I want to lose weight. “But you do not need to lose weight,” you say? I know that I do not NEED to lose weight, but I want to. As I work towards my 2013 goals and my mildly ambiguous goal of being in the best shape of my life for my 30th birthday, I want to lose weight. I have managed to lose the weight that I gained during my time working at a weight loss resort (kind of ironic, huh?). And I am back to my body’s favored set point – 152 pounds. And I feel stuck here. I know you can all relate to this feeling.
Specifically for goals 3 – 10 strict pullups and 5 – bench press my body weight, my optimal weight is 145. NOTE: this is not a random number I pulled from a hat, but is based on numerical calculations and realistic improvements I can expect in the given time I have allowed myself.
My body likes 152, and it has for years. Our bodies have ‘set points’ that our brain (specifically the hypothalamus) works to maintain, through sending signals related to energy intake (i.e., eating and nutrition), hormone levels, and energy expenditure (i.e., exercise; Harris, 1990). I know that my energy expenditure far exceeds that of a typical individual – mostly because that is what I seem to have the most control over! The hormones associated with your set point can be regulated – to a certain degree – through diet and exercise. And knowing such, I continue to tell myself that my dietary routine needs to be tweaked in order to reach my 145 pound goal.
Harris (1990) notes that “regulation of body weight in relation to one specific parameter related to energy balance is unrealistic.” I can attest to this. Over the last several weeks I have made various modifications to my already well-balanced and healthy meal plan. That 152 pounds is lingering (with 2-3 pound fluctuations, which is typical for females. Sorry!). It is remaining steady. My set point is holding strong!
One can change his/her set point through modifications of both intake and output (Keesey & Hirvonen, 1997). So if I alter my energy expenditure along with my dietary intake, and maintain an altered body weight for long enough, I can change the set point. But I MUST do both – nutrition and physical activity modifications. Research shows that changes in nutrition alone do not alter an individual’s set point and will ultimately result in an individual returning to the most recent ‘comfortable’ and consistent set point within weeks (Keesey & Hirvonen, 1997).
Notice, the research I reference is not new. Nor is the research that each of these articles references. Moral of the post – THIS IS NOT NEWS. Experts have known this forever! So why do so many of the fad diets and gimmicks focus solely on dietary consumption? Good question if you ask me!
The truth is that I spent years wanting to be 140 pounds. I had let that go a couple of years back, realizing the incredible discipline it would since I was not willing to reduce my muscle mass. But I have tried – again and again – to lose 5-7 pounds. Going from 163 to 152 was easy. Returning to my set point took nearly no effort (e.i., implementing previously mastered disciplinary skills). But to change that set point – although it feels impossible – I am going to make it happen! And you can too!
Harris, H. B. (1990). Role of set-point theory in regulation of body weight. FASEB ], 4. 3310-3318.
Keesey, R. E., & Hirvonen, M. D. (1997). Body weight set-points: Determination and adjustment. J. Nutr. 127(9). 1875S-1883S.