The track record of traditional dieting is the inspiration for my work and my books. Although this record is dismal, as we have seen again and again, our culture continues to embrace, support, market and promote dieting on a massive scale. Why? Money drives the diet industry and its product: snake oil. If traditional diets are largely insupportable, except as lucrative products, do we have any real evidence that dieting is actually fraudulent? As we shall see, many studies support the idea that biology plays a much more important role than we previously believed. And in light of some of these studies, let’s scrutinize several examples of common misbeliefs and some misplaced efforts involving weight loss that appear on television and in schools.
I’ve already addressed the influence that too little food has on bingeing behavior, as well as the role of biochemicals in causing the five adaptive responses to famine. Here is compelling medical research that documents actual biochemical factors that come into play in dieters’ rebound experience.
Nutrition researcher Adam Drenowski, Ph.D. said that weight loss experts have traditionally assumed that people who regain weight after dieting simply slip back into bad eating habits. But, he argued, research has documented that the real reason it’s so hard to keep unwanted pounds off is lipoprotein lipase, or LPL. LPL is an enzyme that largely controls how much fat you store, he said.
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During dieting, the LPL level initially drops and then it rises. It rises dramatically throughout the diet. Scientists speculate that this rise may be responsible for overeating in post-weight-loss dieters. So it looks like this enzyme may be behind the five survival responses I describe, which include overeating.
Another research study by Dr. John D. Brunzell, showed that when obese people lose weight, they start overproducing LPL, which makes it easier to get fat again. The effect of these elevated enzyme levels is to make weight gain far easier for the formerly obese than it is for people who were never fat in the first place. The study found that the fatter people were to begin with, the higher their lipoprotein lipase levels after they lost weight. It was as though the more weight a person lost, the more the body fought to regain the weight, on a biological level. This, I believe, is a function of adaptation and high famine sensitivity.
According to the study, the change in LPL levels results from weight that is lost by traditional eat-less dieting, typically weight lost very fast. The question here is, can weight be lost without this LPL response? Is it possible to lose weight in a way different from dieting and avoid provoking the increase in LPL levels? And if it were possible, could the LPL levels be kept in check to prevent the rebound weight gain that happens with dieting? The next chapter is all about the exciting answers to these and more key questions.
Sandra describes herself as a 22-year chronic dieter. She weighed 198 at her last doctor’s visit and she is 5’ 1” tall. Her therapist told her she eats to comfort herself because her mother abandoned her when she was 4 years old. Sandra admits she eats “comfort food” when she is alone at night. Although she is convinced that her eating is emotional, what else could be influencing her nighttime over-eating? Could LPL play a role here? Her diet history certainly points to the likelihood that she has elevated LPL levels whenever she diets because she has rebounded literally dozens of times. She must be losing some weight some of the time, but according to this research, the heavier she gets, the higher the LPL levels get and the more likely she is to regain the weight she lost. Is this “comfort eating” or is she in a biological LPL war with her body?