In this post, I am referencing the work of Drs Linda Bacon and Dr Lucy Aphramor in “Body respect“.
You might have noticed I am a proponent of “Health at Every Size“. One of the cornerstones of the “HAES” paradygm is to consider each and every one of us enjoys a natural ‘setpoint weight’ our bodies naturally return to if we eat to follow our internal hunger and fullness cues and with no undue concern about weight.
“The only way to attain your setpoint weight is to eat normally!”
I know this is a new concept for many, especially for chronic dieters, and thought we should dedicate some more time on this topic.
Drs Bacon and Aphramor explain it well “Your setpoint weight is the weight range your body likes best, the weight you normally maintain when you eat to appetite, when you don’t fixate on your weight and food habits, the weight you return to between diets (and that creeps up the more you diet).”
A few points are important to note:
1/ Your setpoint weight is more of a range of about 5-6 kgs, not ONE rigid number on the scale.
Bodies fluctuate across time, seasons, stress levels and living conditions, and that’s NORMAL.
2/ Setpoint weight is not to be mistaken with ‘normal’ BMI
Because people in any population will always come in a range of weights and sizes, your setpoint weight can be in the higher ranges of BMI and this is where your body functions optimally. [remember there are some serious limitations to BMI used as a measure of health. Also, here is the latest research confirming higher BMIs could enhance survival rates]
3/ Your setpoint weight works a bit like a thermostat
It is governed by a section of the hypothalamus that sends signals to manipulate your metabolic efficiency according to your eating and activity habits. Its work is to maintain a certain weight and body fat percentage, without any conscious effort on your part, as you eat to appetite.
“Failing to lose weight long term is a sign of the success of your internal weight regulation. Diet failure is no more a sign of gluttony or “lack of character” than breathing deeply after exertion indicates lung failure.”
4/ When you restrict, you are effectively interrupting the work of the hypothalamus
The results are escalating weights and poorer health, as your body fights to return to homeostasis (its natural state of balance). In the long run, your weight ‘thermostat’ fights the threat of future restriction by RAISING your setpoint weight, which is the body’s natural response after it was robbed of food safety.
How do you feel about the setpoint weight theory? Did you experience some of the details mentioned above based on your experience of dieting/restricting/overexercising? Do you have questions about this theory? Post them below and I’ll create a separate post to answer them!