Fighting weight gain after weight loss

CLEVELAND CLINIC - Anyone who has tried to lose a substantial amount of weight knows that the true challenge often lies in keeping those shed pounds from creeping back on.

According to Dr. Bartolome Burguera cf Cleveland Clinic, there are several factors that impact a person's ability to keep weight off for good.

One of the main factors is a person's basic metabolic rate, or how many calories the body burns while at rest.

"Because you start losing weight and the basic metabolic rate goes down from 2,000 to 1,600, so unless you burn 400 calories extra exercising or you eat 400 calories less, you will not be able to continue to lose weight," Dr. Burguera says.

Dr. Burguera says the human brain is wired to protect the body from starvation.

When you decrease the amount of calories into your body, your brain's natural reaction is to try to stop your body from losing more weight. This is called metabolic adaptation.

In fact, a recent study followed the progress of contestants in a popular weight-loss reality TV show for six years following a substantial weight-loss effort to see if they would be able to keep the pounds off.

After six years, most of the contestants re-gained weight; some of them gaining back every pound that was lost on the show, and then some.

Researchers say the immediate changes in their resting metabolic rates after their initial weight loss remained persistent over the course of the six years.

Dr. Burguera, who did not take part in the study, says that metabolic adaptation is important, but that it is just one indicator of why it was so difficult for these folks to keep weight off.

He says that anyone who is trying to lose weight will have better success if they treat their weight as a chronic health condition, and not a one-and-done approach.

"I think we need to understand that obesity is a chronic disease. So in order to treat a chronic condition, you have to offer chronic therapies. So trying to become very physically active, eat very little amount of calories-that's short term. You cannot do that long term," Dr. Burguera says.

The key to losing weight for good is to use a five-tool approach: appetite control, physical activity, healthy diet, stress management, and adequate sleep.

Complete results of the study can be found in the journal 'Obesity.'