YOU vs. Mother Nature: Weight Loss Plateau Part 2

03.12.2012 / Blog Posts Health and Wellness

AP Photo

By Jane Jakubczak MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN; Redskins Dietitian

I am fascinated everyday by this amazing machine we call the body. The hundreds of mechanisms and reactions it employs for survival is intriguing. Nowhere is this seen more than when it comes to nutrition and body weight.

Anyone who has embarked on a weight loss program has experienced first hand one of the most robust survival defense mechanisms the body possesses; Defense of the Energy Storage System.

Our biology is designed for scarcity yet our environment is one of abundance.

For millions of years, food had been scarce for man. Cavemen went out to search for food and may have searched all day, covering miles by foot to find their next meal. Depending on the season or Mother Nature, they may have been on the hunt for days. The person who was superior in storing and conserving extra energy (fat) survived, the one’s who were not “fat storing machines” died out. In other words, we are ancestors of humans who were “good at” storing energy (fat) and conserving energy (metabolism).

Fat and energy conservation is a great attribute in an environment of scarcity, not so much in an environment where food is ubiquitous and we can pull up to a drive through for a cheeseburger and fries instead of walking miles to find berries and nuts.

Another fact to keep in mind is for our historical ancestors, weight loss equated to famine or illness and the body reacted in defense mode for survival. Hormone changes are triggered to increase hunger (ghrelin), decrease fullness (leptin) and slow the speed at which the body burns energy (metabolism). Again, a very helpful response back in the caveman days, not so much today when you are working hard to shed extra weight.

You may feel your body is fighting you every step (or pound) of the way and in some ways, it is!

I know what you may be thinking at this point, “How can I fight with Mother Nature”? A database called the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) proves weight loss and maintenance for a lifetime is possible and well worth the effort! (To read about the registry, click here).

How to work WITH Mother Nature and not against her:

1. Recognize and respect how your body works and work with it:

• Avoid going on extremely low calorie diets, which may put your body in a semi-starved state and will trigger the mechanisms described above.

• A moderate calorie deficit of 250 – 500 calories a day, plus exercise, will allow your body to shed 1-2 pounds a week. To learn how many calories you need to lose weight in a healthy manner, visit

2. Accept the fact that permanent changes in diet and exercise (lifestyle) will be necessary:

• Managing one’s weight is an every day commitment. Acknowledge the fact it will require daily effort and soon you will be enjoying the benefits that make that effort worthwhile.

• Make if fun! Learn new healthy recipes, try new workout options such as zumba or tennis, treat yourself to new workout clothes, load new music on your iPod, buy a cool journal or mobile app to use as a food record, or try a new a fitness mobile app! (The Nike Training Club app below is great!)

Many people view managing body weight as a chore. By recognizing how the body works, dedicating yourself to a lifestyle change and keeping it fresh and exciting, managing a healthy body weight for a lifetime can be a mission in life that is both rewarding and fun!

Next week we will discuss the concept of Set Point, BMI and how you can determine what is a healthy weight for YOU.

Make it a healthy week!

I’d love to hear how WOW members put fun and excitement into their weight management mission! Please share ideas and tips in the comment section below.

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