I hate excuses, especially when it comes to exercise, weight loss, etc. So now I find myself debating whether I should share a little tidbit that could validate many of those excuses.
This new-found (and disturbing) knowledge has been tormenting me for a couple of weeks now. Misery loves company, so – screw it – I’m sharing.
Here’s the thing.
As it turns out, people revert back to their ‘usual’ weight after a period of weight loss, whether it was a result of dieting or exercise, because their body is determined to get back to its ‘set point’.
You see, your brain (and specifically your hypothalamus) has its own sense of what you should weigh. This is called your set point, and is usually a range of 10-15 lbs.
In other words, your brain will act as a traitor, sabotaging your efforts, in an effort to get you back to your set point.
Well, isn’t that a kick in the teeth?
Thanks a lot, brain. You’re a real pal.
I learned this horrible truth in a TED Talk, Why Dieting Doesn’t Usually Work, by Sandra Aamodt, neuroscientist.
Aamodt explains that hunger and energy use (calorie burn) are controlled by the brain. So when your brain is intent on keeping you at a specific weight, it will adjust things, like your metabolism to get you there.
She uses the analogy of a thermostat to illustrate this concept. Much like a thermostat keeps the temperature in your house the same, regardless of the weather outside, your brain works to control hunger, metabolism and energy use to keep stability in your body weight. In the winter you could open a window to let the cold in but that’s not going to change the setting on the thermostat. It will respond by engaging the furnace to work harder to get the house back to the temperature set on the thermostat. Your brain works exactly the same way.
This explains so much.
Here’s the other thing: evidently set points can go up (i.e. reset to a new higher set point), but they rarely go down.
This explains so much more.
So now what?
Well, there is this concept of ‘best weight’, which I first explored here.
What I really like about Dr. Yoni Freedhoff‘s thinking in the area of best weight is that it recognizes that while someone may fall outside the recommended ranges of things like BMI scales or ideal weight, they can still be healthy and thriving.
He posits that there are some things in your life affecting your weight that you’re not going to be able to change, (set points, anyone???), and suggests that your best weight is whatever weight you reach when you’re living the healthiest life you actually enjoy.
The healthiest life you actually enjoy…
I gave up bread and pasta for a year a long time ago. My body was slamming, but I was a miserable bitch. I wasn’t living a life I enjoyed.
Now I indulge in all the bread my heart desires, but I do so knowing that it’ll take a LOT of sweating to work it off. Life is all about choices, especially when that damned hypothalamus is determined to act like such a prick.