Why Crash Weight Loss Programs Don’t Work

One of the most startling findings is the notion of constrained daily energy expenditure. This is the idea that the human metabolism adapts to our activity levels to keep our daily calorie burn in a surprisingly narrow range — no matter how hard you work out

Why Crash Weight Loss Programs Don’t Work: Clues From Hunter-Gatherer Societies — https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/07/16/1016931725/study-of-hunter-gatherer-lifestyle-shows-why-crash-weight-loss-programs-dont-wor?utm_source=pocket-newtab

Now I understand how my low exercise levels during year one of the pandemic factored into my weight loss efforts. My metabolism reset and it spent calories on other life functions. Here’s the part of the interview that hit home for me. The quote refers to a recent television show The Biggest Loser.

Contestants went on this show and were put under a brutal routine of intense exercise, coupled with near starvation. You can lose a lot of weight that way. But it’s not sustainable. Your body pushes back hard by slashing its metabolic rate.

The Take Home Lesson

DO exercise for all of its associated health benefits. But exercising more is not exactly the best strategy for losing weight.

Herman Pontzer is an evolutionary anthropologist at Duke University. His theory argues that human metabolism has evolved to the point where how we eat and expend our calories is more important than what we eat. I think I’ll put his recent book on my list of books to read.


6 Replies to “Why Crash Weight Loss Programs Don’t Work”

  1. I don’t understand the comment that How we eat is more important than what we eat. What does it mean, How we eat?

    And what do you think is the best approach for weight loss? What accounts for your weight loss during Covid lockdown?

    I wasn’t going to the gym, during that time. I attribute my weight loss to not eating out at restaurant, and muscle loss from no longer doing resistance training. Also getting sick for one week after a severe reaction to the flu shot. And then also having a colonoscopy, which involved several days of very little to eat and strong laxatives.

    1. This is strictly my personal understanding of Pontzer’s comment. The how we eat relates to his opinion that humans do not have a singular diet that we evolved from. His study of hunter/gatherers specifically the Hadza in Tanzania tells us we are omnivores but worldwide we tend to structure diets around what’s available locally. Hence how we eat may be specific to our unique heritages. I tend to agree with this line of thought. The what to eat comment does not refer to any specific foods or diets but more so to any and all fad diets where people become obsessed with their choices, as in Keto, Paleo, etc. an extension of the eat this, not that mentality.

      1. I’m still working on my “best approach” to weight loss because over the years I’ve managed to lose weight using different strategies. My massive weight loss was due to caloric restriction period. More recently my Covid lock-down weight loss story is nearly identical to your experience. Less restaurant food clearly helped with eating healthier at home, portion control, sodium content, etc. I also got sick pre-Covid with the nastiest GI bug I ever had and lost five pounds in a week. No beer, less calories. I started eating more protein with all meals, which dampened hunger longer, and I snacked less. But as I said I’m still working on figuring out the full list of why I lost weight during the lock-down.

  2. Oh, and I also partially attribute my weight loss to no longer performing weekly weights at the gym. I was unaware of the weight loss until a doctors appointment over the summer. That prompted me to buy a bathroom scales which I use every Sunday morning now.

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