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Complexities of Weight Regulation

Posted on April 3, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Iowa Weight Loss Specialists

By Alissa Kruger,ARNP,NP-C

Medical Weight Loss Provider

The Complexities of Weight Regulation

Most of us have the understanding that calories consumed verses calories expended is what maintains, increases, or decreases our weight. Is it that easy? Perhaps not. Weight is impacted by more than this simple equation. Obesity is a hormonal disorder that increases hormone signals in the brain that can cause us to gain weight.

Energy Intake

In regards to energy intake and consumption of calories, there are many factors to consider. Weight regulation is a very complex system. The types of food we eat in regards to high fat, high sugar, and high carbohydrates are readily available to us in the Western diet and play a significant role in our health. Our environment, as well as the convenience of fast food, is our enemy. Additional environmental factors that impact our energy intake include anger, stress, depression, and anxiety.

In addition, hormonal influences play into the energy intake equation. Hunger signals to the brain can be affected by several hormones. Ghrelin and GLP-1 can affect hunger, while Leptin and insulin levels send signals telling our bodies that we are full or satisfied. One study showed a 25% increase in Ghrelin production after weight loss causing patients to become hungrier and increase their food cravings. The hypothalamus controls the release of the neuropeptides that control our food intake. Ghrelin increases hunger while neuropeptides decrease hunger and increase the feeling of fullness.

Energy Expenditure

Energy expenditure is the amount of calories our bodies burn for energy. Resting metabolic rate is the amount of calories your body uses daily at rest. This is affected by body mass, lean muscle mass, thyroid hormones, age, and gender.

Active energy expenditure is affected by exercise, the intensity, and the duration. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is affected by activities of daily living, fidgeting, and posture. NEAT plays a large role in easy weight gainers and hard weight gainers.

Energy intake and energy expenditure work together to help maintain balance. Have you noticed when you consume fewer calories and start losing weight your cravings increase and you are hungrier? The central nervous system allows for compensatory adjustments depending on fat stores. There is variability in the compensatory system from person to person, which explains why it is easier for some to lose weight compared to others. Maintenance of a lower weight compared to the usual body weight is hard to achieve due to the compensatory mechanisms that take place.

According to the National Weight Loss Registry there are a few behaviors exercised in patients that have lost weight and kept it off, including:

  • Physical activity for 1 hour a day
  • Consuming a low calorie diet
  • Consuming breakfast daily
  • Self-monitored weight
  • Consistency from weekdays to weekends

Based on this study by the Registry, 35% of these participants expend more than 3,000 calories a week in exercise. These participants that have lost weight and kept it off long-term and spend minimal time watching television.

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