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We’re Wired to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Suppose you had a “fat meter” that would send a loud “STOP!” message to your brain when you have accumulated enough fat. Suddenly you didn’t want pizza, ice cream or potato chips. You would look at these favorite dishes, even smell their enticing smells and would not even be tempted. Or maybe you would decide to eat anyway and your metabolism would just rev up to burn off the extra calories.
Nice fantasy, right? Well, it’s not that far off. Believe it or not, you have the built-in mechanism. Why, you ask, do you always feel driven to eat, even if you consider yourself overweight or struggle to maintain your weight? And why do you gain weight when you don’t control yourself?
Well, maybe your gauge is broken. Or maybe the alarm isn’t loud enough to trigger a response from your brain. And that’s too bad. Because this mechanism is so powerful that people for whom it works never have to fight the temptation to eat when they are not hungry. Staying at a healthy weight comes naturally to them; it’s not something they have to work through through deprivation diets and long hours at the gym.
Unfortunately, this potent weight management system has gone awry for many of us. Food still tempts us long after our caloric needs are met. And extra calories result in packing on extra kilos. Our body no longer knows how to regulate its “set point”, the level that is biologically ideal for us.
But don’t worry. I offer information to help you learn how to reset this powerful mechanism so your body can naturally achieve its healthiest weight. You will be able to eat normally without thinking about calories, allowing your hunger/fullness/appetite to regulate what and when you eat in a remarkably efficient mechanism. Eating will be simple and pleasant.
Set point: Your ideal weight
When working properly, this weight regulation mechanism is as precise as the most sophisticated scientific instrument. Don’t you believe me? Just think of a fifty-year-old woman who weighs about five pounds more than she did when she was twenty. If she eats about 2,000 calories a day, over the course of thirty years she will consume about 22 million calories. Since five pounds of body fat stores about 17,500 calories, that means her body was only 0.08 percent off balancing energy in vs. energy out. This equates to a difference of around 50 calories per month – less than the calories in an egg!
In other words, her energy balance was regulated with a precision of more than 99.9 percent! How many things in life can you say that about? There’s absolutely no way you can be that precise by trying to use your own willpower over what you eat and how much you exercise.
Until recent decades, weight stability for adults over long periods of time was the norm and was an effortless process. A study from the 1970s found that the average weight of a sixty-year-old man was only four to five pounds more than the average thirty-year-old man. That kind of weight maintenance is no accident.
So why fight? Give up counting calories and trying to control your eating through dieting. Instead, let your body regulate for you. I promise you will get far better results.
The healthy weight your body aims for is called your set point weight. Think of it as the preferred temperature on a fat thermostat. Like any thermostat, this one can be set at the time that is most comfortable. The system then works tirelessly to do everything it can to bring your body into alignment with that point. It works like a biological force: the further you go from the center, the more strongly you retreat to the comfort zone.
However, this system only works if we let it. If you keep “jiggling” the thermostat via diets, the mechanism breaks down. This jiggling is like a power struggle to wrest control away from your body’s innate weight regulation mechanism, and ultimately only makes your body fight harder to maintain control. The result: Your body forces you to not only gain back the weight you’ve lost, but you may even pay a penalty with extra weight gain—and a set point that’s now set higher to protect against future diets.
Instead of continuing to engage in this weighty battle with your body, you can declare a truce and go with it to help achieve a healthy, natural weight. You will find that you will lose interest in eating when you are full. And your body itself will make up for the occasional party indulgence without you having to consciously deny yourself.
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