Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Why You Are Hungry After Losing Weight

Everyone knows it's difficult to lose weight; but it's possible. What's really difficult is keeping that weight off after you've lost it. Most people regain the weight they've lost, and then some.

Now researchers have a clue to why this is true.

A small Norwegian study of people with "severe obesity" (average 275  pounds, BMI 42.5 plus or minus 5) showed that everyone in their study was hungrier than they had been before the weight loss, which averaged 24 pounds.

The reason seemed to be that their hunger hormones were increased.

One hormone that was affected by the weight loss was ghrelin, which is produced by the stomach when it's empty and tells you it's time to eat again. After you've eaten, the levels of ghrelin decrease. One might expect that after a long time at a lower weight, the body would adapt and ghrelin levels would be reduced to normal. But this didn't happen, at least for two years.

What this means is that if you've lost weight, you can't expect things to go back to what they were like before you gained the weight. You'll always be hungrier than other people.

It's good to know this, because forewarned means forearmed. If you know ahead of time that increased hunger will be a problem, you will have time to figure out how to deal with it. If your health care people know that increased hunger will continue, they can try to help you figure out how to deal with it.

I think most overweight people think that if they could just lose weight, they'd be thin people, and they could eat like thin people. I certainly thought so when I was young and went on a diet because I weighed 105 pounds. Well, in college I had weighed 100.

I was going on a vacation in Puerto Rico and wanted to be able to eat whatever I wanted, so I lost those 5 pounds on a Weight Watchers diet, which in those days was a low-carb diet. Once in Puerto Rico, I cleaned my plate at restaurants and ate desserts and promptly regained all the weight I'd lost. Clearly I hadn't been transformed into a thin person who could eat everything in sight without gaining weight.

Again, being forewarned that your hunger will increase as you lose weight should help. If your health care people understand how difficult it is to maintain weight lost through dieting, they should be more empathetic about what you're going through and better able to help you to cope.

Many people, including me, find that low-carb diets reduce hunger, and the diet used for the weight loss was 50% carbohydrate. So this study provides no evidence about ghrelin levels if the dieters had restricted carbohydrates. Let's hope so. For me, at least, a lifetime without cookies would be better than a lifetime with hunger.


  1. I have never had any hunger maintaining a healthy human weight.

  2. Anonymous, one person's experience doesn't necessarily apply to everyone.

    I would take your comments more seriously if you had the courage to use your name.

  3. I also lost a few pounds to get my BMI down to 20 and was never hungry. It must be an obese persons problem.