Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Set point theory....

I've been seeing a LOT of talk lately on set point theory.  Basically, set point theory says that for each person there is a certain metabolic "set point" for weight and body fat and that is what can make it exceedingly difficult to lose weight and/or body fat AND especially hard to maintain the weight if you do get down (or up in some lucky bastard cases) in the long term.

Since I never lost any significant weight before I started this journey in 2010, I have no experience in the losing-regaining wars.  But I have seen many people who have lost weight and then have had their weight creep back up and it creeps back up to what seems like a set number.  

There are various research studies, but none that have me convinced either way.  Often researchers cite that we have a pattern of eating and exercising and if we fall back into that pattern after losing weight, that we will go back up to where we started.  Other research points out that there are some people that appear to be able to eat in a certain way and they don't move from their weight while others in relatively similar situations eat that way and gain weight.

This is what I can say from my own experience.  My goal is to hover between 115-119 pounds.  A "red-line" is what maintainers refer to as the weight where they are starting to get too high and need to lose weight.  For me that number is 120.  I hit 119 - under the red line in July.  I weighed in this morninat 120.9 - a full pound over my red-line.  And this is what I notice - when I have some times of "naughty" eating, I usually swing way up and then come to rest at 120-121.  My body loves being at 120-121 and it is a continuous battle to get under that number.  

Now, let me point out that I have been maintaining for less then 8 months, and many of those months have been winter, so I'll have to see what happens long term.

But it begs a couple of questions - the first is IS there a set point for my body of 120 ish?  Secondly, how long and how hard do I want to keep fighting to stay under 120?  If I can easily and happily maintain at 120-121 should I just do that or should I keep fighting to get down to 116-117.

I'm not ready to surrender to 120+ yet, but it is giving me something to think about!

What do you guys think about set point theory?


  1. Ok, I've been thinking on this all day... and I have no expert advice or even my own experience to lend to you as I've never managed to maintain a weight intentionally ever in my life (now that's a scary thought). But I have asked a similar question of myself about what's a good weight to try to maintain.

    So, these are my thoughts. My thought is that trying to pick any number will be hard. I don't know how much you tend to fluctuate, but I fluctuate up to 5 pounds a month depending on my hormones and then if I eat something carb heavy, it can go up even more. So, for me, picking a 3-4 pound window is impossible. It needs to be a 10 pound window and I should aim for the middle of it (or slightly below middle of it) to hope to NOT get above the red line. I think.

    But what if I aimed for a certain pound on the scale? Will any precise pound be hard to maintain? So, like if you have to fight tooth and nail to keep at 119, what if you decided to up it to 121 as the red line. Will you be able to really be any more relaxed about it?

    And the bigger question is, how much effort has to go into trying to maintain a certain number on the scale? Is it an hour of hard cardio every day and eating a very low calorie day? Every day? Can you do that forever just to keep the scale at a certain number? Only you can know that answer.

    Then, have you ever done a body fat percentage analysis? Maybe that might be easier for you to deal with than a precise number on the scale? or do you think you would get, "it can't be over 22% body fat" and you would run into the same set point problem?

    As I said.... I'm not much help, but I can relate to the question.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Melissa. You have hit the nail right on the head - I don't know the answer to those questions, either. For now, my worth as a person is tied tightly to a number on the scale. And I know that this is ridiculous, intellectually, but not emotionally.

    I have never had my body fat measured - actually wouldn't have any idea where to have that done!

    I want to have my cake (no pun intended) and eat it too, I'm afraid, and that's not in the cards for me!