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Your Brain Is The Boss When It Comes To Weight Loss But You Can Get Around It

weight loss health brain

Not being able to lose weight might be in your head according to research, since your brain is the regulator of how many calories your body burns.


Ever wonder how a bear makes it through hibernation without eating all winter and without losing all its body weight? There’s a neuron for that.

A new study out of the University of Cambridge, and published in eLife, maintains that in mammals, the maintenance of energy balance, or calories burned, relies on the coordination of energy intake versus energy expenditure.

This innate protective mechanism lies in the hypothalamus (the appetite control center of the brain) and slows weight loss when energy sources are limited by slowing the burning of calories. This in turn, may contribute to the failure of long-term weight loss through dieting or even through pharmacological interventions.

The neurons that lie within the hypothalamus, are known as the agouti-related neuropeptide (AGRP) neurons. In the study, these ACRP neurons caused animals to consume large quantities of food. But by inhibiting these AGRP neurons, animals stopped eating almost entirely.

So What Does This Have To Do With A Bear?

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Much like a bear in hibernation, when we human restrict both our calories and our output of energy, the brain takes the liberty of making adjustments for that. It does this by slowing the burning of calories and thus, slowing the rate a which we lose weight.

The experiment was done on mice and showed that by artificially activating the neurons in mice that didn’t have access to food increased the animals’ activity levels but reduced the rate at which they burned calories. This helped the mice to maintain their existing weight showing that restricting calories is actually an inefficient way to lose weight.

What is more, by allowing the mice to eat, or even just see or smell food, switched off this restricting effect and returned energy expenditure back to normal.

Finally, exposing mice to a high-fat diet for several days inhibited their AGRP neurons, causing the animals to burn calories at a faster rate. Using up excess calories helped the animals to maintain their existing body weight. This is why fad diets are not meant for long-lasting weight loss success.

“Weight loss strategies are often inefficient because the body works like a thermostat and couples the amount of calories we burn to the amount of calories we eat,” says Dr Clémence Blouet from the Metabolic Research Laboratories at University of Cambridge. “When we eat less, our body compensates and burns fewer calories, which makes losing weight harder. We know that the brain must regulate this caloric thermostat, but how it adjusts calorie burning to the amount of food we’ve eaten has been something of a mystery.”

Here's How To Get Weight Loss Moving Again

  1. Adjust your perception of diets as well as your food. Take the emotion of out eating -- instead view eating as a means to an end. If you want to lose weight and keep it off, you’ll need to accept the reality that healthy eating will be an ongoing theme in your life.
  2. Balance your meals following the “Raw until Four” rule. For 80% of day eat whole, nourishing foods such as fruits for breakfast, salads topped with beans, seeds and vegetables for lunch. Then, for the remaining 20% of your day, snack on some raw nuts or dried fruit, then and end the day with a lean protein meal and more vegetables.
  3. Avoid foods high in fat, such as large amounts of animal protein and dairy. Watch portion sizes. Lower sodium since this will help you to feel fuller faster.
  4. Remember that weight loss is a balancing act. Increasing your energy output with daily exercise while reducing calorie intake is still the best solution, according to this study, for taking off the weight.

Remember that fad diets usually mean water weight and muscle mass loss. They do not mean fat loss. Therefore, commit to better eating most of the time. Exercise by intentionally adding movement into your life on a daily basis. Most of all, be patient with yourself and your body and you will see weight loss results over time.