For some people, it seems like fat just melts off and losing weight is a matter of deciding that they want to. For many others, unfortunately, it’s not such an easy process. Many feel like they struggle their entire lives in a constant battle to lose the fat and keep it off.
In fact, chronic obesity affects the lives of about 500 million adults and 43 million children younger than age five. Recent research has shed light on why it can be more difficult for these people to control their weight and what can be done about it.
A joint effort between the University of Michigan and the Argentina-based National Scientific and Technological Research Council (CONICET) led the study that was eventually published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Throughout the study, researchers controlled the genetic “switch” that controls hunger signals in the brain on mice. They also controlled the diet of the mice.
When the switch was activated to limit their appetite after the mice had completed weaning, they didn’t overeat and never became obese. Similarly, even if that switch was never turned on and their appetite was left un-manipulated, the mice maintained a healthy weight into adulthood, as long as their diet was controlled when they were pups.
The true revelation came, however, when the researchers overfed the pups. These mice never completely returned to a normal weight, even once the switch was flipped on, their diet was restricted and they were put on an exercise regimen.
The researchers concluded that, at some point in development, the metabolism of the overfed mice adapted to being obese and that simply became their new normal. Although no comparable studies have been conducted on humans, the basic principle remains the same.
What This Means For You
Statistics show that obese children are at a much higher risk of becoming obese adults and developing related health problems than children of a healthy weight. This could be a result of learned behaviors or the same metabolic reprogramming that was seen in the mice, or a combination of the two. More research is needed, however,to fully explain how this works and how it translates to the human metabolism.
Is It Hopeless?
So, if like many Americans, you ate a poor diet full of fast food and candy during your childhood, are you doomed to a lifetime of obesity?
No, you’re not. The struggle may be more difficult for you, but it is possible to reprogram your metabolism to a normal, healthy one capable of burning fat rather than storing it.
Diet and Exercise
The American Council on Exercise also recommends an occasional fast lasting about 24 hours to help restart your metabolism. This time can be used to perform a sort of audit on your diet and help cleanse your system of unhealthy food. Just make sure that when you start eating again you go back to healthy foods and not junk out of desperation.
When it comes to exercise, incorporate moderate intensity interval training into your routine. Try running for 20 seconds and walking for 40 seconds. Do this for 10 minutes either as a stand alone workout or as part of a larger program. This type of exercise will force your body to burn fat for fuel, while not overloading your system by working out for too long.
Have you been able to reprogram your metabolism and control your weight? Please share your experience with us in the comments.