Why is Losing Weight so Hard?



One of the toughest questions people face is why is it so hard to lose weight?

Gaining weight, for most, after all, is not too difficult.  Actually, most of us are experts at doing so, being so good at it that we do it without conscious effort.

The opposite skill – losing weight – is a lot harder. And, to cover everyone, for some people, gaining weight is extremely difficult.  Why?

The answer is that our body has a setpoint, a specific weight that it tries to maintain.

And the reason it has that is relatively straightforward.  There was a time in our history when starving to death was not uncommon.  There, if you manage to gain a lot of weight during times of plenty, when the food ran out, you’d survive.

Every 15 pounds of weight or so, according to a Doctor specializing in Endocrinology and metabolism, who gave a lecture I attended, means an additional month of survival in starvation.

So to put it simply, those who we now view as lucky – that it is either very hard for them to gain weight, or they lose it easily, would not be so lucky if they were in a city with no food and it was winter.

That’s kind of general, though.  What is the more scientific explanation?

The more sciency explanation is that of setpoints.

Imagine that inside your body there is a little scale.  On this scale is displayed a number that is your weight and next to it a number that is what your body thinks your weight should be.

So let’s say you weight 120 pounds and your body thinks you should weight 130.

To get you up 10 pounds, it will slow down how fast it digests food, make you hungrier, and do whatever it can to get those 10 pounds there.

The weight your body wants you to be is your setpoint, and it will do whatever it takes to get your actual weight to be at the setpoint.

“That’s interesting.  But in that example, the setpoint is 130 pounds.  What if I gain 10 pounds from there, and weight 140?  Why won’t my body do whatever it takes to lose that weight?”

And there’s the problem.

Your body is willing to change its setpoint – but in general, only does so upwards.  So if you weight 140, your body will possibly change its setpoint to 140.  So it then becomes extremely hard to lose weight from there.

It’s a system that was possibly designed to store fat and protect you from starving when there was no food.

It is also a system that makes it very hard to lose weight and is probably playing a large role in the epidemic so to speak of obesity today.

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Pharmaceutical analyst who loves blogging about health and medical issues. Has written more than 150 articles and a book on attention deficit disorder. Correctly predicted delayed approval of Bydureon, approval of Provenge by FDA, and the non-approval of Acthar on June 11.

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  1. Of course losing weight is a quite difficult job. However, stay motivated through other blogers online and share information. Thanks for the info.

  2. I personally believe that genetics and your natural rate of metabolism define the extent of effectivity of your weight-losing measures. Some people are naturally inclined towards piling on the pounds. I have seen this in my family and lots of friends while the people around them seem to eat endlessly and still have decent-looking waists.

  3. I think it’s easiest to lose weight when you’re doing it with someone else to keep you motivated. If you’re at a party together, you don’t have to be the only one standing up to all the peer pressure to eat dessert!

  4. I have often wondered myself why my weight will often stay the same I can find it extremely easy to put weight on but not so easy to get it off again! I have now found a balance of what I am eating and exercise helps a great deal!

  5. I definitely think that metabolism plays a very important role in the degree to which you are inclined to stay slim. The good news is that there are ways to increase the level of your metabolism. Doing sports, eating lots of fruits and vegetables can increase t=your metabolism and you will be able to lose weight more easily.

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