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Weightloss is a complex area and involves many drivers such as inflammation, poor sleep and stress. Have you ever noticed that your body weight stays relatively stable – if not a little higher than what we feel is comfortable? Most people in clinic say to me “If I could just lose 2-5 kilos I would be at my ideal weight”.
What is a Setpoint?
Just as our blood pressure, blood glucose, body temperature and pH are governed by homeostasis, research suggests the amount we weigh may also be governed by an ‘unconscious homeostatic control’, whereby our body maintains a narrow bandwidth of body weight. This is called our weight set point.
Think about it, when your core temperature changes too much, your body will correct it and its the same for our body weight. Your body will execute physiological and behavioural responses to recalibrate your body weight back to its set point, whether it’s below or above.
What Does the Research Say?
Two famous studies may help to explain the phenomenon of the set point.
The first, the Minnesota Starvation experiment took place during world war two. It involved healthy male volunteers who were conscientious objectors. They were placed on a semi-starvation diet for 6 months because there were fears the nation would need to severely ration food supplies. The study set out to investigate the feasibility of cutting out 50% of their daily calorie intake. This is a perfect example of when the body is pushed below its set point.
The results of the study were insightful. The men lost a significant amount of weight due to calorie restriction but not surprisingly their basal metabolic rate dropped at the same time.
During this semi-starved state the men were obsessed with food – these behaviours included: hoarding cooking utensils and dreaming about food, amongst other things.
I think most people can relate to this! When I have tried to ‘go on a diet’ in the past I would think about food all of the time, and that is one of the reasons I am not in to fad low calorie diets.
Once the study was over, their mind and their bodies had one intent – to put back on the weight that they had lost. They gorged themselves! Their appetite was insatiable until they reached a certain point – you guessed it – their pre study weight.
Another unusual study which looks at the other end of the eating spectrum is the Vermont Prison overfeeding study. This is an example of when weight is pushed above the set point, and then the body elicits a ‘defence’ against this.
This study recruited inmates with a promise of early parole (this is not an ethical study in my opinion but it can still provide insights for us). The aim of the study was to investigate changes to fat cells and they did this by overfeeding the inmates with amounts reaching a huge 33,472-41,840 kilojoules (8,000-10,000 calories) per day.
During the experiment, the inmates’ basal metabolic rate skyrocketed to make up for this increased food intake. Once the overfeeding was completed, inmates barely ate as they had little hunger and they lost all of the gained weight.
These two studies demonstrate how the body will adjust its energy output and its appetite to restore fat mass back to its ‘set point’. So the question becomes how can we change this set point?
That’s where you come and work with us at Studio You, where we have proven methods of making shifts in the set point. Join our proven 6 week Fat Loss Program to lower your set point!
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