Can't keep the pounds off? This is why you feel hungrier after weight loss

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A new study has shed light on why people find it hard to maintain a healthy weight in the long term after they have lost those extra pounds. According to the study, most people feel hungrier and have a strong desire to eat up to two years after substantial weight loss. So, if you've ever felt hungrier after losing weight, fret not, as research suggests that there's may be a reason why your body wants to consume more calories.

For the study, the researchers analysed 34 morbidly obese patients, including their appetite, who had received the gold standard in obesity treatment over a period of two years. On average, participants weighed 125 kilograms when they started the treatment. They were first admitted for three weeks at a treatment centre that specialised in addressing obesity, where they had to exercise regularly and undergo different tests. Participants also received nutritional education and had conversations with psychologists.

The findings of the study showed that the participants had lost an average of 11kg after two years, but all of them were hungrier than when they started treatment.

According to Catia Martins from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, most obese individuals are able to lose weight, even without support, but studies show that only 20% manage to maintain their new healthy weight.

Why you always feel hungrier as you lose weight

Martins says two factors are at play from a purely biological perspective. Firstly, when people lose weight, the stomach releases increased amounts of the hunger hormone ghrelin. And this hormone makes people feel hungry.

“Everyone has this hormone, but if you've been overweight and then lose weight, the hormone level increases,” said Martins.

The other mechanism at play is the body's ability to conserve. People who have lost weight need less energy to maintain their new and lighter bodies. And yet they feel hungrier because the body is trying to get that weight back, just to be on the safe side.

“A person who's been very obese has needed more energy just to breathe, sleep, digest food or walk. When the body loses weight, less energy is needed for these basic functions, simply because the body is lighter,” added Martins.

The researcher said that obesity should be treated as a chronic disease in line with other chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, where people receive help and close follow-up over time.

“Obesity is a daily struggle for the rest of one's life. We have to stop treating it as a short-term illness by giving patients some support and help, and then just letting them fend for themselves,” said Martins.

The study also found that while the feeling of satiety after a meal increased, the feeling of hunger increased more.

The study has been published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endrocrinology and Metabolism.

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