Dr. Kris, ND – Let’s Talk Weight Loss and “Set Point”

We all recognize the first thing I am about to say, but I feel compelled to mention it anyway – none of the weight loss “rules” exist independently. That is, there are so many factors that can affect weight even on an hourly or daily basis. So it is important to be honest with yourself and be able to correctly identify what are truly transient weight fluctuations (and what causes them for you individually) and what are actual longer term increases. The good news is that time is on your side in regard to creating a new weight set point, but the bad news is that time can also work against you!! Here’s the key. Many of us say – oh I can get down to that reunion weight or wedding weight in “x” weeks . When we do that and then try to go back to a more flexible diet and exercise routine, we automatically tell our body that it cannot expect to be at the new weight for long, it just has to “survive” under the conditions, and pretty soon it will be fatter and happier again. So the body is already laying the foundation to return to your current set point. That said, if you gain weight very gradually over a chronic duration (6 months, a year, multiple years), you also solidify that higher set point making it harder to come down. If you have ever heard of the 6 month behavior change rule, it is generally true for the physiology that determines your metabolic activity as well. In fact, this makes perfect sense if you think about it because to change behavior, you also have to change cognitive patterns and all the associated biochemical processes that go with that. Survival is an important concept too. Once you tell your body that you are in any extreme pattern of change it will go into survival mode to do anything and everything it can to maintain homeostasis. Dehydrate, the body works to retain water. Starve (or lose weight too quickly), the body works to adjust metabolism down and prepares to store fat.
So my long winded background explanation for achieving a new weight set point actually brings me to two simpler points. 1. Use a 10% rule for change (only lose 10% of your body weight at a time) 2. Any new weight/body composition should then be maintained for at least 6 months to tell your body it is not in survival mode and it needs to support the new homeostatic targets before you pursue the next 10% drop.

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