How Losing Weight Affects Your Body and Brain
What Happens in Our Body and Brain When We Lose Weight
It is not a secret that following a diet can be quite hard. Losing weight is a long and arduous process, but exercising and improving your eating habits have incredibly beneficial effects on the body.
Do you want to lose a few pounds but lack motivation? Have you just started your diet and want to know what's going on in your body when you lose weight? If you answered “yes” to both questions, then this article is exactly what you need.
Your Metabolism Slows Down
During the first few weeks, it is easy to lose weight by eating lighter foods and doing some physical activity. The number on the scale can drop quickly, which will make you extremely happy. But as time goes on, it might feel like the machine is slowing down and not as productive. The metabolism actually gets used to this new rhythm and adjusts itself. To make it even harder for you to lose weight, your appetite may start to increase as the fat wears off. Why? It is pretty simple: after a meal, your fat cells, also called adipocytes, secrete a hormone called leptin into the bloodstream. An increase in leptin, also known as the satiety hormone, signals the brain that you are full and should stop eating.
Your Appetite Increases
People on a diet usually see their weight drop, and their fat mass also starts to go away. But less fat mass means a significant drop in leptin level for the brain. Brain scans in obese patients who had lost 10% of their total body weight have shown that a drop in leptin levels increases activity in areas of the brain that control our urge to eat. The result is not just an increased appetite but also a strong desire to eat greasy and fatty food containing lots of calories: this is your brain trying to get its leptin levels back to normal.
Fighting the Craving, Not as Easy as it Sounds
However, fighting against this urge to binge on fatty foods is worth it in the long run. Aside from lower risks of heart attack, high blood pressure, cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, scientists who study obese people have found that losing 500 grams takes 2 pounds of pressure off the knee joints.
When you are overweight, your joints, especially your knees, hips, and back are under more pressure. Losing a few pounds decreases the stress on these joints, thus reducing the symptoms of osteoarthritis. Slimming down allows you to be more mobile, more flexible, and brings better physical independence as you age.
Also, losing weight can also increase blood flow to your brain, reduce tension on your blood vessels and heart, and boost your brain activity.
Numerous studies have shown that people who have had surgeries to lose weight have improved their memory, concentration, and problem-solving ability after 3 months.
Head scans indicate that people who have lost weight and managed to keep it off for 9 months react differently than before when they are shown pictures of calorie-rich food. The brain areas that process reward, motivation, and taste don't respond as much as they used to, whereas the areas that deal with self-control get stronger.
So overcoming your uncontrollable urges early on might make them easier to deal with later. Eventually, losing weight, like many things, becomes more manageable with training as soon as you get used to it.
The Quality of Your Sleep Improves
In a study published in 2014, researchers noticed that people who had lost at least 5% of their initial weight after 6 months, gained an average of 21.6 minutes of sleep per night, against 1.2 minutes for those who had lost less than 5% of their weight.
On the other hand, an overweight person is more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, which occurs when you stop breathing while asleep. According to a 2009 study published in the British Medical Journal, significant weight loss in obese patients reduces symptoms of sleep apnea.
Knowing that untreated sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart-related issues and cardiovascular disease and that severe sleep apnea is associated with a risk of premature death, it's definitely worth it to think about it.
If you still struggle to lose weight despite all the efforts to reach your objectives, make sure to take our FREE quiz and get a custom meal and workout plan to fit your everyday lifestyle. We will be happy to take this burden off your shoulders and tailor the right program for your needs.
You Sweat Your Fat Out… Yes, Literally.
For many people, losing weight is a big deal. Despite the number of professionals in this industry, people are sometimes still debating where all this lost fat goes.
A recent survey of 150 doctors, dietitians, and sports coaches showed that 50% of them believed fat was converted into energy or heat. In other words, the excess would be used by the body during physical activity and sweating. This is a commonly held belief, but it remains incorrect.
In reality, during the process of metabolizing fat, the result of this reaction is mainly exhaled in the form of carbon dioxide, also commonly known as CO2. To put it another way: fat is evacuated through respiration and in the form of water through sweat and urine.
Your Brain, The Real Decision Maker
According to Sandra Aamodt, an American neurobiologist studying the effects of dieting on our brain, there are two undeniable facts regarding weight loss: you don’t get to choose your weight, and improving health requires physical activity every day.
She believes the ideal weight is not something you can set for yourself since your brain is the one who actually gets to decide based on your genetics and life experiences. Just as the body needs a certain number of hours of sleep, the brain has a preferred weight range that it will strive to defend.
This regulatory system is based in the hypothalamus, an area of the brain involved in many behavioral functions such as the body’s internal temperature regulation, circadian rhythm control, and hunger. It receives various signals related to lipid storage, sugar levels in the blood, and food intake. It acts in response to your appetite and metabolism, which means the energy consumed by the body to function correctly and maintain stable body weight.
This benchmark weight would fall within a range of about five kilograms. People who engage in physical activity tend to be downwards and sedentary people upwards. It can increase throughout life. Thus, a person who gains fat mass and remains overweight for several years will see his target weight increase because the brain will take the new weight as a benchmark.