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Louis Aronne

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Kirstie, Stop Beating Yourself up: There's Only One Way to Lose Tthe Weight

Posted: 05/12/09 11:29 AM ET

Last week Kirstie Alley admitted that she had gained back the 83 pounds she lost on the Jenny Craig program. She was ashamed of herself and promised to drop those pounds once again.

But a quick-fix diet method like the Nutri-System probably won't work, because weight loss programs like this have one major flaw: they make you hungry.

Despite what you've heard, weight loss really isn't about priorities, willpower, or pushing yourself away from the table. If that were the case, Kirstie, who has those qualities in abundance, would be stick thin. Rather, the key to losing weight is about regulating a specific part of your brain that I'll simply call your "fullness center." If you're overweight there's a good chance that your fullness center isn't functioning.

My 23 years of research into weight loss show that this area of the brain acts like the fuel gauge in your car, measuring the amount of fat and calories in your body. In you are overweight the needle on your fuel gauge may often read "empty," even when your stomach is full and your fat cells are overflowing with stored calories. End result: you feel hungrier and hungrier, even as you are gaining weight. As soon as you try to cut back on your portions, you are hungrier still.

For example, one of the hormones that does not work effectively in overweight people is leptin. Leptin is supposed to tell your brain's fullness center, "We have enough fuel, stop filling up the gas tank." In overweight people leptin either is not getting to their brains, or their brain cells are not responding to leptin's message. End result: the needle on the fuel gauge doesn't budge. You still feel hungry long after you should really feel full. Your food even tastes and smells better for a longer period of time, inducing you to keep right on eating.

My research shows that you can fix your fullness gauge by following a diet that is heavy on filling foods (vegetables, soups, salads, lean protein, legumes, whole grains) and low on hunger promoting foods (sugar, starch, fat, artificial sweeteners and junk foods). If you change the order in which you eat (protein first then carbs), you'll have even more success. You need to pair that with a moderate amount of exercise, especially strength training. And you need to make sure you are not practicing any hunger promoting habits, such as skimping on sleep or taking the wrong medicines.

Kirstie Alley ate a vegetarian diet, heavy on pasta and Chinese food. In all likelihood, those foods were not triggering her brain to register feelings of fullness, so she ate and ate, until she gained back 83 pounds. The good news is that there is a way to lose weight and keep it off. No shame, no guilt, and no unrealistic goals that you'll never meet. It's more about biology than willpower.

I recommend you all try it. It's not a quick fix, but the results are long lasting and it works!