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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Weight Loss - Long-Term

Changing your "set point" for permanent weight loss.

Lately I've been thinking about what why losing those ten pounds is so difficult. I know that losing some weight will cause my body to function better, so why does it seem to fight it so much? Is times long past our bodies were storing resources up for a time of famine or drought. Many of us are now in the enviable position of having too many resources. So, we have to retrain our bodies into losing weight. There is a pertinent article on this subject on WebMD (a great resource by the way for diet and health issues). This author writes that our bodies are set to a specific weight known as the "set point".

"Just as your body temperature is programmed to stay around 98.6 degrees, your body weight is naturally regulated to stay within a range of 10%-20%, says Thomas Wadden, PhD, director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at University of Pennsylvania Medical School. This weight range is known as the "set point." A complex set of hormones, chemicals, and hunger signals help your body naturally maintain your weight within this range, says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD."

Increasing your weight will also increase your "set point". It's easy to increase this number, but difficult to lower it. "'Overeating swamps the internal regulatory system, and, as a result, the set point increases -- which is much easier to do than it is to lower it, says Wadden. The body adjusts to the higher weight and "resets" the set point to defend the new weight". The higher set point can be adjusted to a lower number but it does take some work. "A recent book, Break through Your Set Point: How to Finally Lose the Weight You Want and Keep It Off, by George Blackburn, MD, suggests that maintaining a 10% loss for six months to a year helps your body adjust to the lower weight and thus reset the set point.

Wadden explains that when you lose large amounts of weight at once, you set up an internal struggle and hormones like ghrelin spike to make you hungrier as your body tries to defend its comfortable range. Instead, experts recommend that you try losing 10% the old-fashioned way -- by slowly changing eating and exercise behaviors -- then maintain this new weight for a few months before trying to lose more. Not only will your body get the signal to lower its "set point, 'but you'll give yourself a chance to get used to new food choices, smaller portions, and regular exercise.'

I've been working on changing dietary habits and varying exercise for about two months. I do hope I begin to see results soon. This slow pace will be worth it, if the weight stays off.


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