Your body does not want you to lose weight.
This is the conclusion researchers came to in their upcoming article for the journal Obesity. The report comes from a long-term study following a season's worth of The Biggest Loser contestants for six years after their reality show appearance. All of them submitted to grueling diet and exercise regimes over a short period of time to lose astonishing amounts of weight on the show. Then they went home, where their bodies started doing everything in their power to put that weight back on.
The New York Times covered the research in detail, speaking with the study/reality show participants about their personal experiences. There’s a lot of science about resting metabolic rates and leptin levels (I’m sure the journal article will be even more science-y), but the basic conclusion is that the human body’s response to starvation is to make it harder to starve.
Your body is smart as hell and it does not want you to die. If you start depriving it of fuel, it will slow down the rate at which you burn that fuel and step up the desire to provide itself with more fuel. In others words, you’ll burn fewer calories and feel hungry all the time. That’s what the metabolic rate and leptin level science was about. The Biggest Loser contestants showed slower-than-average resting metabolic rates — even years after the show — and lower-than-average levels of chemicals known to shut off hunger and make you feel sated after eating.
It’s a one-two punch of their bodies saying, “Eat! Eat now! Remember that whole starvation thing? That sucked! You could die of starvation! You eat now and I’ll hoard the food in case we starve again! Then we’ll be safe!”
Scientists don’t know exactly what to do with this information, now that they have it. Knowing why bodies resist weight loss doesn’t provide the answer for how to tell them it’s not REALLY that we’re trying to survive a famine, it’s just that society rewards thinness.
But bodies don’t care about society. They care about survival. Listen to your body — it's trying to help you live.