Do you ever feel as though your body is fighting your weight loss efforts? Have you ever noticed when you hit a plateau on your weight loss journey that it seems as though whatever you do, the scale just won't move? The dieting industry will tell you to eat less, move more, measure and write down everything you put in your mouth and to always keep a journal. But what is actually happening just might surprise you.
Our Bodies Resist Losing Weight
Millions of years ago, our survival was threatened by the amount of fat our bodies carried. If we had too little body fat, our ability to survive famines, as well as periods when food was in short supply was threatened. If we had too much body fat, our ability to hunt and gather food was negatively impacted, thus putting us at a disadvantage when facing threats from predators.
Our bodies are designed to keep our fat levels within a consistent range. Because of this, we have a system called the homeostatic regulation of weight, and our brain is constantly monitoring our Body Fat Set-Point within this system.
The Body Fat Set-Point is where our brain "feels" safe in the amount of body fat we carry. Our brain triggers this system into action in response to our body fat moving outside of this "safe" range. When our body fat is either above or below this Set-Point the homeostatic regulation of weight is triggered into action.
When we lose weight, the homeostatic system will increase our hunger and decrease our metabolism, thus preserving energy and encouraging us to increase our caloric intake. Making it difficult for us to continue to lose and maintain the weight we lost.
In reverse, when we gain a few pounds, our bodies do the opposite and tries to return us back to our lower weight, by decreasing our hunger and increasing our metabolism.
Think of our Body Fat Set-Point like a thermostat, cycling up and down to maintain a consistent temperature. This system works great if we are at our ideal weight, but when we are over weight, our Set-Point increases, and our body begins to defend what we are working so hard to lose. Whether we have 10 or 100 pounds of excess body fat, our body will defend the Set-Point, thus, fight our weight loss.
As a result, we find ourselves at war with our bodies to lose fat. We're fighting an extremely old and powerful evolutionary mechanism in our brain, and unfortunately, it is not within our conscious control.
How to Successfully Lose Weight
To be successful at weight loss, our Set-Point must be lowered. This is why the odds are stacked against dieters. It's been estimated that 90% of people who go on a calorie-restricted diet gain their weight back, and often they gain a few additional pounds. Our bodies are built to survive famines, which can be a wonderful thing, but not, if we are trying to lose weight. Our minds and bodies unfortunately don't know the difference between a weight loss plan and a famine.
However, it is possible to reset our Set-Point. The trick is to eat enough good, healthy food to feel satisfied when we reach a plateau. Then wait for our body to accept our new, lower weight before trying to lose again. If we can allow our weight to stabilize for a few months, we will have a much better chance of keeping the weight off long-term. We will actually be "helping" put our brain at ease during the weight loss process, which will help keep us from a situation where our body is fighting weight loss.
It may take longer to reach our ideal weight, but we are allowing our brain and body the opportunity to reprogram itself. This will prevent us from yo-yo'ing the same 10 pounds over and over, thus allowing us to drop more weight in the future.