Set Point Theory

I've been a bit incommunicado for the last couple of weeks as we were traveling Germany and Austria... and then I underwent a major trip hangover-which literally all I wanted to do was plan future adventures-no worries we have a small weekend getaway to Louisiana planned for September, so I'm starting to recover. In all honesty, I had meant to prepare a few posts for when we got back and while I did most of the research I ran out of time to put it into coherent sentences.

My self care is and always will be a priority and while I would love to be the type who can whip out a post on the daily, I don't think I ever will be. And that's a-okay with me. I do hope to mostly post 2-3 times a week with occasional breaks here and there. It's likely to ebb and flow given what's going on in life. I hope you stay with me for the ride!

So we've addressed what HAES is and is not-now let's dive into some of the science. Excuse me while I nerd out a little bit.

At the core of Health at Every Size is set point theory. Set point theory suggests that all of our bodies have an individualized weight range that our bodies trend towards. Even though it is called a theory-science suggests that when we don't actively try to control our weight it tends to stabilize reinforcing this idea. Our set point is not likely to be an exact number so fluctuation in your weight it is completely normal- the range can vary +/- up to 10 pounds give or take-varying person to person.

Your weight may be more similar to body temperature or our pH balance than we are led to believe. For those who haven't done a lot of reading or research on the human body and anatomy, our bodies can only sustain life if our pH and temperature are kept within a very fine range-anytime we even begin to stray away our body has measures and mechanisms that kick in to get it back to a normal range to keep us safe and alive. In this case, we can try to change our weight, but our body will keep fighting us to get back to equilibrium (our set point range).

Catch 22: Your body wants to maintain the status quo and is stubbornly resistant to change. When you lose body fat, the very loss of fat triggers processes to reclaim it. So losing weight in and of itself is counterproductive to maintaining weight loss.”
— Linda Bacon, PhD, Author of Health at Every Size

This can go very far in explaining why diets and sustained weight loss are so damn hard. It’s possible that those who sustain the weight loss (generally around 5% of the population-that's right diets have a 95% failure rate) were above their set point prior to the weight loss. Or maybe they are currently below their set point because they are actively engaging in unhealthy restrictive behaviors.

So how is our set point weight determined?

There are a many factors that help determine body size-and our eating habits are pretty low on the list. Below are some of the major contributions:

Genetics is a large predictor in what our bodies size will be and what shape we may have. I know this sucks and our teenage self may want to come out and say "My parents ruin everything!" but honestly they didn't choose it either. And did that blame game ever get you anywhere, really?

Another factor that can influence our set point weight is environment. Which we may or may not have control over depending on, well, life and it's many mishaps and mayhems. Do you have access to fresh food and water? Are you in an environment that causes a lot of stress? Does your environment encourage you to be sedentary or physically active? This list can go on for a while, but our control over this varies with our age, wealth, and so much more.

The last thing, which we have the most control over, is our dieting history. And no, dieting typically doesn't do what you want it to (lower the set point) but actually raises it. Diet cycling particularly, where we are yo-yoing between diets triggers our set point may go up... and up... and up. What happens is that our body does not know when we are actively trying to lose weight versus a famine. So when we diet our body's alarms go off because of the restriction done in dieting believes we are starving. Our body, the self preserving machine  it is (see above desire to keep us in equilibrium), will do everything it can to get us back to our set point. Often times, it will raise the set point in anticipation of another famine... because if we have a bit of extra weight, we can survive for a little bit longer. You will see this weight gain as your body betraying you. Your body sees it as a means to survive.

Our body, the self preserving machine it is (see above desire to keep us in equilibrium) will do everything it can to get us back to our set point. Often times, it will raise the set point in anticipation of another .png

So what is my set point weight?

We're not talking about an exact number here. There is no specific formula to figure out your set point. There's not even an ideal number. As I said above, it's likely a range that can vary by nearly 20 pounds (depending on the individual). But if you're ready to give up dieting, if you want to work towards body acceptance, you can get there.

How do I get to my set point? 

As I said before, it's possible to achieve your set point. I wish I could tell you it's going to be easy... but it probably won't. It will take unlearning. And relearning. And a lot of patience and compassion for yourself and for your body. But you can do it by:

  • Rejecting diet culture
  • Listening to your hunger and fullness
  • Honoring your appetite and begin to return to eating intuitively (we'll touch more on intuitive
  • Recognize food for its values beyond nutrition by allowing yourself to feel not only full but satisfied by food whether it's physically, emotionally or mentally

If you are struggling with any of this but still want to continue on the path to accepting your body and saying no to diets for good, I highly recommend meeting with an anti-diet dietitian. We can help you move away from the restriction that comes with diets and into freedom. If you are in Bloomington, or wish to work virtually with me, you can check out my services here!

Headers-4.jpg

Sources

Set Point: What your body is trying to tell you http://nedic.ca/set-point-what-your-body-trying-tell-you

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon