If you’ve struggled to lose/maintain weight, you may have noticed that fighting your body’s “set point” becomes increasingly difficult with time. Although your weight may fluctuate occasionally, it should be relatively stable and maintained at a certain level. This is called your set point.
For example: If you go on a diet, eat less and exercise more, you’ll probably lose at least a little bit of weight. But after a while, when your body is less focused on weight-loss, it may creep back up. Consider someone who underwent another method of fat-loss such as liposuction. If they increase their food intake, their weight will likely return to its pre-operation level.
How Does Set Point Work?
Everyone’s set point for weight is different, but many factors are involved. Even our brain plays a part! When you exercise more, eat less, burn body fat and lose weight, certain switches in your brain “turn on.” These switches tell your body how to deal with those changes. Your hormones and appetite are therefore targeted. Here are some other important components:
Environment determines what foods are readily available. A college student living on campus might have access to a wide range of foods in a dining hall. Someone who lives a long way from any grocery stores wouldn’t have many food options at their immediate access.
Some of us may be genetically determined to carry different amounts of weight at different life stages. While genetics may not define our set point altogether, it does contribute to it.
Physical activity, or a lack thereof, can affect your metabolism. Usually, more exercise results in a faster metabolism and vice versa. Metabolism plays a major role in determining your weight.
Some people seek bariatric surgery as a weight-loss tool. Surgery can influence the amount of food later consumed, as well as their metabolism and the route that their food takes once consumed. All of this can affect set point by re-routing the body’s weight control system.
How desirable are some foods? We generally consume foods that we find more tasty or suited to our cravings. This may result in over-consumption that our bodies get used to with time.
While set point isn’t necessarily permanent and can be altered by many factors, it can also influence your weight. As with most things that are worth striving for, altering your set point takes time, energy and effort. No matter where you’re at, don’t lose focus on your ultimate goals!