The story of the elephant who couldn't stay trim

An overweight elephant expends more energy than a mouse, which make sense right? It takes a lot more fuel to power an aircraft than it does a car.  So the elephant needs to eat more than the mouse because he burns more fuel.  He has a group of trim friends that always look great and he is sick of being overweight.  Let’s say the elephant decided to start exercising and limit his calorie intake and he lost quite a bit of weight, yah for the elephant!  So now the new trim elephant needs less fuel as he did before. Once the elephant lost his weight, he thought he could eat the same way as his forever trim friends eat because he was the same size and weight.  But as he eats just like them, the weight starts to creep back on.  Oh no!  This is confounding for the elephant because he doesn’t too badly and it just the same as his mates and they aren’t getting fat, WHY WHY WHY????  He pleads….

The unfortunate but true answer is “adaptive thermogenesis”.  From a technical definition it can be defined as the decrease in energy expenditure beyond what could be predicted from body weight or its components (fat-free mass and fat mass) under conditions of standardized physical activity in response to a decrease in energy intake.

But basically it means that a the formerly overweight elephant is going to burn LESS energy than his trim mates even though they are the same weight.  So the formerly overweight elephant is going to have to EAT less than his trim mates.  Our bodies have an overwhelming tendency to maintain a status quo, which I can see would have served us during periods of starvation to adapt energy expenditure, but doesn’t bode well for losing weight.  Best thing to do?  Shock your body!  No, don’t plug the hairdryer in and fill the bath.  But a rigorous change in diet and exercise can exactly the thing you need.  Think a juice cleanse or brand new exercise regime to help get your body snapped out of adaptive thermogenesis.  The trick is to maintain the new weight for at least 4 weeks so your body thinks this weight is a new “normal.” 


Catherine Craig
Catherine Craig

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