Question: Why does it seem that everyone gains back the weight they lose. Are we condemned to our weight for life?
Answer: The very high relapse rates in most diet programs are pretty discouraging, and a number of reasons have been put forth about why so many people ultimately gain the weight back. One is biology. Some people believe that when you gain weight, you reestablish your body's expectations about weight, you reestablish something inside the body that makes you regulate at a higher weight.
Other people believe that psychological reasons are the ones that underlie this almost universal relapse, that, if people are eating because food provides some sort of comfort to them or helps sooth some difficult emotion feelings, that those feelings will still be there, even if the person has been on a successful diet, and therefore food still remains an important source of comfort.
Others believe that the toxic food environment is a very important player here. I happen to believe that is the case.
People are bombarded by messages to eat. There is relentless marketing of unhealthy foods. Unhealthy foods are sold in very large portions, their pricing strategies to make them feel more appealing. And basically, food is everywhere, it's available 24 hours a day, and it's very heavily marketed by an aggressive industry.
So, some people can overcome those toxic pressures and can prevail over them, but many people can't. And so, for some people, they go on a diet, they're able to resist these pressures for some period of time but then they finally aren't able to prevail anymore and they regain their weight.
So, whether it's psychology, whether it's biology or whether it's the environment, we can't really say for sure, but there are a number of factors that are bearing down on people that make them vulnerable to weight gain.
Another problem is the nature of diets people go on. Very often, diets are quite restrictive, and they say you shouldn't eat this category of foods or you should eat another category of foods. It's hard to stick to those kind of diets. So the diets that we believe end up working best in the long run allow a variety of foods, eaten in reasonable amounts, and people can weave this diet into their day-to-day lifestyle.
So, although the overall results of weight loss programs tend to be somewhat discouraging, there are many people who lose weight and manage to keep it off. And they tend to be the ones who get regular physical activity, eat in moderate portions and make sure they keep track of what they're eating day to day, so they don't find themselves gradually slipping down the wrong path.
And if those things can be brought together, people really can succeed over the long term.