Kill the Craving

8/22/2008 BATON ROUGE, La. Since 1960, the average American's weight increased by 24 pounds, leaving more than nine million Americans morbidly obese.

"I have been overweight my entire life," Laurie Halpin told Ivanhoe.

"I'm a stress eater. So stress will do me in every time and I just use food as comfort," Pam Hahn told Ivanhoe.

Halpin and Hahn know how hard it is to live obese.

"I have a lounge dress that I used to wear and it fit very comfortable without being too big," Halpin said.

"When I looked in the mirror I always saw this. I didn't have full length mirrors in my house for that reason," Hahn said.

Now they are living life lighter.

"I lost 124 ¼ pounds," Halpin said.

"118 pounds," Hahn said. "It was a struggle. It's still a struggle to stay there."

Both lost the weight through diet and exercise and both say it's a battle every day to fight the urge to eat the wrong foods, which can be hard with all the temptations facing them. In fact, one in four Americans will eat fast food today. If you have a Super Sized Coke, fries and Big Mac, you would have to walk seven straight hours to burn it off, so it's no wonder our waists are expanding.

"People tend to gain a pound a year, especially women post menopausal," Emily Rubin, R.D., a weight loss specialist at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, told Ivanhoe.

That's why scientists are now testing what could be the perfect food.

"We hope to identify different clinical interventions that can help reduce body weight and help maintain that weight loss," Corby Martin, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of health psychology with the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La., told Ivanhoe.

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center has investigators running what may be the most sophisticated metabolic test kitchen in the country hoping to determine which kinds of meals satisfy us best with the smallest penalty to pay on the scale.

"Finding the magic combination of macro nutrients that will promote satiety," Dr. Martin said. "That's pretty difficult to do and we haven't done that yet."

Meanwhile, researchers at Temple University are looking at drugs to help fight fat. They are using a drug therapy that treats obesity as an addiction.

Other weight loss drugs are mainly amphetamine-based. They increase the amount of dopamine hormones in the blood, lowering hunger levels. But side effects can include high blood pressure, anxiety and restlessness. New drugs are being developed that may trigger a hormone called leptin, which turns off the feeling of hunger in the brain.

Although researchers are not certain how the brain and the stomach interact when it comes to hunger, one thing is for certain: to get rid of the obesity epidemic…

"It's gonna take a lot of help from science," Dr. Martin said.

And a lot of will power.

"I used to resent people who would say they only needed to lose five, 10, 15 pounds," Halpin said. "I would suck in my breath and roll my eyes at them, but now I understand that that's how thing people stay thin. They take care of five or 10 or 15 pounds before it gets to be 60-80-124."

"I set small goals. I set 10 pound goals," Hahn said. "Once I reach that 10 pounds, then I work on the next ten pounds."

Together, Halpin and Hahn have lost 242-and-a-quarter pounds -- and both will keep counting their calories and adding up the pounds lost.

Until foods are created that help us lose weight, nutritionists say if you eat 500 fewer calories a day, that would add up to a pound of weight loss a week. So what does that mean? Eat two pieces of wheat toast instead of a bagel and you're saving those 500 calories.

Pennington Biomedical Research Center
(225) 763-2500

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
(800) 533-3669


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