Well, of course you do, and as far as I can tell, you can. You do have to exercise though and to make that point, I’m going to quote Dr. William Lee of Blue Earth, Minnesota in the Mankato Free Press:

Lee said his patients can be divided into two groups, those who shed 6 to 8 pounds a month and patients who lose 10 to 15 pounds a month. “The difference between these two groups,” he said, “is exercise.”

So, just keep that in mind – you’re gonna have to buy a trampoline, a pair of Nordic Walking Poles or get yourself a backyard treadmill. And if you do, and if you follow the doctor’s directions, and get yourself into a support group, you’re going to have a really good shot at getting down to the tiny little person you’d really rather be. 🙂

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Why You Eat What You Eat

Posted by Lori on March 23, 2008

Since it’s a holiday in much of the western world, I thought I’d link to this fantastic Word Press Blog post on why we eat what we eat and as much as we eat. This is one more in my series of why excess weight is so insidiously difficult to get off.

From SOMETHING TO READ WHEN YOU’RE BORED by Linsey Mallory – Do You Know Why You Eat?

This morning one of my coworkers (Rich) laughed at me when I told him I was covering up the stack of cookies he brought in because seeing them made me want to eat them. I defended my actions by informing him that there have been studies documenting the phenomenon of food visibility increasing consumption, but I still didn’t get the impression he believed me. So I of course decided to do some digging and prove to him that my snickerdoodle concealing behavior was not absurd.

So, this is what I learned in this post – that food that is convenient to us gets eaten – pretty much even if we don’t like it. I’ve done that – I’ve eaten an entire meal I didn’t like. I’ve snacked on snacks I didn’t enjoy. I don’t do a lot of it, but I have done it.

Mallory goes on to quote a CDC study on the subject:

People served larger portions simply eat more food, regardless of their body weight and regardless of the food item, meal setting, or timing of other meals; and the temptation to eat food at hand is so strong that human beings eat more even if the food tastes bad.

The amount of food consumed increases as the effort to eat it decreases, even if the differences in effort are tiny (the example they gave of this was a bowl of candy within reach, rather than a few feet away)

The mere sight of food can stimulate people to eat (Take that Rich!)

The longer the meal, the more people eat. The amount of food people eat is directly and strongly related to the number of people sharing the meal, with food consumption increasing by 28% when one other person is present and increasing steadily to 71% when the number of companions is six or more.

And this is what I find most germane to the essential topic of regaining weight after it’s been lost:

In general, human self-control over automatic behaviors is limited. Self-control tires like a muscle and taxes our ability to perform other tasks. And just as refusing food depletes a person’s mental reserves, tasks requiring mental effort can reduce the ability to resist the temptation of food. (this explains why I eat like crazy when I’m stressed out)

Because people are unaware of automatic behaviors, they are also unaware that the behaviors are not under control; people tend to fabricate reasons to explain their behaviors, typically choosing the most plausible, culturally acceptable theories.

Yes, I’ve experienced being too stressed to resist food that I didn’t want to eat. Eating didn’t require any mental gymnastics at all while refusing it seemed like the most ingracious ordeal imaginable.

Happy Easter to everyone. I’m editing my interviews with Lorraine finally today. I’m doing this post in the middle of a render. I’ll have them up later this evening for your viewing pleasure. 🙂

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…Works Better Than A 500 Calorie Diet!

Posted by Lori on March 15, 2008

yeah, baby, cuz I been on 500 calorie diets and they are no fun.

Alright, i don’t know how missed this study. This is good to see.

Researchers at Monash University Medical School in Melbourne, Australia, recruited 80 patients who were on average 52 pounds over a healthy weight. Half had the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgery.

The other half followed a medical program that included a variety of strategies such as a very-low-calorie diet (500 calories a day) with liquid meal replacements, prescription weight-loss medication and behavioral therapies.

And guess what we found out? The patients with lap band kept the weight off and the dieters didn’t.

After six months, both the surgery patients and the low-calorie dieters lost an average of 14 percent of their starting weight.

– After two years, the gastric band patients lost 22 percent of their starting weight. That was about 87 percent of their excess weight, or roughly 45 pounds. They also showed marked improvement in their health and quality of life.

– At the end of two years, the dieters had regained much of their lost weight but were still 5.5 percent below their starting weight. They had lost 22 percent of their excess weight, or about 12 pounds.

Lap bands allow you to get around the weight set point issue. After you’ve dieted a few pounds away, your body starts cranking your metabolism and it becomes harder and harder to lose weight – you’ve experienced this, no doubt. Unfortunately, it becomes easier and easier to put weight on and as soon as you stop dieting, your weight keeply rebounds to where it was before. But with weight loss surgery, the crank down in metabolism doesn’t happen and so you lose weight and you keep it off. Once you stabilize at given weight, you have the ability to stay there. That’s the key, right there.

Happy Saturday, folks. Now I’ve got a video interview to go finish cutting.

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Why You Regained The Weight You Lost So Happily

Posted by Lori on March 14, 2008

I’m going to look for the original study on this but here are some numbers I’ve never seen before. From Rachel Zabrodski’s Beyond Dieting:

Set point theory also relates to issues of metabolism. If one’s metabolic rate is reduced to ensure survival, fewer calories are needed. The “set point” is lowered. Therefore, one will gain more weight when the diet stops ensuring a subsequent weight gain on fewer calories. This phenomena is often found in women who have endured a very low calorie liquid protein diet (VLCD) that consists of 500 calories per day. Weight is lost initially, stabilizes and when calories are increased to just 800 per day, weight is GAINED. It is believed that the set point is lowered and a resultant net gain occurs (College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, 1994).

There has been discussion that the process of prolonged and repeated dieting puts the body at physical risk. Yo-yo dieting or weight cycling is the repeated loss and regain of weight. Brownell, Greenwood, Stellar, and Shrager (1986) suggested that repeat dieting will result in increased food efficiency that makes weight loss harder and weight regain easier. The National Task Force on the Prevention and Treatment of Obesity (1994) concluded that the long term health effects of weight cycling were largely inconclusive. It recommended that the obese should continue to be encouraged to lose weight and that there were considerable health benefits in remaining at a stable weight. This is an ironic suggestion in that most dieters do not intentionally try to regain weight once it has been lost

Nowhere in the happy “diet and exercise” mythology is there room for discussion of people gaining weight consuming 800 calories a day. All of us burn that many calories a day easily – that is, under normal metabolic conditions. But that’s the problem those of us who wrestle with obesity face, we don’t metabolize food normally.

I’ve lived on 700 calories a day for months on end. It’s horrible. You just look at piece of protein and you feel guilty because all of it is too high calorie for satisfaction. Big plates of plain vegetables, tuna in water, a bowl of shredded wheat with a little fruit (careful there) and maybe a piece of bread or two. Croutons become a luxury. Don’t get carried away with that chicken breast – you can only have four ounces of that. A piece of birthday cake becomes a crisis. If you’re hypoglycemic, you may have a headache the entire time as well. I did. And you are never, ever full. You are hungry 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s one of the reasons this quote from Dr. Jeff Friedman in RETHINKING THIN meant so much to me:

“Those who doubt the power of basic drives, however, might note that although one can hold one’s breath, this conscious act is soon overcome by the compulsion to breathe,” Dr. Friedman wrote. “The feeling of hunger is intense and, if not as potent as the drive to breathe, is probably no less powerful than the drive to drink when one is thirsty. This is the feeling the obese must resist after they have lost a significant amount of weight.”

I was going to close with that, but I do want to include another potent paragraph about set points:

The researchers concluded that 70 percent of the variation in peoples’ weights may be accounted for by inheritance, a figure that means that weight is more strongly inherited than nearly any other condition, including mental illness, breast cancer or heart disease.

The results did not mean that people are completely helpless to control their weight, Dr. Stunkard said. But, he said, it did mean that those who tend to be fat will have to constantly battle their genetic inheritance if they want to reach and maintain a significantly lower weight.

The findings also provided evidence for a phenomenon that scientists like Dr. Hirsch and Dr. Leibel were certain was true — each person has a comfortable weight range to which the body gravitates. The range might span 10 or 20 pounds: someone might be able to weigh 120 to 140 pounds without too much effort. Going much above or much below the natural weight range is difficult, however; the body resists by increasing or decreasing the appetite and changing the metabolism to push the weight back to the range it seeks

And those set points can be eliminated with weight loss surgery – that’s why it works so much better than diet and exercise.

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More On Genetics And Obesity

Posted by Lori on March 11, 2008

“Those who doubt the power of basic drives, however, might note that although one can hold one’s breath, this conscious act is soon overcome by the compulsion to breathe,” Dr. Friedman wrote. “The feeling of hunger is intense and, if not as potent as the drive to breathe, is probably no less powerful than the drive to drink when one is thirsty. This is the feeling the obese must resist after they have lost a significant amount of weight.”

I’ve been reading Gina Kolata’s book Rethinking Thin. Ms. Kolata is the head science writer for the New York Times, and she explores the many diets and the research around weight loss and weight loss maintenence. She makes clear in this book that we have known definitively since the 1950s that it takes far more than diet and exercise to keep weight off.

The New York Times published an outstanding excerpt from her book that really contains the most essential information as it relates to those of us who are trying to understand how we got in this situation and moderate from there. This particular section talks about the initial obesity studies and how, by the early sixties, science had documented that after a dieter successfully loses weight, their metabolism drops to put it right back on. It’s infuriating to think we’ve know this this long, and it hasn’t been made part of the cultural discussion.

It was 1959. Jules Hirsch, a research physician at Rockefeller University, had gotten curious about weight loss in the obese. He was about to start a simple experiment that would change forever the way scientists think about fat.

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Jules Hirsch, a research physician at Rockefeller University, conducted a simple but groundbreaking experiment on obesity nearly 50 years ago, changing the way scientists think about fat. Obese people, he knew, had huge fat cells, stuffed with glistening yellow fat. What happened to those cells when people lost weight, he wondered. Did they shrink or did they go away? He decided to find out.

It seemed straightforward. Dr. Hirsch found eight people who had been fat since childhood or adolescence and who agreed to live at the Rockefeller University Hospital for eight months while scientists would control their diets, make them lose weight and then examine their fat cells.

The study was rigorous and demanding. It began with an agonizing four weeks of a maintenance diet that assessed the subjects’ metabolism and caloric needs. Then the diet began. The only food permitted was a liquid formula providing 600 calories a day, a regimen that guaranteed they would lose weight. Finally, the subjects spent another four weeks on a diet that maintained them at their new weights, 100 pounds lower than their initial weights, on average.

Dr. Hirsch answered his original question — the subjects’ fat cells had shrunk and were now normal in size. And everyone, including Dr. Hirsch, assumed that the subjects would leave the hospital permanently thinner.

For those of you who can’t bear to read entire paragraphs, in the 1950s, Dr. Jules Hirsch put 8 people who had been obese since childhood in the Rockefeller Hospital for eight months and fed them 600 liquid calories a day – a diet that guaranteed they lost weight. They lost on average 100 pounds and then spent four weeks on a maintenence diet before they were sent home. What happened when they went home? They gained the weight back.

So, Dr. Hirsch and is partner, Dr. Rudolf Leibel, repeated the experiment again and again. Each time, the end result was the same.

“The weight, so painstakingly lost, came right back.”

Then something else was noticed.

But since this was a research study, the investigators were also measuring metabolic changes, psychiatric conditions, body temperature and pulse. And that led them to a surprising conclusion: fat people who lost large amounts of weight might look like someone who was never fat, but they were very different. In fact, by every metabolic measurement, they seemed like people who were starving.

Before the diet began, the fat subjects’ metabolism was normal — the number of calories burned per square meter of body surface was no different from that of people who had never been fat. But when they lost weight, they were burning as much as 24 percent fewer calories per square meter of their surface area than the calories consumed by those who were naturally thin.

So, when you lose weight, your body ceases to function normally. Wow. So, here you are all trim and happy – and your body thinks you’re dying of starvation. Wow. Wow. Wow.

This explains a lot, doesn’t it?

The Rockefeller subjects also had a psychiatric syndrome, called semi-starvation neurosis, which had been noticed before in people of normal weight who had been starved. They dreamed of food, they fantasized about food or about breaking their diet. They were anxious and depressed; some had thoughts of suicide. They secreted food in their rooms. And they binged.

The semi-starvation neurosis is real. You’ve experienced it, no doubt. But it’s not you being undisciplined or gluttonous – it’s how our ancient bodies have evolved to protect us.

And here is one of the money quotes in the article:

The Rockefeller researchers explained their observations in one of their papers: “It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved nonobese individuals.”

Next, Dr. Ethan Sims decided to find out what happened when thin people got fat. Did they stay that way? Because the popular belief is that fat people get that way be eating badly – so if the belief is true, these guys should put the weight on and get stuck with it. Just like you and I did, right? Wrong.

His subjects were prisoners at a nearby state prison who volunteered to gain weight. With great difficulty, they succeeded, increasing their weight by 20 percent to 25 percent. But it took them four to six months, eating as much as they could every day. Some consumed 10,000 calories a day, an amount so incredible that it would be hard to believe, were it not for the fact that there were attendants present at each meal who dutifully recorded everything the men ate.

Once the men were fat, their metabolisms increased by 50 percent. They needed more than 2,700 calories per square meter of their body surface to stay fat but needed just 1,800 calories per square meter to maintain their normal weight.

When the study ended, the prisoners had no trouble losing weight. Within months, they were back to normal and effortlessly stayed there.

So, when you lose weight beyond your set point, your metabolism drops by up to 24% per square inch. When you gain weight beyond your set point, your metabolism speeds up by 50%.

The implications were clear. There is a reason that fat people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when they force themselves to gain weight. The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range. Gain weight and the metabolism can as much as double; lose weight and it can slow to half its original speed.

So, that’s what you’re up against. It’s not, as a commenter below suggested, simply enough that you eat appropriately. Eating appropriately won’t keep weight off and it likely won’t prevent you from gaining it either. Your body is going to rebound to it’s set point after you lose weight.

UPDATE: I found a study which I wrote about in another post that I’m going to add in here. A study in Canada put women on a supervised 500 calorie per day liquid with exercise diet. They lost weight, of course. Then they scooted their calories up to 800 per day and all of the women gained weight. Got that? These women gained weight consuming 800 calories per day. So that’s why your diets fail as well – it’s not about eating appropriately. It’s about the fact that whenever you diet and reduce the amount of colories you consume, your body reduces your metabolism accordingly. So when you go back to a calorie level that you can actually live on, you gain weight. It doesn’t matter how balanced, or low fat, or high fat, or how many veggies you eat with that new calorie intake – it only matters that it was higher than the calorie intake you were consuming while dieting.

You have to decide what you want to do. You have three choices that I know of:
1. Accept yourself as you are and quit fretting about your weight.
2. Spend the rest of your life on an aggressive diet with an aggressive work out plan and hope for the best.
3. Get weight loss surgery and be able to lead what most bandees regard as a normal life.

If you take anything away anything from this blog, I hope it’s the awareness that guilt is not earned on your part. What I hope you will do is look in the mirror everyday and see a wonderful person who is loved and needed. Whether you’re fat or not doesn’t change who you are in your loved one’s hearts. Just put that burden down. Guilt is not yours to carry on this subject. Even if your weight is impacting your marriage. Even if you have children who need you.

I’m a big believer in the whole fat acceptance movement because no one should be beating themselves up over something this far beyond human control. I spent years of my life monitoring every single bite I put in my mouth, kept my calorie intake way under 1500 per day, worked out daily and gained weight steadily the whole time. I’ve had relationships go south because of weight. We live life with the genetics we have, not the genetics we want.

If you need to lose weight, then take a read what I’ve written above and take a good look at weight loss surgery. It’s a tool – really, the first tool we’ve ever had – that will allow you to get back to a moderate weight and stay there without complication. Studies say you’ll live longer and you’ll be happier. You’ll probably earn more money too. 🙂

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Obesity Largely Determined By Genetics

Posted by Lori on March 10, 2008

Sometimes I feel like I harp on this a bit too much, but most people who are overweight suffer from so much guilt, that I think it’s incredibly important to reiterate the degree to which weight gain is beyond common sense control. I doubt that most overweight people eat that much differently from their trimmer companions. Most of us eat somewhat badly but few of us really binge.

From the University College London:

Becoming overweight as a child is more likely to be the result of your genes than your lifestyle, claims a study.

University College London researchers examined more than 5,000 pairs of identical and non-identical twins.

Their American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that differences in body mass index and waist size were 77% governed by genes.

Why twins?

Twin studies are a good way to test how far our genes or our environment influence our development.

Identical twins have exactly the same genes, while non-identical twins are genetically different, like brother and sister.

However, because they were born at the same time, and raised in the same household, they can be assumed to have roughly similar upbringing in terms of food.

This allows scientists to measure differences in weight and calculate how much of that difference can be blamed on environment, and how much on genes, even though it doesn’t identify individual genes which might be linked to obesity.

They worked out that the effect of a bad environment was far less marked than the effect of a child’s genes.

I think it works out like this – our modern diet is a mess. Lots of carbs and fat and salt – not a good combo. For people who are not genetically inclined to gain weight though, the diet isn’t that much of a problem. But for those of us who are – watch out!

And be very clear – carbs, fat and salt is very much the diet that was encouraged on us from the late sixties on. I’m talking about pasta and pesto here – not fast food. But once you get to fast food, then you have real problems. And how many kids, in our mom-got-home-late-and-still-needs-to-do-laundry-and-grade-papers world are eating fast food a few times a week? Grrrrrr……

Just put your burden down and decide what you want to do. If you don’t want surgery, learn to love yourself anyway. Eat right. Get some exercise. Check out the online fatosphere and make some new friends. The truth of the matter is that you’re pretty worthwhile regardless of what you do, and that’s what you should treasure about yourself. And if you do want to lose weight, then quit beating yourself up. You probably aren’t any more gluttonous than lots of your skinny friends – it’s true. Get yourself to a surgeon and check out lap band surgery. You’ll live longer, you’ll be healthier and happier. And that’ll make your mom, your spouse and your kids happy too. 🙂

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Lap Bands, Weight Loss and Strength Training

Posted by Lori on March 3, 2008

This will be my last exercise post for a while, but now that I know how much of a difference it makes, I do want to provide you with some kind of pathway.

I talked to my friend Bonney (named after one William Bonney – how cool is that?) about her weight loss at the gym. In her late fifties, Bonney collapsed into a coma and was diagnosed with severe COPD. She was approximately 150 pounds overweight, and after she revived, she was pretty much trapped in her second floor apartment. Traveling up and down the stairs required a tremendous amount of energy and risk so she would only leave a few days a month. After a couple years of this, she discovered that her insurance provided her with a gym membership and access to a personal trainer for a few sessions. She wound up joining a new gym in a somewhat off-the-beaten-path location. And because they were a new gym, rather than getting just a couple sessions with a personal trainer, they assigned her a personal trainer and footed the bill for several months. Her first day, she could barely spend five minutes at the slowest speed on the treadmill. She was also introduced to a round of strength training and resistance exercises. She went four days a week and over the course of eight months, lost 110 pounds. She can now spend about 35 minutes on the treadmill.

I asked her if she had any advice for my readers who are self-conscious in gyms. She said that she’s glad she joined a new gym because the membership was lower – there were just fewer people around. Also, she went at odd times – in the early afternoon or late at night – and that also meant fewer people. They also had a separate section for women and she was far more comfortable there. She loves the treadmill now because it has handlebars that she can balance on – it makes walking easier for her than taking a stroll down the street. The interesting thing is that once she lost 40 pounds or so, the other people in the gym really began to cheer her on. There were a handful of very buff young men who were passionate about their strength training and they became her biggest cheering section. They wanted to hear about her progress and share work out tips with her. Oddly, the people that she was most uncomfortable in front of in the beginning, were the people who became her biggest assets as she continued.

The brilliant thing about weight loss surgery is that it allows you to reset your “set point” – the weight at which your body stabilizes. With a lap band, when you diet and exercise, you can actually lose weight and keep it off – something that fewer than 5% of dieters normally accomplish. Without it, you have a constant struggle for the rest of your life to maintain your weight loss. Strength training and Nordic walking both build up your muscles so that your body consumes more calories as you go through your day. Between that and the Lap Band, you can get to your goal weight or very close to your goal weight and stabilize. From there, you can lead a normal life. You can be healthy and feel beautiful and for probably the first time in many years, not feel deprived. What could be better than that?

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What’s going on with this blog?

Posted by Lori on February 9, 2008

So, here I am with a blog that says it’s about life and weight loss with a lap band and there is very little about lap bands here. The truth of the matter is that I want it to be larger than that – I want it to be about the whole ugly truth of weight loss. I want to provide a really three dimensional presentation of why weight loss is so difficult and unlikely and if, in the process, I can get a few people to leave their guilt behind, hallelujah.

I’m going to begin doing my interviews this week finally. I’m looking forward to getting started on that part. They should be fairly easy and quick for me to get up, so you’ll be seeing them by next weekend. In the meantime, I’m going to continue providing information on the literally Sisyphean task which is weight loss and weight loss maintenence.

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