Why Your Brain Is The Biggest Barrier to Lasting Weight Loss

For decades, the main focus on weight loss was on your metabolism. But the real mastermind of weight regain might be how...

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Today’s Health Upgrade

  • The surprising science of why you regain weight

  • Do you need to avoid red meat?

  • Free testosterone

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The Surprising Science Of Why You Regain Weight

Ever wonder why it’s so easy to regain weight? A breakthrough study makes it clearer than ever why weight loss is truly a mind game.

Research suggests your brain fights against weight loss and increases your desire to eat more calories. 

Your brain has a survival mechanism designed to help maintain fat storage. Think of it this way: your body likes balance. So, when you burn more calories, your body tells you to eat more calories. And the more calories you cut — and more weight you lose — the more your body cranks up the feeling that you need to eat more. 

The scientists built a mathematical model to show how powerful this is and found that for every 2.2 pounds (1 kg) you lose from dieting, your brain tells your body to eat another 80 to 100 calories.

Your metabolism slows down when you lose weight because it’s based on body size. The smaller your body, the less energy you burn to fuel it. But, unlike earlier beliefs, the change in your metabolism is not enough to explain why your weight plateaus. And the answer is that your brain makes it so difficult. 

Interestingly, the brain-hunger effect when taking the new-age weight loss medications (GLP-1s like Wegovy and Zepound) is less, and your brain only demands 48 extra calories for every two pounds lost. For comparison, bariatric surgery reduced your brain’s food crazing to 58 calories for every 2.2 pounds. This is one reason the new drugs and surgery are so effective — they change how your brain “speaks” to your body during weight loss. So, on the medication, it’s easier to continue dropping calories.

You can see how easily this adds up when dieting. If you lose 10 pounds, your body could be telling you to consume an extra 500 calories daily to offset the loss. This is why, in the study, participants were trying to cut 800 calories per day from their diet. But — because of these brain changes — as they lost weight, they could only eat about 200 fewer calories per day. 

This does not mean weight loss is hopeless. In fact, we’ve seen hundreds of people in The Pump app lose anywhere from ten to 100 pounds over the last year — and keep it off.

The first thing to know is it takes time for the weight loss plateaus to kick in. On average, it happens after about 12 months, meaning if you can stay consistent and weight loss is your goal, you can drop a lot of weight. Prior research shows that taking the slow and steady route can delay the weight loss plateau for up to three years.

The key is knowing that your hunger will increase, and cutting calories endlessly is harder. That’s why cutting calories gradually can be more effective, and eating more foods with protein and fiber can make a big difference because they fight against these brain changes to help you feel fuller for longer.

Do You Need To Avoid Red Meat?

The first rule of reading health headlines: don’t overreact.

This goes for anything, but especially nutrition research. You might see articles insisting any amount of red meat is bad for you, but a few swaps might be all it takes to plot a better path for improved heart health.

Research suggests eating more nuts, whole grains, and legumes could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. 

The question of red meat reduction is more about what’s going on underneath the hood. Some scientists recommend reducing red meat because of the relationship between red meat consumption and LDL cholesterol, specifically ApoB levels, a key indicator of cardiovascular disease. However, some research shows you can eat lean red meat in a fiber-filled diet and have lower LDL and ApoB. However, that same research suggests the more meat you eat, the more your LDL and ApoB increase. 

In the more recent study, researchers followed participants' health for an average of 19 years, analyzed their foods, and examined correlations to disease. They found that replacing one serving of processed meat (think deli meat or hot dogs) with a serving of whole grains, nuts, or legumes could reduce your risk of cardiovascular or coronary heart disease by up to 36 percent.

The research did not say you could never eat processed or red meat. Instead, it’s about limiting those foods, eating more foods loaded with fiber, and managing the total amount of saturated fat you consume. 

We recommend getting a blood test if you’re unsure whether you should include red meat in your diet — or how much you might want to cut back. The only accurate way to know your risk is to assess your LDL particles and ApoB. 

Instead of guessing, visit your doctor or use InsideTracker, which we love for its convenience and personalized health assessments. InsideTracker combines blood, DNA, and other data you provide to offer a holistic view of your health and recommendations for improving your health. As a member of the village, you get 20% OFF InsiderTracker.

If you want to take the stress out of dieting and see long-term success, start by making small, sustainable changes. Making one substitution to increase your fiber and decrease your processed red meat intake might not seem like much, but it could offer more health benefits than you imagine. 

As Seen On Social: The Real Testosterone Booster

Lots of supplements claim to boost testosterone. The reality? Very few deliver actual results. 

One popular supplement — deer antler velvet — claims it can boost IGF-1, a hormone that plays a role in muscle growth. Let’s ignore that most research suggests that benefits only occur in mice. Research suggests that to see results that would help you build more muscle, you would need to take 25 million nanograms per day. Meanwhile, the average bottle of deer antler velvet contains 3,000 to 5,000 nanograms. In other words, even if it did hypothetically make a difference, there’s no way to take enough of the supplement to boost your hormones.

That’s why we appreciated this video on Instagram with Chris Williamson interviewing Dr. Peter Attia. 

Instagram post by @chriswillx

To quote Dr. Attia:

I don’t think there is a better way to naturally increase your testosterone than adequate sleep and reduction of cortisol (stress). 

In other words, you could spend all your time spending money or buying expensive supplements that do little to nothing, or you could invest in doing a behavior that will not only boost testosterone but also will help brain and cardiovascular health, improve hunger, boost recovery, and help cognition and mood. 

And before you underestimate the role of sleep, Dr. Attia estimates that improving rest and chilling out could improve testosterone by up to 300 to 400 ng/dl. And for the record, that is an incredible improvement. 

Sleep more, stress less, and watch your testosterone increase.

Publisher: Arnold Schwarzenegger

Editors-in-chief: Adam Bornstein and Daniel Ketchell