Why your January diet didn’t work
It’s not your fault, doctors say, but there’s still lots you can do to shed the pounds
There are few things more frustrating than a dry-and-detoxed January resulting in barely a pound or two of weight loss.
Now, researchers from the U.K.’s University of Exeter have found that the fat cells of overweight people are inflamed and scarred.
So people who are overweight or obese may struggle to lose weight, no matter how much they diet.
“These fat cells are less able to store excess calories, and so may cause fat to move into and wrap around organs such as the liver,” says Dr. Katarina Kos who worked on the study and is an expert in obesity-related disorders.
This can lead to people storing fat within the deep layers of the stomach so they have disproportionately large tummies, which can lead to fatty liver disease, diabetes and heart disease.
“We’ve known this for a while,” says Dr. Robert Lustig, an obesity expert at the University of California.
“Researchers have demonstrated that at a certain point, fat tissues lose their ability to be able to be regulated by insulin. There very well may be a point of no return.”
Lustig says these findings give some reassurance to those people who struggle to lose weight.
“For a long time, it’s been thought that overweight people can’t lose weight because they’re lazy, or greedy or not really trying. But we scientists know the real story: It really is much harder for them.
“It’s not simply a case of calories in and calories out. Saying ‘it’s all their fault they’re fat’ is a ruse and a diversion promulgated by the food industry to assuage their culpability in all of this.”
The world’s obesity rate has doubled since 1980. The U.S., where Lustig is based, has the highest rate of obesity of high-income countries, with 33 per cent considered obese.
Of course, overweight people can and do lose weight. But the Exeter research may go some way to explain the countless studies that show around 95 per cent of dieters regain most, if not all or more, of the weight they lose.
Often, this is due to going back to old eating habits, but could this damage to fat cells also be to blame? And if so, what can you do?
“There may be the potential for a drug to ‘heal’ scarred fat cells,” says Kos. “Until then, stick to controlling your calories where possible. Research has also shown a walk after meals may help prevent fat cells from scarring further, along with burning extra calories.”
Lustig, a vocal and early opponent of sugar who has called for laws to restrict its use, says there are three ways to help heal your fat cells.
“There’s medicine, diet and exercise. Scientists are working on a drug for the obese that was approved for use for asthma in Japan back in the Eighties,” he says.
“However, that’s for the severely obese. So next comes diet.
“The more overweight you are, the harder it is to lift the fat out of your fat cells because they’re insulin-resistant.
“So the first thing is to get your insulin down. What makes it go up? Refined carbohydrates and white food. That means white bread, rice, pasta, sugar you put in your tea, and so on,” he explains.
“A low-sugar, high-fibre diet reduces insulin. So what helps heal damaged fat cells and lowers insulin? Getting people off white, processed food and on to real food. And lastly, exercise.”
Take the recommended 10,000 steps a day.
The notion that overweight people are unable to lose weight because they’re lazy, or greedy or not really trying is actually much more complex, according to scientists.