What causes you to be above or below your set point, or natural weight?
This is a complex question. Unfortunately, I don’t have a simple answer. But, I’ll try my best.
It’s common to believe it’s as simple as “calories in/calories out” (as in, how much you eat and how much you expend determines your weight). But, our bodies are smarter than this. There are complex processes our bodies undergo to pursue homeostasis, as I discussed in the previous post on set point theory. Our bodies, when everything is functioning optimally, work to keep us within our set point range, or “natural” weight, which is mainly determined by genetics.
But, things CAN interfere with this process. There are cases when the body is unable to maintain an optimal weight and this may result in unintentional weight loss and/or falling under what is needed for optimal function. You may be dealing with a health condition which interferes with your ability to adequately nourish yourself. Eating and drinking enough out of self-care (vs being led by hunger) is vital when our bodies are unable to regulate this for us. This is also the approach used in the beginning of disordered eating recovery due to altered or diminished hunger and fullness cues.
On the flip side, our bodies may be above our genetic set point. Some conditions may affect our metabolism and how we process nutrients (for example, insulin resistance, diabetes, PCOS, hormonal imbalances, thyroid disease, an unhealthy gut microbiome, etc.). Lack of connection to our bodies’ cues may drive us above our natural set point range. Deprivation, a natural result of dieting/food “control,” is the primary driver of binge eating, or eating beyond your own feeling of comfortable fullness. There are other reasons we may eat beyond comfortable fullness, and exploring these reasons is part of the work I do in my practice. It’s important to give ourselves grace on this journey. Because we don’t always know where we fall on this spectrum, it’s important not to stress over where your weight falls in relation to your set point range. This steals our joy and peace.
I believe it’s more helpful to focus on behaviors we can sustainably control vs trying to directly manipulate weight.
As a dietitian working from a more holistic approach, my goal is to help you improve your health/well-being through nutrition/lifestyle behaviors which target the root cause(s) as much as possible, rather than merely treating symptoms as a short-term solution. This is individualized and what is effective may vary from person to person. If your sink is overflowing with water, rather than just using towels to treat the flooding (symptoms), it’s more effective to find the source of the flooding first (the faucet or clogged sink). If your weight IS above your genetic set point for any of the previously stated reasons, I believe it’s more helpful to view weight gain as a symptom, not the root cause. I encourage you not to demonize weight gain, but to view it in a more neutral, non-judgmental light.
My goal as a practitioner is for you to feel your best and help your body function optimally—using food/lifestyle to address what may be getting in the way. Our work may indirectly affect weight, or it may not, depending on where you may fall on this spectrum. I don’t use weight changes as an indicator of “success” or “failure.” We are so much more than the number of pounds on a scale, and it isn’t as much within our control as we are taught to believe.
In my next post, I am going to share more about weight stigma and what I learned working in the weight management world.Follow me on social media: