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In a recent study conducted in the UK, researchers explored the role of individualized diet plans in people’s efforts to lose weight. Seventy-five participants were divided into three groups based on their individual eating patterns.

In feasters, who after they started eating had a hard time stopping, the researchers found a hormonal dysregulation in the gut. These hormones are responsible for conveying to the brain when it is time to stop eating. However, when this mechanism fails, it is difficult for people to stop eating even though they have already consumed enough. The recommended approach for feasters is to consume a diet high in protein and low in glycemic index. Such foods take longer to digest and help people feel full longer.

In another group, the constant cravers, the results showed a significant role of certain genes in people’s sensation of hunger and satiety. These genes prevent the brain to respond to the satiety signals it receives. As a result, people with such genetic predispositions feel a constant urge to eat. The researchers noted that constant cravers have the most difficulty improving their diet. The recommendation is to follow an intermittent fasting protocol, during which a person takes anywhere between 12 to 16 hours between meals, thus reducing the number of calories consumed. This is usually done on a 5:2 day ratio, eating normally five days a week and following intermittent fasting on the remaining two.

The last group, the emotional eaters, developed the habit of turning to food for emotional comfort at times of high stress and anxiety. As opposed to the first two groups whose dysregulated eating habits have a physiological basis, emotional eaters respond best to encouragement and cognitive behavioral therapy, which help to break the bad eating habits and replace them with new, effecting coping strategies.

The study also addressed some dieting myths regarding exercise and metabolic rate in weight loss efforts. The researchers pointed out that as much as exercise is beneficial, it is not an effective weight loss tool. Because people exert themselves during exercise, this leaves them less active the rest of the time. At the end of the day, the total energy expenditure evens out. Exercise also tends to increase people’s metabolic rate, which can lead to the consumption of more calories than the amount that has been burned during exercise. Additionally, exercising might prompt dieters to reward themselves for the effort by eating potentially unhealthy foods.

The researchers explained the myth of metabolic rate by its variability. Metabolic rate changes depending on a person’s size, average food intake and energy expenditure, which is why it is not an effective weight loss predictor.

The results of the individualized diet plans exceeded the researchers’ expectations. The participants lost a total of 8% of their body mass, as opposed to the anticipated 5%. The feasters group lost the most weight, and the constant cravers confirmed the prediction of having the toughest time.  Participants of the study found relief in understanding why their weight loss efforts have failed in the past, and hope in knowing that a tailored plan for weight loss s more likely to succeed.

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