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Why you shouldn't exercise to lose weight, explained with studies (vox.com)
82 points by hmppark7 on Mar 6, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 82 comments

I've lost the reference, but the result of a decently-sized study (based on self-reported data) on people who moved from the obese (or morbidly obese) category into the healthy category and stayed there for 12 months:

80% lost the weight with diet and exercise changes; slightly less than 20% lost the weight with diet changes alone; less than 1% lost the weight with exercise alone.

The key is how much exercise. Jog a mile and that's around 100 kcal. Now, go to a corner store and look at every single snack on the shelves.

Can you find one that is less than 100 kcal?

How many can you find that are over 500 kcal? That's 5 miles. In my corner store I can find lots of snacks that are up in the 800 kcal range (it's a meal!!!). 8 miles. Of jogging.

One of the things that drives me crazy is that if you go on the internet and find calorie calculators for exercise, they are often wrong by a fairly high margin. You'll see sites that tell you that you'll burn 1200 kcal from an hour of cycling. Well... if you are riding 45 kph, then yeah...

It's pretty easy to lose weight from exercise if you do it regularly and don't increase your diet. If you burn 500 kcal a day (jogging 5 miles or 8 km -- every day!), then you'll burn a pound a week. But that muffin you eat as a reward? Or that power bar you enjoy on your 20 km cycle route. Yeah... Sorry, you're back to zero.

And that's the problem. It takes real effort to burn a pound a week and it takes absolutely no effort to eat a pound a week. So you definitely should exercise, but you must watch your diet at the same time. Some people are good because they don't increase their diet at the same time as the exercise. But most people need to pay attention.

You mention the inaccurate exercise calorie burn calculators, but then state that jogging one mile burns 100 kcal. For most people, jogging one mile does not burn anywhere close to 100 kcal.

Calorie burn rates for untrained to semi-trained people fall in the 1-4 kcal/minute range. For trained individuals, burn rates can go as high as 15-20 kcal/minute during interval training. For reference, elite-level long-distance endurance racers (marathoners, long-course triathletes) typically burn about 3 kcal/minute.

Hmmm... You made me break out the calculator. I'm thinking 150 w is probably about right for the effort for a 10 minute mile. 150 wH is roughtly 130 kcal. So divided by 6 that gives just over 20 kcal. So you are right!

It shows you how easy it is to fall into the trap of repeating things you've heard :-P

Now wait just a second here. Looking at:


Which summarizes:


A 156 lb subject burns 112.5 kcal/mile running a 10 minute mile. But that's gross calories. A random BMR calculator (5'8" male, 156 lbs, 45 y/o i.e. myself + 10 lbs) gives ~ 1600 kcal/day, which is 1.1 kcal/minute, or 11 kcal in 10 minutes. So that's a net kcal burn of pretty close to 100 kcal/mile.

What am I missing?

(Aside, I ran over 3300 miles last year and did not lose weight; I don't doubt the futility of trying to lose weight through exercise alone.)

I think the difference is the amount of energy that you burn directly from the running and the amount of energy that you burn due to increased metabolism/repairing your body due to the exercise. The first is not going to be that different between people, but the second could possibly be quite variable. I spent a bit of time trying to find primary sources for the justification of these numbers and I couldn't find anything easily. I don't doubt they exist, but I've been burned enough times through sloppy interpretations of scientific papers that it probably makes sense to take a close look before I shoot off my mouth again ;-)

I suppose either way, the original point stands -- it's incredibly easy to eat your way out of progress made with exercise.

> Can you find one that is less than 100 kcal?

Let me introduce you to my favourite snack when cutting: nori seaweed. It's something like 10kcal per 3 sheets. Add salt and slowly toast over an open flame.

if you go for the already-flavoured ones, they're like 30kcal per packet

Ha ha! That's quite a good one. In Japan I can also get flavoured kombu. It's quite chewy so it takes a while to eat :-)

I used to think that running on a treadmill was the only way to lose weight. So I was eating 3,600 calories of pasta every single day and ironically trying to burn those extra calories with a 30 minute walk. Fat loss is done through proper eating, I wish the fitness industry would stop advertising more advanced ab workouts for losing belly fat.

One more data point: last year I managed to lose some weight (82Kg -> ~75Kg) mostly by reducing sugar intake. I did not increase exercise (I kept doing the same 3Km daily walks as before).

Wrote something about it on my blog: http://joaoventura.net/blog/2016/chart-diet/

Last month, I tried to limit my calorie intake. I lost about 1 kg/week. And I didn't do any exercise, at all.

Maybe I'd achive greater weight loss if combined with exercises, though.

You would. Calories in - calories out.

Simple math. That's not all there is to it, but if you're trying to burn fat, it'll take you most of the way there.

It is not that simple. Regular exercise raises also your base energy consumption while you are not exercising. All that muscles, greater heart, bones etc. have to built somehow after exercise, that uses energy. You are not getter faster, lighter and stronger while running, but in the rest.

The maintenance burn on a pound of muscle is pretty small.

Like 5-10 calories a day.

It is not only maintenance but also building burn.

   > You would. 
No, and that's specifically what the article is about. Specifically the quote you are looking for is:

"Physical activity seems to set off a cascade of changes that can affect how much you eat, how many calories you use, and in turn, your body weight."

I mean that's saying that because you exercise you will probably get more hungry to offset the calories burned so if you eat more you could end up with a net negative.

There are studies (eg. [1]) that show that your resting metabolic rate increases significantly if you do strength training (although from what I've read the effect is limited to men). RMR is like 70% of your total calorie burn - so increasing it by 7-9% from strength training is a significant chunk.

So from my experience it's possible to cut fat and gain muscles by doing strength training if you can keep your calories in check - and it's faster than just dieting (tried both). The number on the scale will go down as at about the same rate because you'll be packing on some lean body mass and you'll see the BF % go down faster.

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11283427

    > I mean that's saying that
    > because you exercise you
    > will probably get more
    > hungry
It might also be saying "your body responds to exercise by burning less calories during the day by making you more tired to conserve calories", or any number of other things.

>your body responds to exercise by burning less calories during the day by making you more tired to conserve calories"

But that's proven wrong, eg. in the link I posted above and numerous others and goes against common sense of anyone who tried it. Feeling fatigued is a newbie thing, after you get used to it you will have more energy not less.

It's less about calories in - calories out as it is about giving those calories something better to do than turn into fat cells. Exercising breaks down muscle, you need energy to build it back up.

If you exercise too much then you'll get hungrier, it's easy to overeat in this situation if you're not careful. So just keep it to light walks or cardio and prioritize the diet.

As you said, that's not all there is to it. I wonder if we can improve that simple saying with a couple of other simple easy to understand sentences. Sort of like Pollan's: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants".

"Weight change = calories in - calories out. Exercise makes you hungry."

But I'd also like to add a simple sentence that captures the essence of what happens on a radical calorie restriction without exercise, like lowered metabolism and muscle loss. Suggestions?

But as the article notes, the third sentence I want is less important than the first two.

There's a difference between losing weight and being fit. You'd typically end up unhealthily skinny if you want to have a flat belly without exercising. Many people complaining about their belly aren't even that fat and just need to have proper abs (as well as back and perineal!) training to hold their viscera and prevent them to try to run away forward because gravity rides everything.

The real point is not that X does or doesn't work, but that weight gain/loss is complicated and personal. I lost ~40 pounds after I started running. My diet was essentially the same or maybe a bit worse - the "compensatory behavior" mentioned in the article. Do I expect running to have the same effect for everyone, and recommend it to everyone on that basis? Nope. It didn't even completely work that way for me. After I lost 40, I slowly gained back 10 before my weight seemed to stabilize. This time, definitely no change in diet. No idea why that happened.

I could name a dozen friends who have had similarly "anomalous" experiences - both good and bad, with various approaches to weight loss. Turns out there's a lot going on in there, and not the same lot for everyone. Some studies have shown that gut flora have a large effect on weight gain/loss, so at least for some people the answer might be neither diet (as generally thought of) nor exercise but changing one's internal ecosystem. The good news is that biologists and medical researchers are beginning to untangle these factors, so in another ten years we might all have access to personalized weight control that actually works consistently.

Well exercise worked for me. Started cycling to work, lost 10kg in 6 months, with no change made to my diet.

Maybe you're right but if you're anything like me, I don't believe you.

I am just not a good observer for my own actions. The very act of logging what I eat changes what I eat, how much I eat, and how often.

If you asked me last year how I lost weight, I'd have said by drinking more water. That is likely not true in hindsight. At least, it is not the complete truth. The point is that I can't tell you what worked, even just for me.

This right here is the correct answer.

It's also why studies on the topic is really hard.

People aren't deliberately lying, but subconsciously ignoring what you actually eat is REALLY pervasive in people, and like you say, logging what you eat changes what you eat, in almost everyone.

So many people (including myself) that say "I just started lifting weights" did so much more. In reality what happens is you have an epiphany/catharsis/turning point in your life that makes you want to become healthy, and the direct action you make is start excercising, but the indirect actions you make are not stuffing your face with a bag of chips as often, and drinking more water, redistributing macros on your plate, and maybe substitute a protein shake for a meal at times.

And presto: You've lost a ton of weight (figuratively) "just by excercising a bit".

maybe not the complete truth but: drinking more water makes you feel fuller and thus less hungry, decreasing your overall calorie intake by making you less likely to snack.

Here's a study of just the satiety part [0]. Now, I won't state that there couldn't be an effect on diet anyway.

[0] "Drinking water prior to a meal does not affect hunger and satiety ratings in young adults and older subjects"


Even drinking more water alone might have been enough, it could have displaced you from consuming other beverages, like my own vice of sugary fizzy caffeinated drinks.

Worked for me. And also after a while all the cycling helped me change my diet after a while since I no longer fancied eating a whole 12" pizza after a big bike ride, I'd just get a light salad or something.

I also started cycling (2x 1 hour a day) but noticed that I needed to eat more in order not to become overly exhausted and to keep my concentration. After three months, I didn't lose any significant amount of weight.

if you weren't in particularly good shape before you started cycling, the lack of weight loss might have been caused by your muscles growing. Almost every study/article about weight loss fails to mention that starting excersize causes muscle growth. And muscles weight 2x times more then fat. So if you're only checking your weight it might stay the same, but it's just you exchanging fat to muscles.

Yes, muscles definitely increased. My upper legs became more muscled which I could simply measure by the fact that I didn't fit in my jeans anymore. But at the same time, belly fat remained roughly as pronounced as it was before exercise.

The whole "exchanging fat for muscle" thing is wildly exaggerated. It really doesn't happen to any significant extent. You'll put a little muscle on your legs from cycling but at most probably a pound or two. When people claim they stayed the same weight but gained muscle, it's mostly wishful thinking. It's hard to put on significant muscle even when exercising specifically for that goal and intentionally gaining weight. It just doesn't happen accidentally from cycling to work.

Do you drink much? Anecdotally my friends seem way thinner shape once they cut out beer, maybe even alcohol entirely.

Studies leave it out because it's such a minor effect. You won't put on a meaningful amount of muscle from cardio. It's just wishful thinking when people see their weight stay the same and assume it means they've gained a bunch of muscle. Meanwhile their pants don't seem to fit much different... Lots of stomach muscle, I guess.

Sounds like your blood sugar is singing. Cutting excess carbs can get you to start burning fat and alleviate them.

Yes I'm now on a low carb diet since a number of weeks. I'm losing some weight, and feel less dizzy. But still every now and then I feel a need of energy, and eating e.g. some nuts doesn't seem to help much. But perhaps I'm still adapting.


Possible, this means you were already eating very close to your TDEE, all you needed was to slash off a few calories (which you burned cycling) to be on a caloric deficit. Plus the cycling sped up your metabolism enough so that your body at rest also burned more calories. This is how you lost weight.

Doesn't work for everyone cause most out of shape people eat far above their TDEE, and simply don't exercise enough to burn enough calories to cut away that surplus and get into a deficit.

To save others Googling — "Total Daily Energy Expenditure": your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR; i.e. energy used up at rest) + calories burned through any activity (exercise).

Weight loss really isn't that complicated.

Want to lose weight? Consume less calories than your body needs so it has to convert your excess fat for fuel.

Exercise can help you use more calories so you get a slightly bigger deficit but unless you exercise like crazy every day it isn't going to give you much of a deficit.

I think the issue is people think doing half an hour of cardio and some weights means they can continue to eat whatever they want or only do slight calorie reduction.

If you are not losing weight it is because you are still consuming more calories than you need.

Exercise is great for making you fitter but weight loss comes from calorie reduction.

So calculate how many calories your body needs based on age, sex, height, weight and honest daily activities and then eat 15% less and you will lose weight.

Edit: Just to be clear I am not saying exercise isn't important. Everyone should exercise but, IMHO, the more important part of losing weight is getting your calorie intake under control.

You can see the problem in the article: "And according to my bike, I had burned more than 700 calories. Surely I had earned an extra margarita."

No, that's not how food works. That's why your diets fail.

I think some people are talking past one another in these discussions. Yes, you will lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn. But the discussion of _how_ to make that happen is more complicated.

Great work by Vox, I love how much they do on informing the public.

BTW the Vice URL: http://www.vox.com/2016/4/28/11518804/weight-loss-exercise-m...

Thanks for this, the yellow highlighting was extremely annoying, i didnt realise it wasnt even the original url until i started looking for a way to turn it off.

Clickbait title. A better way to name is would've been "Why exercise is not enough to lose weight".

Nonsense. The studies show that exercise will limit your weight loss even when you control your calorific intake: so if your primary goal is to lose weight, you shouldn't be exercising. The title is fine.

Of course, it's not the _healthiest_ option, but that's not the point of the article.

Actually the article itself said that exercise and portion control lost the most weight.

"In general, diet with exercise can work better than calorie cutting alone, but with only marginal additional weight-loss benefits."

Then they show a chart where people who exercised ate a little more didn't lose as much weight. Well big surprise , they were cheating.

Why does everyone need to make weight loss so complicated? All you need to do is burn more calories each day than you consume. If you're not exercising, you're still burning calories, so in that case you just need to eat less than you're burning!

Maybe the trouble is people exercise and then they think they're hungrier than they are so they eat more calories than they even burned.

I hear this argument so often. It's complicated because the human organism is complicated. Counting calories is a good approximation but it is only an approximation. The error for calories in a nutrition label is up to 20%, and that is based on an approximation to begin with (e.g. 4 kCal/g for protein). Beyond that, people have different digestive systems with different efficiencies for absorbing nutrients from different sources.

Then there's the soft factors. Counting calories is a lot of work, not many people stick through it. You end up with a lot of gaps in your data anyway, unless you give up eating foods that you can't source good data for. Psychologically we are fairly bad at estimating portion sizes. There are a ton of situations (restaurants, potlucks, etc.) where calorie counting becomes impractical or cumbersome.

On top of that, there's the changes in mood that come with reduced caloric intake. Again, different from person to person. Not simple.

I guess if you phrase it as "eat less, lose weight" then it's simple, but eating and your waistline are far from the only thing in your life. Calories in, calories out is a pretty solid theory but doing the numbers is a different matter.

Calories in, calories out. I know this because I struggle to gain weight, quite the opposite problem most folk have.

If I eat over 3k calories, I gain weight. If I eat less than 3k, I lose it.

Not tracking my calories and quitting my workouts due to wisdom teeth extraction and a nasty sinus infection turned chronic has cost me 20lbs.

20lbs I worked very, very hard to gain. Consuming half a gallon of whole milk a day, forcing myself to eat even when I had no appetite, etc. Working out. I felt great and looked better than I had in awhile. All gone now, back to square one.

My goal is to get over this sinus infection, (black plague, whatever it is) continue counting calories, as well as exercising, to put that weight back on and then some.

Time is your friend. After 30 it becomes a lot easier :)

Not always true. I'm now 40 and still struggle to keep my weight up. Same as OP I have to consume a large number of calories throughout the day, eating every two hours.

If I let my guard down I slide back to 145 lbs within a few weeks and have to climb the mountain all over again. Age has yet to cure me of this.

Time is not exactly a friend. After 30 parent might have the opposite problem...

its a bad friend

Not to mention 40!

I must say that the bends in the graph is very noticeable.

Or maybe because that view is overly simplistic - to quote the article:

We've long thought of weight loss in simple "calories in, calories out" terms. In a much-cited 1958 study, researcher Max Wishnofsky outlined a rule that many organizations — from the Mayo Clinic to Livestrong — still use to predict weight loss: A pound of human fat represents about 3,500 calories; therefore cutting 500 calories per day, through diet or physical activity, results in about a pound of weight loss per week. Similarly, adding 500 calories a day results in a weight gain of about the same.

Today, researchers view this rule as overly simplistic. They now think of human energy balance as "a dynamic and adaptable system," as one study describes. When you alter one component — cutting the number of calories you eat in a day to lose weight, doing more exercise than usual — this sets off a cascade of changes in the body that affect how many calories you use up, and in turn, your body weight.

The complication is that long term weight loss is functionally a behavioral challenge, and getting human beings to make long term behavioral change is not easy. Sure, maintain calorie balance or deficit and you'll be fine, but it's exceedingly rare that someone will track calories for their entire life. So we're left with either retraining their ability to intuit what they should be eating on a daily basis, and/or eating the types of foods that tend to make this job easier. That's where you start to end up with all the varied advice—it's an attempt to overcome behavior. If everyone had a perfect willpower, obesity would be an easy solve.

We've long thought of weight loss in simple "calories in, calories out" terms...Today, researchers view this rule as overly simplistic. They now think of human energy balance as "a dynamic and adaptable system,"

It's the idea you need a caloric deficit of 3,500 kcal in order to lose 1lb of fat that they're describing as 'overly simplistic', based on this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035446/

At the end of the day, weight loss is still calories in, calories out -- as frustrating as that can be.

>We have very little control over our basal metabolic rate, but it's our biggest energy hog. "It's generally accepted that for most people, the basal metabolic rate accounts for 60 to 80 percent of total energy expenditure," Kravitz said.

This is hardly a new discovery. The article tries to present the well known fact that weight is mostly related to calories in vs calories out as something that could actually useful in some way but then fails to come up with any helpful advice.

Sure, exercise is not all that for weight loss, but what else is there? You have to exercise anyway for health so it isn't like exercise is a variable in anyone's lives. If exercise doesn't make me skinny then why should I care?

After working out all summer I have a significantly more muscle and a significantly less body fat. For all I know I might actually be heavier at the end of the summer. I don't really know because I don't pay any real attention to my weight. I think it is an overrated metric.

Short explanation:

It's much easier to control your diet than it is to run a marathon every other day.

But if you can force yourself to run a marathon every other day, you'd very likely also be able to stick to a healthy diet. So both kind of depend on self-control – or whatever one wants to call it – and it would be interesting to know what exactly makes modern (or western?) people so different in this regard, as well as the difference between individuals with a similar background.

>But if you can force yourself to run a marathon every other day, you'd very likely also be able to stick to a healthy diet.

And you'd also have huge damage to your bones, feet and possibly heart.

As a person that have lost over 40kg's in the past I'd say this is a very true point.

I converted from an obese man to a gym body person.

The process was long and took a lot of discipline. After years keeping it I'd say the thing I've learned from it is that your diet is around 70% of the effort you have to put in.

A lot of people think that lets say bodybuilders are just a product of drugs "oh ye if I take steroids I'll become like him" ... No. Thats definitely not true. While I don't condone the use of any enhancement, I have to admit that being a bodybuilder is a lot more tougher than you think and it requires a lot more discipline on your schedule than you'd think. So yes cut down food and yes exercise a bit... dont just stay inactive, even walking helps ( You'll find out later that the more active you remain by walking etc the easier its going to be when you are older ).

Can't outrun a fork.

I'm 34 and stay thin (BMI 21) by eating as much non-carb food as I want and doing strength training every couple days. My theory is that starving yourself and running long distances is counterproductive, because it teaches your body to be economical with energy, which is the opposite of what you want. And eating mostly fat is good for you, because it keeps hunger in check and teaches your body to use fat for fuel, which is exactly what you want. It's broscience, but it works for me.

I concur. If you want to burn fat do resistance training.

Think about the energy it takes to move something heavy from one place to another. That's the energy you're burning when you do resistance training. Cardio is great and necessary for fitness, but it's not the key to burning fat.

So what do you eat for lunch during the work week, for example? And for dinner?

Meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, leafy greens, onions, mushrooms... Also fruit or berries if I want something sweet. No bananas though, because they make me hungry. A great lunch for me would be a lot of chicken with cream, mushrooms and onions, then an orange for dessert. Washed down with water (I hate soda).

Article says, exercise alone is not enough to lose weight. Well duh. That's like saying driving your car is not enough to lose gas, because you keep filling it up. People who say Oh you just need to exercise more don't realize that some people eat a mountain of food every single time they eat. People will likely use this clickbait title to sit on their ass and drown themselves under a mountain of carbs or if they're "trying to eat healthy" a vat of beef.

Lets clarify things. If you're not exercising that's a problem. You should be exercising, it's healthy. Do not worry about if exercising is going to make you lose weight or not. If you're not controlling portions that's a problem and it will make you fat. Exercise will not fix your 3000 calorie a day diet. Don't think that because you're eating 3500 calories of beef a meal that you're going to lose weight because it's not carbs. Do not expect a restaurant to give you a normal portion because the average american restaurant gives you a personal food trough. Do not expect to lose weight by eating normal meals but then snacking literally all day long, or drinking calorie rich beverages all day long.

"Exercise" and "diet" are very vague parameters . In each organism, exercise means different things, and nutrients are consumed differently. Even calories are a bad parameter. We need a more scientific approach to diet, based on individual metabolic profiles.

> The researchers behind the study found that people who have had success losing weight share a few things in common: They weigh themselves at least once a week. They restrict their calorie intake, stay away from high-fat foods, and watch their portion sizes.

There's also research showing that staying away from high-carb foods can help lose weight. [1]

See especially this diagram: [2]

> They also exercise regularly.

So we should exercise to lose weight, contrary to the title of the article?

[1] https://authoritynutrition.com/23-studies-on-low-carb-and-lo...

[2] https://cdn.authoritynutrition.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/1...

> There's also research showing that staying away from high-carb foods

Most people should actually watch their carb intake more than their high-fat intake. The most silly products are fat-reduced but sugary things, such as certain cereals.

good article, but what i miss is: if there's a biological ceiling, how do we explain top athletes that burn 10k calories a day?

I think it's more reasonable to call it a plateau than a ceiling. There's only so much energy the body can conserve in other activities.

If you do six hours of exercise burning 1000 calories per hour, it's physically impossible to compensate that away: in that day you burned at least 6000 calories, and more realistically upwards of 7000 (keeping your body alive for another 18 hours, building/repairing muscles, etc). I guess the article conveniently leaves that out because it's largely irrelevant: few people are able to invest that amount of time into their diet.

I was a part time fitness instructor for over 10 years. I would burn about 1000-2000 calories exercising most days of the week. It did help me lose a maintain weight loss because I definitely didn't watch what I eat.

That being said, I would always tell other people that to key to weight loss and maintenance isn't "dieting" it's finding a combination of cutting back on how much you eat and exercise that is sustainable for you long term.

The other part of the equation is that realistically, unless you are already in shape, your body can't handle the intensity required to burn 1500 calories in a day in a reasonable amount of time. If the most you can handle is walking 4 miles an hour, you'll be walking three or four hours a day. I know people who run 6 miles a day in the morning and in the evening but it took awhile to build up to that.

Performance enhancing drugs (legal and illegal)

"Just eat less"

Shameless plug....

Fed up with diet and exercise failing, I proved to myself that I could lose weight without exercise and wrote a book about it using my diary notes. I lost 40kg in 40 weeks (90lb in 9 months) without exercise.


My wife had a terrible autoimmune disease (dermatomyositis) and gained a lot of weight because she was pumped with huge amounts of steroids.

So I looked into some of the biochemistry, social, psychological, and neurological factors around weight loss, and there's a few crucial problems:

1. Most of the information and advice is unscientific, pro-industry, or outright fraud that peddles feel-good short-term weight loss for long-term financial gain;

2. The common-sense approach, "eat less", does not work – evidence suggest it fails to take into account how the brain and body work (and, in particular, how we make decisions);

3. There are at least three equilibriums in balance, of which we tend to deal only with the first:

i.) The short-term hunger cycle (days) – i.e. we eat when we're hungry;

ii.) The medium-term (months) "set-point", deep in the decision-making part of the brain, that crops up (there's a good Ted talk about this), that controls metabolic function - how much we eat, and of what we eat how much is stored as fat;

iii.) The long-term/result-based (months-years) hydrocarbon cycle - hormones emitted because of fat cells that are not flush with energy (i.e. living fat cells that can contain more hydrogen) trigger brain chemistry changes that appear to trigger reduced inhibitions during decision making. Binging.

4. Stigma and social support – understanding of weight-loss is widely misunderstood, oversimplified, taken for granted, or part of a counter-productive commercial motivation (i.e. in Western society we're surrounded by people who think you can pay for weight loss — "I went to Jenny Craig and lost 10lbs"). People trying to lose weight are often shunned from the very social settings needed for weight loss to occur, and commercially driven advice dominates our perceptions, leaving it tainted or geared towards short-term cycles of self-doubt, insecurity, impotence, and frustration, that in almost all cases (>95%, IIRC) leads to perpetual, cyclical weight gain.

It seems that for any weight loss to be permanent, it must deal with all three cycles. Media articles like the linked are helpful for spreading awareness of the complexity of the issue, but they rarely go beyond a widely-accepted single-focus theory ("eating > exercise"), which I recall being common knowledge in the 1980's (when we used to say "diet is 90% of the battle").

All that said, there appear to be two ways that have a substantial probability of permanent weight-loss:

A.) become a calorie-counting fanatic; or B.) gastric bypass (staples, not the tube).

The number of people who have the mental fortitude and social setting to sustain A. is less than 0.5%, I seem to recall. Leaving bypass surgery as the only option, but it remains expensive and uncommon.

One article I read indicated that if everyone who needed bypass had it, many food companies in the USA would be driven out of business. I thought that was a fascinating insight into the meta-forces that could be at work.

The above is just a set of highlights from my recollection of critically reading hundreds of articles on the topic. What was particularly striking during my research was how weak (if not outright misleading) the vast majority of the articles were, with a few – sadly, exceedingly – rare exceptions.

In future we might come to understand the biology better, but that's a small part of the battle. I suspect much research needs to happen on the medium-term "set-point", but it would appear that we need not just research but a better formulation of how research is fundamentally driven, commercial food and weight-loss incentives are aligned with health and actual results, cultural attitudes that help sustain sensible choices rather than stigmatize and ostracize, and better ways for information about complex topics such as this to be disseminated in useful ways.

Meta question for OP: Do you have an association with Liner? I notice that this is the second article you've posted that uses it[1].

To any mod that reads this: Can the URL be changed to point to the original article[2]?

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13801423

[2] http://www.vox.com/2016/4/28/11518804/weight-loss-exercise-m...

Edit: I see that you do from your submission history[3]. This seems a little disingenuous to me.

[3] https://news.ycombinator.com/submitted?id=hmppark7

Thanks—we changed the URL from http://getliner.com/AaD03?hacker=true.

It's ok for people to post their own stuff to HN (though not exclusively, and not overdoing it). But it's not ok to post URLs that hijack or wrap other URLs. That breaks the HN guideline asking for original sources: https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html.

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