Study shows binge eating after a diet can lead to dire weight consequences
Binge eating after a steady diet may lead a person to become heavier than he or she was before the diet, according to Paul MacLean.
MacLean, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado at Denver, presented his research Nov. 9 to a crowd of about 40 in Ramaley C250. He experimented with obese rats to see how their metabolism responded to diets and relapses into overeating. His research led him to conclude that humans and rats gain weight more easily after they diet. He thinks it has to do with metabolic pressures such as the environment, behavior and metabolism.
“These metabolic pressures function to maintain equilibrium at that target weight,” MacLean said. “I like to talk about them in the context of the homeostatic feedback system. The brain sends back signals to the body, tells the body what to do in regard to body-weight regulation, and then the peripheral tissues send signals back to the brain and say, ‘here’s how much fat we have, here’s how you’re doing, we need more, we need less.”
MacLean pondered what caused obesity.
“So what’s causing obesity over the past 30 years?” MacLean asked. “Initially, we were hoping it was our metabolisms, so that we could do something about it. It really isn’t. Pretty much everyone agrees that our behavior and environmental pressures have caused obesity. Less activity, more energy-dense foods available – those kinds of things are promoting obesity.”
MacLean said the metabolism balances out these pressures, but at a higher weight. He said people change their environment or behaviors when they want to lose weight.
“We can’t change our metabolism very much, but we go on a diet and we exercise,” MacLean said. “Those are the common ways we use to lose weight. Then the cards are stacked in favor of dramatic weight loss.”
MacLean used a visual aid to demonstrate his point. It was a fulcrum divided with a line, up on the projector screen. On the left side of the fulcrum was the word metabolism. When he spoke about dieting, he moved the words behavior and environment, which were on the right side of the fulcrum, over to the side of metabolism. This caused the line to point down to the right, signifying weight loss. He said this is where the homeostatic feedback system comes into play.
“It has got to reestablish equilibrium. It does so here at a low target weight,” MacLean said as the metabolism word switched to the left side while environment and behavior stayed on the right.
“Here’s where most people go wrong,” MacLean said. “I’ve lost the weight. I’m starting fresh. The world is my plate of French fries.
“It’s really not. We’re at a delicate balance here between the behaviors that were used to lose the weight and the environmental conditions that were tested, and that being balanced against our metabolism, which is actually promoting weight regain.”
MacLean explained the theory. He said the body always desires equilibrium. Before a diet, the metabolism promotes weight loss to counterbalance excessive eating or lack of exercise. Once that weight is lost, the metabolism slows down because a person is taking in less energy and expending more.
“When there is the least bit of relapse in our behavior or environment,” MacLean said, “the cards are stacked for dramatic weight regain.”
As he said this, the words metabolism and environment went over to the right side of the fulcrum diagram. This put all three words on one side and caused the bar to point up to the right, indicating weight gain.
MacLean described the different natures of metabolism in obese and reduced weight states.