Do not believe that you have to starve yourself to lose fat. Your body needs food. There are 3500 calories in one pound of fat. Some people so impatiently desire to lose the excess fat that they cut their calorie consumption to starvation.
If one needs 3000 calories to maintain its weight, one might choose to cut 2000 calories from their diet. He would then starve on 1000 calories a day for weeks.
At three weeks, he finds a loss of 30 pounds. Some fat, a lot of lean mass because the body has eaten tissues of muscle ,destroying contour and form. a LOT of fluid loss also because the body has to excrete nitrogen by protein breakdown due to starvation. He is sick and tired but he thinks “great job”.
He begins to eat as he had done just before starving. The weight explosion begins. In no time he balloons. Frustrated, he gives up.
He was unaware that the body has a ”SET POINT”. It tries to conserve a certain amount of fat and weight. When he tries to survive on such a meagre diet , his metabolic rate responded by decreasing its activity. He fooled his body into answering to a starvation diet. His body now required less calories to cope with maintenance and went into fat storage mode.
It resolved that, whenever it obtains food, it will store it. Eating 3000 calories again, emergency storage begins.
One must gradually wean oneself off the old set point by regular exercise and proper eating. The substances, Ghrelin, Leptin and Insulin also play a part.
The following article published by MealEnders, and written by Tami Lyon, MPH, RD, explains the set point theory and how to gradually break into healthy eating patterns. The link is:
The Set Point Weight Theory: What is Your Set Point and How Can You Change It?
By Tami Lyon, MPH, RD
July 15, 2019
Many dieters are familiar with the frustration of hitting a plateau during their weight loss journey. In the beginning, you shed the pounds easily and can’t help but get excited by the results. Yet, after a few weeks or months, your weight begins to plateau, even though you are continuing to engage in the same healthy habits. This abrupt halt in weight loss occurs because the body is fighting to maintain its “set point weight”.
The “set point weight” theory states that the body will fight to maintain the weight required for it to function optimally. You naturally become hungrier and your metabolism slows down as you begin to lose weight. This is your body’s attempt to return to your usual weight. Similarly, if you overeat, your appetite decreases and your metabolism ramps up to ensure you maintain your weight. .1,2
How, then, if we have this natural mechanism for weight regulation, do so many of us become overweight and struggle to shed the extra pounds? Is the set point theory true? Can your set point change? And are there ways to combat the mechanisms that make it so hard to lose weight? Let’s take a look at each of these questions more closely.
Is the Set Point Theory True?
The set point theory is true. Each of us has a genetically programmed 10-20 pound weight range that allows our bodies to function optimally. Much like height, hair, and eye color, you don’t have a say over what this range is. Some people are simply predisposed to be heavier while others are meant to be more petite. To maintain the body’s set point weight, the brain’s hypothalamus constantly monitors fluctuations in food intake and responds by releasing hormones that either increase or decrease hunger levels. The main hormones involved in appetite regulation are leptin, insulin, and ghrelin.
Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells. Larger fat cells mean higher levels of leptin. When fat cells shrink during weight loss, the amount of leptin in the blood also decreases. The hypothalamus senses this decrease and increases hunger levels in response by stimulating the cells of the gastrointestinal tract to release ghrelin. On the flip side, if you have a particularly indulgent meal, fat cells will expand slightly, causing an increase in leptin levels and a decrease in hunger.
Ghrelin is often considered “the hunger hormone” and is responsible for the gnawing sensation you feel in your stomach if you haven’t eaten for a few hours. The more ghrelin your body releases, the hungrier you will feel.
Insulin is most commonly known for its function as a blood sugar regulator, but it also plays a role in hunger. The primary function of insulin is to shuttle glucose (sugar) into hungry cells. When blood sugar levels drop, so does insulin. This drop in insulin is a signal that it’s time to eat again and another stimulus for the release of ghrelin
The body’s first response to weight changes is to create fluctuations in these hormone levels that regulate hunger. Weight loss increases hunger levels while weight gain decreases them.
In situations of persistent weight change, the body also creates fluctuations in thyroid hormone levels that govern the speed of our metabolism. During persistent weight loss, the body decreases the production of thyroid hormones T3 and T4. This slows down the metabolism and allows the body to function more effectively on fewer calories. It also causes a decrease in hunger, a potentially welcomed change for dieters. However, a slowed metabolism makes it challenging to continue losing weight and it may even cause you to regain the weight you lost even as you consume fewer calories!
In situations of persistent weight gain, we see the opposite metabolic response. When you consume more calories than needed to maintain your current weight, your metabolism will speed up. This means that our bodies are actually built to allow for indulgences. Consuming more food than your body needs on one day will cause your metabolism to rev up to make up for those extra calories. Plus, you won’t be as hungry the next day. As long as your average calorie intake over the course of the week remains stable, your weight will also remain stable.
Can Your Set Point Change?
YES AND NO.
The classic “set point weight” theory states that you have one natural set point and that the body will work hard to keep you within that weight range. This theory doesn’t provide explanations as to why it is easy to gain weight beyond your natural set point or why it’s so hard to lose weight once your weight reaches the upper end of the range or extends beyond it. This gap in understanding inspired scientists to further explore the mechanisms of weight regulation. Their research led to the development of a new term,“the settling point.” While you can’t change your natural set point, the weight range in which your body functions optimally, you can change your settling point.3
The “settling point” refers to the metabolic changes that accompany extended periods of excessive or restricted calorie intake 3 Once such hormonal changes have occurred, you “settle” into a new set point, with hunger levels that correspond to this new normal. In other words, your body is now trying to maintain this new “settling point”, even though this new target weight isn’t optimal for health. And unfortunately, because weight regulation is asymmetric (it’s easier to gain weight than lose it), it’s easy for the body to adjust into heavier and heavier “settling points,” all the while becoming less healthy.
Why Is It So Easy to Gain Weight and So Hard To Lose It?
Unfortunately, the body is generally much better at gaining weight than it is at losing it. As a survival mechanism, the body fights much harder to prevent weight loss than weight gain. This mismatch is known within the scientific community as “asymmetric biological control.”3 The body very readily converts excess calories into fat, which it then tries hard to hold onto, regardless of changes in caloric intake. Adding to the challenge of weight loss is the fact that it’s quite challenging to ignore hunger, but far too easy to overlook satiety. This makes it much more likely that you will overeat than under eat.
Additionally, weight is determined by much more than just genetics. Your actual weight is the result of the interplay between your genes and the environment.2 Your genes determine physical characteristics such as the size and density of your bones, how easily you build and maintain muscle, how much fat you carry, and where you tend to store your fat. One way to recognize the role of genes is to look at your family members. If your mom had a curvy figure, you are most likely naturally inclined to have one too. Another way to acknowledge the role of genes is to look at the difference between men and women. Men are more likely to carry extra weight in their midsection, whereas women, because of their higher estrogen levels, are more likely to gain weight around their hips, butt, and thighs.
Our environment also has a significant impact on our weight. The availability of high-calorie foods, high levels of stress, and sleep deprivation all increase the likelihood of gaining weight. Additionally, many of the most common packaged foods have been specifically designed to override satiety signals. Known as “highly palatable foods,” these processed goods have been engineered to stimulate the pleasure centers of your brain and to keep you coming back for more — usually by delivering the perfect combination of fat, salt, and sugar. Examples of these highly palatable foods include fast food, chips, cookies, granola bars, pastries, and highly sweetened drinks. Obesity researchers believe the current food environment, which is heavily saturated with these foods, is largely to blame for the obesity epidemic.
Furthermore, your environment can actually alter your genetic expression. This is a phenomenon known as epigenetics. Our environment can influence whether or not we express obesogenic genes (genes that predispose us to becoming overweight and obese). For example, we know that if mothers are undernourished during pregnancy, their children are more likely to have slower metabolisms, and their children’s bodies are likely to be more efficient at converting calories into body fat.4 Research has also found that obese mothers are likely to have obese children unless they lose significant amounts of weight before giving birth to their child.5 This research indicates that food availability (or lack thereof) and maternal weight can affect genetic expression. Currently, scientists suspect that a high exposure to calorie-rich processed foods during early childhood development may lead to gene alterations that increase the propensity for obesity. It should be noted that even if a genetic predisposition for weight gain exists, the right environmental conditions must be present for weight gain to occur. This means that, ultimately, it’s your diet and lifestyle, not your genes, that determine your weight.
How to Overcome the Weight Loss Plateau and Reset Your Set Point
There, unfortunately, is no way to directly measure your set point weight. This can make it hard to know if your weight loss has plateaued because you’ve hit your body’s natural healthy weight or because you are dealing with the problem of overcoming an altered metabolic rate as a result of weight loss efforts. The good news though is that if you take the following steps, and work on learning to listen to and trust your body, you will be able to achieve your healthy set point weight.
Make Slow Structured Changes
The first and most important thing you can do to prevent hitting a weight loss plateau is to make slow structured changes. Research has demonstrated that making small changes that can be maintained over a long time period leads to successful and sustainable weight loss without causing your metabolism to slow down.. 6,7 The key is to prevent your body from entering survival mode. Simply decreasing your calorie intake by 100-200 calories a day can be enough to result in weight loss. Your goal is to lose no more than 1-2 pounds a week. This might mean that you achieve your desired results more slowly, but it decreases the likelihood that you will regain the weight. Making small, slow, structured changes allows you to form habits that become full lifestyle changes.
Increase Strength Training
Research demonstrates that strength training is one of the best ways to change your body composition, especially exercises that are aerobic in nature or those that are combined with aerobic exercises.8 Muscles require extra calories to rebuild and repair themselves after a workout, which means that strength training allows you to keep burning calories even after you stop exercising. Moreover, by increasing your overall strength, weight training improves your ability to exercise more intensely and burn more calories during the workout itself.
When it comes to weight loss, diet is of utmost importance. You can’t lose weight, even with the most vigorous exercise program, if your diet isn’t appropriate. One of the easiest ways to decrease your calorie intake without feeling deprived is to consume more whole foods. Fill your plate with tons of vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean protein, and healthy fats, like those from avocados, nuts, and seeds. The combination of fiber, protein, and fat is the key to satiety. Furthermore, whole foods are more nutrient-rich than processed foods, and therefore, will be more supportive of your health.
So what are the big takeaways? Number one, the “set point weight” theory is true. And two, you can change your set point (or more accurately your “settling point”). All it takes is the commitment and willingness to slowly make small changes that will become healthy habits.
- Harris, R. B. (1990). Role of set-point theory in regulation of body weight. The FASEB Journal, 4(15), 3310–3318. https://doi.org/10.1096/fasebj.4.15.2253845
- Müller, M. J., Bosy-Westphal, A., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2010). Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight? F1000 Medicine Reports, 2. https://doi.org/10.3410/M2-59
- Müller, M. J., Geisler, C., Heymsfield, S. B., & Bosy-Westphal, A. (2018). Recent advances in understanding body weight homeostasis in humans. F1000Research, 7. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.14151.1
- O’Rourke, R. W. (2014). Metabolic thrift and the genetic basis of human obesity. Annals of Surgery, 259(4), 642–648. https://doi.org/10.1097/SLA.0000000000000361
- Herrera, B. M., Keildson, S., & Lindgren, C. M. (2011). Genetics and epigenetics of obesity. Maturitas, 69(1), 41–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2011.02.018
- Wadden, T. A., Neiberg, R. H., Wing, R. R., Clark, J. M., Delahanty, L. M., Hill, J. O., … Vitolins, M. Z. (2011). Four-Year Weight Losses in the Look AHEAD Study: Factors Associated with Long-Term Success. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 19(10), 1987–1998. https://doi.org/10.1038/oby.2011.230
- Weinsier, R. L., Nagy, T. R., Hunter, G. R., Darnell, B. E., Hensrud, D. D., & Weiss, H. L. (2000). Do adaptive changes in metabolic rate favor weight regain in weight-reduced individuals? An examination of the set-point theory. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(5), 1088–1094. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/72.5.1088
- Tremblay, A., Després, J. P., & Bouchard, C. (1985). The effects of exercise-training on energy balance and adipose tissue morphology and metabolism. Sports Medicine (Auckland, N.Z.), 2(3), 223–233. https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-198502030-00005