The Catching Point: Gaining Enough Momentum to Make Weight Loss Easier

One thing is clear regarding healthy diet and exercise: it is much easier for those who are already lean to do it for body maintenance than it is for those who are obese trying to make a change. People hoping to lose pounds quickly by abruptly starting to exercise and eat well ignite a survival response that turns hundreds of thousands of would-be dieters back each year.

The nature of the survival response is a subject for another article, but for now – how can we overcome it? How can we get that critical amount of momentum, after which things are so much easier? How can we stay on track long enough so that habits “catch?”

The traditional teaching is to push through it and overcome the early entry barrier with “mind over matter” techniques. Unfortunately, that approach has contributed to notoriously high diet failure rates and continually increasing incidences of obesity. In recent years, the obesity medicine literature has provided us with new options that address sustainability. These principles help patients stay engaged long enough so that healthy living gets easier; long enough to reach a “catching point.”

1. Something is better than nothing.

The American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control, and the American College of Cardiology (among others) categorically agree that “progress, not perfection” should be the goal. Time and time again, the pursuit of perfection leads to failure. The inability to keep a predetermined schedule leads to the all-or-nothing decision to “quit your diet.” Dieters should strive to accumulate as much change as possible in the long run. That is, successful weight loss will come for the person who is persistent about accumulating 15 workouts or 15 healthy meals or 15 recoveries in total, rather than necessarily in a specified amount of time (i.e., 10 pounds in 10 days).

2. Flexibility is associated with success in weight loss.

Rigid structure leads to failure. People cannot follow generalized day-by-day schedules for a host of reasons: the body rebels, life gets in the way, motivation wanes, etc. Weight Watchers® is endorsed by many medical groups and has been successful largely because of its implementation of flexibility to obtain the long-term goal. The same principle is helpful for staying on track regarding fitness, recovery, and diet.

3. Recovery is essential for actual body change to take place.

Successful people in the fitness space attend to recovery. Obese individuals generally lack the exercise capacity to significantly affect calorie balance. These individuals should employ exercise in this space to induce adaption, so that they will improve their ability to burn absolute calories and their bodies will initiate neural signals from the periphery to the brain (outside-in) that will ease their burden of exercise.

4. Concepts are proven effective in weight loss.

The concepts of self-monitoring, stimulus control, specific nutritional choices, motivational interviewing, and physical activity are proven effective in weight loss. A combination of these techniques may accelerate dieters through the stages of change toward long-term effect.

5. The hunger hormone system can be bypassed and appetite can be changed.

A complex system of hunger hormones exists that drives human beings to eat in order to survive. This system is responsible for the intense hunger pangs, fatigue, and motivation “zap” that follow the onset of calorie restriction and new exercise. This system can be modified, through careful (intentional) activity and supplemented recovery, to keep dieters on track.

The goal of these principles is to change failure rates. There is no question that the great majority of available diet and exercise programs would indeed lead to weight loss if completed. The pandemic issue is that people quit them. Attention to these principles may help dieters stay engaged long enough for the lifestyle to “catch” and the survival response to diminish.

About J. David Prologo, MD

J. David Prologo, MD, FSIR, ABOM-D is a dual board-certified interventional obesity medicine specialist. He is a nationally recognized expert in ablative therapies and has pioneered several interventions for the management of obesity through sustainability, including the freezing of the hunger nerve and catching point capacity curve. Dr. Prologo’s research focus is on helping patients “not quit their diets.” Specifically, he works to make dieters successful by managing the body’s resistance to change.