Don’t let Christmas trap you on a diet roller coaster

Yo-yo dieting is both physically and emotionally draining, especially when the weight you've lost begins to pile on again.

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If you put on a few pounds over the holidays you may be tempted to go on a drastic diet in the new year. But recent research has shed light on why this probably won’t work in the long term and usually results in weight gain.

The study, which comes from the University of Adelaide in Australia and was published in the International Journal of Obesity, explores the process of how the stomach sends messages to the brain indicating when we are hungry and when we are full. The research suggests that in the obese, the mechanism by which those messages are sent becomes damaged over time in people who are obese and eat a high-fat diet.

Amanda Page, an associate professor at the university, explains that the hormone leptin regulates food intake and the sensitivity of the nerves in the stomach that signal fullness. Page says: “Under normal conditions, leptin acts to stop food intake. However, in the stomach in high-fat diet induced obesity, leptin further desensitises the nerves that detect fullness.” This has “very strong implications for obese people, those trying to lose weight, and those who are trying to maintain their weight loss”. Even at a lower weight, they won’t feel as full on the same amount of food as a person who had not been obese due to a high-fat diet.

There is a delay even at the best of times between your stomach being full and your brain registering it, so practising conscious eating of healthy foods is the best chance of preventing weight gain and helping the body heal.