The body seeks homeostasis - or - Why it is so hard to keep weight off

First, let it be known that I am not a dietician. Only Registered Dieticians and medical doctors have the training and expertise to dispense with diet advice.

That being said, I often get asked by my clients about the best ways to lose weight. In a paper I wrote while studying for a Master's degree in Exercise Science, I detailed some of the challenges in keeping weight loss from returning and the personal strategies I use to lose weight.

I present it here to you now with the caveat that I teach exercise for a living, not nutrition. But this is the sort of general information I give to my clients when they ask about weight loss:

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There is confusion among the general public about the best ways to lose weight. While simple on its face (expend more calories than you consume), the fact is that weight loss is unique to each individual and is composed of a dizzying array of hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors.

Standard advice is to eat less and exercise more, and that a 500 calorie a day deficit should lead to a 1lb. per week weight loss. If it were that easy, everyone would be skinny.

The fact is the body seeks homeostasis. When a person starts to lose weight, a host of processes begin in the body to return it to its accustomed weight. For instance, the hormone leptin, which triggers hunger, is increased as the body starts to lose weight. Losing weight might be a "simple" matter of eating less and exercising more, but the body will fight your best efforts to keep that weight loss off as it tries its hardest to get back to homeostasis. 

Further, weight loss reduces resting metabolic rates (RMR) in a process called adaptive thermogenesis. Unfortunately, the more one loses, the more RMR is reduced (Evert & Franz, 2017). This effect is measurable even many years past initial weight loss.

So while it is certainly possible to lose 1 to 2 pounds of weight per week, it is not advisable for many individuals. Truly, slow and steady win the race. A more reasonable method, and one I have used successfully myself, is to aim for weight loss in the region of 1 to 2 pounds per month.

This allows the body to slowly reset its baseline homeostasis and helps to prevent the biological drive to regain weight. Weight loss such as this can be achieved by small steps such as eliminating alcohol most of the time or reducing portions. These are goals that can be maintained, as compared with the difficulty of maintaining a low-carb or low-fat diet.

I also try to put on muscle while losing weight to counteract the lowering of RMR. Muscles require more energy to function; therefore, the more lean muscle mass a person has, the more energy she will burn. Unfortunately, weight loss typically reduces lean muscle mass, so measures must be taken to counteract this process.

It should be noted that I am of normal weight and have no chronic conditions. The advice might be different for someone who, for health reasons, needs to lose weight more quickly.

References

Evert, A.B., & Franz, M.J. (2017). Why weight loss maintenance is difficult. Diabetes Spectrum 30 (3), 153-156.

McGill, E.A., Montel, I.N. (Eds.). (2017). NASM essentials of personal fitness training, 5th Edition. Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning.

Zydek, G., Michalcyzk, M., Zajac, A., & Latosik, E. (2014). Low- or high- carbohydrate diet for athletes? Trends in Sport Sciences 4 (21), 211.

Pilates Ten Minute Tune Up

There's an old saying in the Pilates industry that the best way to stop doing Pilates is to start teaching it. There's more truth to that statement than you know.

When you spend your whole day teaching Pilates, sometimes the last thing you want to do is get on the mat or a piece of equipment and teach yourself.

Over the years I've managed to find a workaround for this problem.

I call it the Ten Minute Tune Up.

Several times a week, I put myself on a mat and do the following order in about ten minutes:

100s, roll up, single leg circles, rolling like a ball, stomach series, shoulder bridge, saw, swan, single leg kick, double leg kick, teaser, side kicks, side planks, swimming, and seal.

This order puts my spine in all its planes of movement, moves all my joints, and can be performed with good form in about the same amount of time it takes to check my facebook feed.

There's no hard and fast rule that says each Pilates session must be one hour. In fact, we have clients at Pilates Sol who do 30 or 40 minute sessions. So please don't feel guilty that you don't have the time or mental energy to do a "full" one hour session. Just get on the mat and give it all you've got for ten minutes.

We're Expanding!

Exciting times here at Pilates Sol! We're opening a second downtown studio!

The new studio is located in the heart of the Central Business District at 306 Forbes Avenue across from the new PNC Tower. 

More and more of our clients are living and working in that end of town. When a possible location was offered to us, we jumped on the chance and my husband and I are now busy getting it ready to open in June.

It will be filled with classical Gratz equipment, of course, including two reformers (one of which I have affectionately named Little Martha because she's an old school 80 incher instead of the typical 86 inch).

I can't wait for you all to see it. This time around, as compared to when I opened the Penn Avenue location, I am the one responsible for renovating the outside of the studio. I'm going for a Paris bookstore feel, with a beautiful rich paint color and gold lettering, and a stunning chandelier hanging in the front window.

It really is a great time to live and work in Pittsburgh. Every day that I go to work I feel thankful for our beautiful city and the wonderful people I meet here. With the new location, I am doubly grateful for the opportunity to share my passion in the city that I love.