Jan 5

Why is it so difficult to lose weight? – part 3 of Losing Weight Using TCM

Now we have covered the fundamental mechanisms of weight gain. They seem very simple. You just have to increase caloric output or reduce caloric input to create a caloric deficit. Why can’t people lose weight? There are many factors that make weight loss extremely difficult:

Biological: The body has a natural tendency to maintain stability, it has a even stronger tendency not to lose weight. Initial weight loss may be easy but sustainable weight loss will trigger multiple reactions that make weight loss difficult. When people lose substantial weight, their body switch to an energy conservation mode with lower metabolic rate. Meanwhile their appetite increases making weight loss extremely difficult.

Fat-soluble Toxin: The toxin theory plays an important role explaining the difficulty people face. Usually the first three to five days of dieting or a new exercise regiment is quite manageable. However, as the body gradually deplete the stored carbohydrates, it begins to burn fat as fuel, which releases fat-soluble toxins stored in fat tissue. Many people experience headaches, depression, malaise or other symptoms. This is the time where people usually give up because the new lifestyle feels too miserable to continue.

Neurological: To survival in environments where food is scarce, people have a natural desire for high-calorie food. It has been established that when people consume high fat and high protein foods, the pleasure center in the brain is triggered. The pleasure sensation from these foods motivates people to seek and consume such foods. This pattern is akin to addictions. When people go on a healthy diet, people experience withdrawal symptoms similar to  quitting alcohol or cigarette.

Emotional: The neurological effect of food was not known until recently, yet historically, people of all cultures have been using food for its psychological effect. Every culture has festive foods as well as comfort foods. These foods trigger the neurological pleasure center and elevate the moods to soothe people. Many people have developed an emotional dependency on high-calorie foods that are unhealthy for them.

Habitual: Repeating use of food as a tool to manipulate emotions can be habit forming. Sooner or later, people develop a pattern of eating linked with negative emotions and stress. Such a habit is extremely difficult to break because it is no longer a biological issue. Eating bad food makes people unhealthy which further fuel negative emotions that trigger the bad eating habit.

Social: We live in a toxic food environment. Unhealthy foods are pervasive and convenient. Most of the food messages we receive are commercially motivated to appeal to our desires. Furthermore, many lifestyle choices are social activities. Research has shown that people’s weight tend to be similar with his or her peers. For people who grow up in a social environment of unhealthy lifestyle, it can be extremely difficult to find proper role models. Also people may find it hard to make lifestyle change that is dramatically different from their peers.

Economical: Rarely in human history, can people consume a very large caloric surplus over a long period of time. However, in modern industrial countries, due to heavy government subsidies, consumers can enjoy food at extremely low cost. But cheap commodity crops have mainly turned into animal feeds and processed foods. So in developed countries, strangely, animal-based food and high caloric food are cheaper than plant-based, low caloric food. It is much easier and cheaper to buy a frozen dinner than to cook your own healthy meal in America.

Cultural: Food is integral to every culture. We use it to celebrate, we use it to reward, we use it to show love, we use it to bond with each other. It is deeply ingrained with our psychology. To adopt a new lifestyle requires new thinking and new ways of life. It requires tremendous willpower to break away from the culture of indulgence that permeate our society.

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