It is a common complaint from many people: they’re trying hard, but they can’t seem to meet their fitness goals long term. Is this a case of losing motivation, or could biology hold the answer? Are our bodies “programmed” to stay within a certain weight limit?
What is the Set Point Theory?
Essentially, studies suggest that many mammals are programmed to maintain a set weight. So, in the case of being underfed, your body would slow its metabolic weight and make you hungrier and more tired, so until you gain enough weight to go back to your original weight. In the case of overfeeding, you would have more desire to be active (even in small ways like fidgeting), and your appetite would decrease until you dropped back to your original weight.
So Why Aren’t We All At Healthy Weights Naturally?
Well, there are many factors that define your set point. These can include your genetics, your lifestyle (particularly in terms of how active you are), and your hormone levels (especially stress levels).
In humans, science suggests that unlike some other mammals, our set point is more bias towards gaining weight than losing it. Generally, our weight does go up steadily as we age, and many people do find losing weight much tougher than putting it on.
Can You Change Your Set Point?
Yes, you can. Though your body finds it easier to increase the set point (to guard you against starvation), you can lower it. This is done naturally when you maintain a lower weight for a long period of time, allowing your body to get used to it.
However, it is worth noting that though your set point would then be at a lower weight, you would not be able to abandon a healthy and active lifestyle with no consequence. It simply makes it easier to maintain!
What Diet Or Exercises Alter Your Set Point?
There is no miracle food or workout that helps to change your set point. Maintaining your desired weight through a healthy lifestyle is the key. Establishing a balanced diet that you can stick to as a full-time lifestyle will ensure that you do not bounce straight back once you are “off” a regime.
Another consideration is your aforementioned hormone levels. Higher levels of testosterone do make the body more predisposed being leaner. Full body, heavy lifting will increase these levels.
Lifting weights are also advisable as muscle is a metabolically active tissue. So the more muscle you have, the easier, your body will find it to combat fat gain.
In addition, you should try and lower the stress hormones in your body. Balanced diet and exercise will help with this anyway. However, you may also need to look at other lifestyle factors if you are still struggling to lose weight, particularly around your middle as this is the key area that stress hormones cause the body to gather fat.
Set Point – Worth Thinking About?
Set points can seem like an excuse to not embark on a fitness journey. But in reality, they should be a motivator to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Stay active, and eat a balanced diet, and you’ll be helping your body to help you.