ADF – Week 6 Update: Set Point

Hey guys! Week 6 went swimmingly, and I wish I could say that was a pun because I got to go swimming, but sadly that wouldn’t be true. It was cold this last week in Indiana, which is total garbage because it’s almost May. I’m so ready for the summer!

If you aren’t familiar with alternate day fasting, check out my original post here.

My fasting days were Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Monday.

Tues – Wed – Thurs – Fri – Sat– Sun – Mon

Want to see how much I ate? How much weight I lost? Check it out…

Weekly TDEE17,500
Calories In5,981
Calorie Deficit11,519
Starting Weight219
Ending Weight219
Weight LostZERO

If a pound is essentially 3,500 calories, it’s pretty shocking that I didn’t really lose any weight. I should’ve lost about three pounds. So what happened? Let’s explore!

Have you ever heard of a “set-point” for body weight? I haven’t until recently, but basically it’s when your body has decided that you need to weigh a certain amount, and if you gain or lose weight your body will try to fix itself.

A little background about me:

I was 220 pounds for most of high school, several years after high school, and up until I got pregnant with my first child. So I weighed 220 from the ages of 15-20. After my pregnancy I shot up to 280 pounds, and I spent the next year losing it. It was pretty quick and effortless, but once again I ended up at 220 until I was 23. That’s when I dropped all carbohydrates and gluten, and by the age of 24, I was finally at my goal weight of 165 pounds (I’m 5’10”). Of course I got pregnant again and shot back up to 246, but here I am back at 220 since January.

So you could say I weighed 220 pounds for almost seven years, and all of those seven years were within the last 11 years of my life. If you were to record my weight on January 1st of every one of those 11 years, then do some quick math to find the average, you would end up with basically 220 pounds. That’s my set point. That is the weight my body wants me to be, even if I don’t agree with it.

Here’s a quote from this Study:

“For example, when compared with feeding a standard chow (or mixed) diet, feeding rats with an energy-dense diet (rich in fat and sugar) resulted in overeating and a disproportionate weight gain 2. After withdrawing that diet and introducing a mixed diet again, rats then spontaneously returned to the weight of continuously mixed-diet-fed control rats 2Vice versa, after caloric restriction and weight loss, rats regained body weight with re-feeding, reaching their previous track of weight gain again 3. These findings are taken as evidence for an inherited body weight (or in rats as an inherited weight gain with age) and served as examples of a so-called “set point”.”

So the rats had two types of food – standard/mixed diet, and energy dense diet. So we see the rats got fed a terrible fatty, sugary diet, and they gained a bunch of weight (predictably), but when they went back to their normal standard/mixed food they lost it all again and got back down to a normal body size. Alternatively though, if they made the rats lose weight with calorie restriction, then re-introduced the normal standard/mixed food, the rats gained weight back up to their normal body size again.

This is one study (among many) that give evidence for our bodies having a preference to be a certain size.

Pictured: Fate

We’re told that eating diet food makes us lose weight, right? Well that’s not always the case. Sometimes eating diet food can make us stay at the weight we’re at or possibly make us even gain.

How does the body accomplish this goal?

If you’re gaining weight, chugging along and putting on the pounds, your body says, “Stop! We don’t need this crap! Get rid of it!” and proceeds to raise it’s energy needs. Your metabolism speeds up, and you can lose it fast. That’s great, and I’m so happy my body does that for me; however, if your body goes below your set point, your body slows down your energy needs. You won’t be burning nearly as many calories as your body tries to slow down the weight loss and reverse it.

The science behind calorie needs (based on current body size) is so finicky directly because it can only be accurately predicted if you are at your body’s desired weight.

Moral of the story: your body will tweak your energy needs so you don’t go too far above or below your set point.

What controls your set point?

Some people are genetically designed to be fat. From this same article I hyperlinked to above:

“The results of a large-scale adoption study in Denmark and of twin studies in the United States and Sweden are noteworthy in this regard (Stunkard 1991). The former study found a high correlation between the body weight of adoptees and those of their biological parents, coupled with little or no correlation between the weights of adoptees and those of their adoptive parents. The twin studies revealed quite high indices of heritability (0.75–0.80) for obesity in monozygotic pairs, even when the twins were raised apart under disparate conditions.”

Adopted kids are more closely related in weight to their biological parents, not their adopted parents; however, their adopted parents are the ones who determine their adopted children’s eating habits and activity level. Also, identical twins raised in separate homes are likely to experience almost the exact same rates of obesity, regardless of what they’re doing in their own lives. Not what you were expecting, huh?

Further, it seems that your set point can be elevated higher than another person who may be skinnier than you. Your energy needs will slow down if you get below this weight even if you’re already overweight (my 220 pound curse). So when your fat friend says they eat the same amount, or less, than their skinny friends, they may be telling the truth.

This is how I maintained obesity.

Your body can also have an elevated set point if you maintained obesity for a pro-longed period of time. Your body has a certain number of adipose cells, or fat cells. Most adults have a relatively stable amount of these in their body (though prolonged obesity can increase your number), and they expand or shrink based on weight gain or loss. The number of fat cells in your particular body is not only determined by genetics, but it’s also determined during childhood and adolescence. Fat kids become fat adults almost without fail. People who are fat for a long time will probably end up staying fat.

The more fat cells you have, the easier it is for your body to become overweight, and the more likely you are to have an elevated set point. I have some good news though! It’s theorized to be irreversible. Wait, that’s bad news isn’t it?

Can you overcome it?

There are also theories that you can actually reset your set point. Anorectic drugs (or appetite suppressants) have long been viewed as a short-term fix for weight loss. Apparently the idea used to be that we would develop a tolerance to the drugs, and that’s why we’d eventually stop losing weight, and our appetite would go back to normal. Doctors would shrug their shoulders and conclude that we got used to it, and developed a tolerance. New science is suggesting that we actually didn’t develop a tolerance. Our body just lowered our set point. So more research needs to be done on whether we could take these drugs long-term, but if we could, it’s theorized that our bodies would just continue to stay skinny while we no longer had a suppressed appetite. Our body would need more energy, so we’d eat more food, but it would be appropriate and wouldn’t make us gain any more.

Also, lesions on your Lateral Hypothalamus (the part of your brain that controls eating behavior and arousal) has been shown to reduce your appetite and weight permanently. We obviously don’t want to suffer brain damage, but if we did, you could possibly lower your set point. Which would be one upside to brain damage. I guess.

Weight loss tools

Honestly, cutting carbohydrates looks like the best option for right now. Adherence is the key here. It’s easier to stick to because we are able to keep our appetite lowered, insulin lowered, and consequently, our body weight lowered.

Unfortunately high fat diets don’t promote lowering our adipose cell count, because nothing really does. Studies have shown that high fat diets keep our set point raised, but with no other options, it’s a good way to keep our calories lowered. As I mentioned in my article about calorie types, fat and protein keeps our metabolism burning and basically gives us a larger calorie allotment. You can eat a little more, but your body will generally let it slide.

So here’s my plan – I’m going low carb. I don’t know that I can stick to it forever, so I’m giving myself one high carb day at the end of every week, and we’ll see if I can get past this hump!

Stay tuned for my next update, coming next Tuesday!

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