Dark Clouds Loom in Our Ongoing Battles with Obesity

Together, biology and our environment make a formidable foe against our limited tools for combating obesity.

Those tools are items like more sidewalks, walking on those sidewalks, brighter stairwells, climbing those stairs, and restrictions on unhealthy food, says John Peters, chief strategy officer and professor of medicine at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Health and Wellness Center.

“It’s Godzilla versus Bambi,” said Peters. “I saw that movie. It was short.”

Peters was speaking last month at an educational program on obesity at Anschutz, organized for 15 journalist fellows from around the country – including me – by the National Press Foundation.

Scientists from Anschutz and elsewhere presented evidence supporting the energy balance idea of why we’re fat – you know the one: energy in, energy out – and assessing some of the solutions available to offices, schools and restaurants.

Some of the findings are pretty depressing.

For one thing, it’s much easier to lose weight than it is to maintain that loss.

We learned from Dr. Daniel Bessesen, a CU professor of medicine, how chubby rats live on a trajectory to fatness that can be interrupted by diet restrictions or exercise, but which bounces back the minute the diet or exercise program ends. And it turns out the human body responds to weight loss by spending less energy, by changing its metabolism to promote weight regain, and by getting really, really hungry.

However, there are some things to try, some silver linings behind all those dark clouds. For one, if you do manage to maintain a healthy weight, the scientific term for you is awesome.

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