If you’ve ever tried to lose weight by eating fewer calories, you know that restricting what you eat can trigger super-strong food cravings. Just knowing that you’re not supposed to have that second slice of pizza mysteriously makes you want it more.
Because this urge can make it extra difficult to reach your weight loss goals, researchers from the National Institutes of Health recently set out to get the bottom of what causes it. To rule out any change in appetite linked to feeling deprived, they gave over 150 adults a placebo or type-2 diabetes drug that triggers weight loss without any dieting. Then they monitored everyone’s weight loss and food intake for 52 weeks.
Interestingly, the people who happened to lose weight from taking the pills ended up changing their eating habits. For every two pounds they lost, they ate about 100 extra calories per day.
The implication is that the more weight you lose, the hungrier you become, even if you’re not consciously following the kind of weight loss diet that leaves you feeling deprived. It’s a shitty situation considering that in actuality, the more pounds you lose, the fewer calories your body needs to function. If you eat more when your body needs less, you could end up gaining every lost pound back and then some. It’s no wonder it’s so difficult to keep weight off!
On the up side, this new insight proves the human body is designed to reject weight loss. So it’s not exactly your fault if you lose a few pounds and then gain them right back. Blame science!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.