Tony Ferguson Dietitians Corner - Why do I put weight back on after I lose it?

How does weight loss work?


The story begins with a single fat cell. We have a certain amount of fat cells that 'fill-up' when we acquire weight. If we continue to gain weight after all of our existing fat cells have been depleted, the body will manufacture new fat cells. Calories from food are the global money that every cell in the human body accepts. So, just as we would not flush our hard-earned money down the toilet, neither would your body!

When you lose weight, your fat cells release all of those valuable dollars (calories) into your bloodstream in the form of fatty acids, which are then distributed to all of the cells throughout your body. The cell transforms the fatty acids into the energy required by the cell to function. When a fat cell is empty, it does not vanish. It just sits there like miniature storage tanks waiting to be refilled. According to certain studies, this may be one of the reasons why many people struggle to lose weight. (MacLean P, 2015)

Why do I put the weight back on after I lose it?

This could be because when you lose weight, your metabolism slows and you require less calories. So, if some of your previous eating habits creep back into your life, those 'extras' might lead to weight gain (and at an alarmingly quick rate).  When a group of fit, young men lost weight by following a diet that provided 50% of their calorie needs for three weeks, they began burning 250 fewer calories per day (Muller M 2015). This regimen also resulted in greater muscle loss than fat loss, which is beneficial because muscle consumes more energy than fat!


Furthermore, losing weight tends to activate a basic (and protective) response in the body - it makes us hungry. This hunger might be modest or overt (depending on your sensitivity to hunger and fullness cues).  This increase in appetite is designed to safeguard us and help us regain our original weight and muscular mass. (Dulloo A, 2018).


Your beginning weight is regarded as a'set point,' and if there is one thing that human bodies adore above all else, it is 'homoeostasis' (i.e. maintaining the status quo!). Most biological functions are guided by the principle of homoeostasis.  The kidneys meticulously manage the electrolytes in our blood, the heart keeps a regular beating, the lungs keep your blood oxygen level stable, and the stomach keeps an acidic environment for us to digest food. It's simply what the body does best!  Weight and muscular maintenance are no exception. 


The dangers of weight cycling

This cycle of weight loss and gain is known as weight cycling, and it is usually associated with 'yo-yo' dieting (i.e. going on and off diets). Weight cycling, according to research, frequently results in a larger body than when you started. A study that tracked twins through their adolescence and early twenties discovered that if one of the twins dieted regularly to lose weight during the study period, they were twice as likely to be heavier than their non-dieting sibling by the time they were 25. And the more they dieted, the heavier they became. (Pietilainen K 2012).


Losing weight frequently results in muscle loss, which can have a harmful impact on heart health. Evidence suggests that those who have fluctuated in weight throughout their lives may have lower heart health than those who have a BMI that puts them in the 'obese' category. So, not only is weight-cycling bad for your long-term weight, but it may also be bad for your health. 


Purchase Tony Ferguson products here.

August 03, 2023