Lesson 5.3: Preventing Weight Regain & Set Points
A set points is defined as the highest weight not including pregnancy (women) that a person has been for a substantial amount of time. (more than 6 months).
The four main factors that determine a person’s set point are:
- Physical activity levels
- Hormone profile (sex, appetite, and stress hormones)
The first thing to know about “set points” is that they are hard to change, but it is not impossible. Losing weight first and then adopting a new nutrition and exercise regimen that helps sustain your weight loss for prolonged period of time has been hypothesised to change your set point. The current evidence states you may need to hold your weight for between 1-2 years to change your set point (1) but it might take longer depending on how long you have been overweight for and what genetics you have been given.
This graph from a Melbourne study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows the weight regain path of most people who attempt to lose weight. Unfortunately most people will weight regain within 6-12 months of losing weight due to the hormonal changes that occur after weight loss.
Graph taken from: Long-Term Persistence of Hormonal Adaptations to Weight Loss Sumithran et al, N Engl J Med 2011; 365:1597-1604October 27, 2011DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1105816 (1) . You can read this study here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1105816#t=articleTop
Can my body control these hormones?
While you still have the option of self-control, as we have just read, your body has a strong influence in increasing appetite and reducing energy expenditure that drives weight regain. Unfortunately, willpower and self control breaks down easily under stress; especially when blood sugar is low. This current environment we live in does not support weight loss as we are surrounded and tempted by food at every corner and we are no longer as active due technology, ipads, smart phones and computers.
To make things harder, our body becomes more efficient as we lose weight and requires fewer calories to function. A good example is a car that has just been serviced. It is more efficient and does not require as much fuel to run. Hence, excess fuel is stored in the tank. That is similar to your body when it loses weight. It becomes like a well tuned, efficient car that requires less fuel to run it and stores excess fuel on your body and you keep filling it up with food it doesn’t need.
What does this all mean?
It means that when you lose weight, you need to work hard at keeping the weight off as you are fighting all the hormonal changes that occur once you lose weight. Do not let anyone tell you it is just a matter of “moving more and eating less” as there are a whole lot of homeostatic (natural body processes) and hormonal changes driving you to weight regain. Also, stop blaming yourself if you have tried unsuccessfully to keep the weight off as you are fighting against nature’s own defence to keep us alive.
Weight must be be tackled at all angles: psychologically, physically, medically and diet wise. In this particular program we are tackling the psychological factors which should be the basis of all weight loss programs because if we do not get our mind right, we can not succeed long term. Our other program the Redefine Metabolic Weight Loss Program focusses on a step by step diet and exercise porgram. Ayra Sharma, an Obesity Physician explains the complex phenomena of weight re-gain and why this occurs in this amusing but excellent Ted Talk. His discusses this complex neurobiology that fiercely defends the weight our body weight.