One of the most important issues in weight loss is recidivism. Most people who lose weight end up gaining it back. Research on the ghrelin hormone, which is secreted in the stomach, may explain part of the problem. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite at the same time that is slows down the metabolism. Both of these effects contribute to increased fat storage. Levels of this hormone spike before each meal and drop after you’re full. People given injections of ghrelin become extremely hungry, and studies show they eat much more when unlimited food is available.
A recent study showed that ghrelin increases substantially after a period of rapid weight loss. Scientists on the study think this was an evolutionary adaptation to encourage the body to regain the fat lost as protection from possible future famine. Slow, gradual weight loss does not appear to cause the same spike in ghrelin level, however. This is another important reason to approach your ideal weight gradually. Setting your daily caloric level to match your target weight’s maintenance level is the best way to lose weight once and to keep it off.
Say, for example, your baseline caloric intake is 2400 calories (that is, the number of calories you can consume without loosing or gaining weight) before you go on a diet. If you then fail on two diet attempts over a period of a year or more, your baseline will drop to 1200 calories. In other words, the number of calories at which you will gain weight is now half of what it was before your failed diet attempts. This is because your brain (the hypothalamus) thinks that there is a scarcity of food and it slows down the body’s metabolism to conserve calories and fat stores. The only way to lose weight under these circumstances is to raise the basal metabolic rate and to burn more fat. Yes, exercise is important, but not the only way.

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