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Why It Can Be Hard to Lose Weight

A major disappointment and frustration for many overweight clients is working hard to eat “normally” without pounds slipping off quickly or at all while watching others lose weight more easily. Fortunately, science is beginning to give us answers to why some people lose weight more effortlessly than others.

A report in Duke Medicine HealthNews, May 2010 details the discovery of a molecular mechanism that “controls energy expenditure in muscles and helps determine body weight.” Researchers from the Mayo Clinic, the universities of Iowa and Connecticut, and New York University found out that, “The mechanism is controlled by adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-sensitive potassium channels (KATP). ATP is the ‘energy currency’ used by cells in the body; the channels can sense ATP stockpiles and regulate heart and skeletal muscle performance accordingly. Animals which lack this mechanism burn more stored energy by dissipating more heat when at rest or when normally active. Excess energy from food is stored as glycogen or fat that can be converted into ATP according to energy demand. Animals without the KATP channels use energy less efficiently, consume more, store less and have lower weight” (Cell Metabolism, 1/6/10).

So what does this mean to you if you’re trying to lose weight? It means that you may be doing everything right in terms of “normal” eating, consuming nutritional foods, and exercising and still have difficulty if you have KATP channels which store energy efficiently. This finding and many others regarding metabolism and genetics imply that you may be someone who is programmed differently than people who can lose weight more easily. You can either use this information to reinforce that there is something wrong with you, and add it to the list of other perceived defects about yourself, or you can use it to accept that you will have a harder time than other folks decreasing your weight—which makes you neither a better nor worse person than anyone else. You have your struggles and frustrations and others have theirs.

I truly hope that studies like these about how metabolisms differ get their message out more publicly and more frequently. I want to shout it from the rooftops so that folks who shed pounds easily don’t look down at people who are unable to do so and so that folks struggling to lose weight don’t feel as if their efforts toward health mean nothing. It’s more than time to shift the focus onto eating healthy rather than losing weight. Each of us has limits based on our genetics. All any of us can do is to acknowledge them and take care of ourselves to the best of our ability.