Weight Loss
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Set Point Theory

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Okay I just read a response Mary had to someone who asked a question about Set Point Theory.

She said that the body reaches the set point after you lose 10% of your body weight and in order to reset the set point, you should maintain for 6 months and then try losing again.

For some that only have 10-15 lbs to lose that's all well and good, but for someone like me who has more than 200 lbs to lose how can that be?

That means when I lose 6 more lbs...I should stop losing for 6 months and then try losing again?

How can that be?  I'm so confused by this theory...any further explanation would be appreciated.  Thanks.

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I think that theory does apply more to people who don't have as much to lose--I lost 30 pounds, and I hit my plateau at exactly 10% lost (15 pounds). However, as/if you find your weight loss slowing down, you may need to switch to maintenance for a few weeks (perhaps two or three) in order to jumpstart your metabolism.

As a side note, I looked at your profile/gallery and saw your report--please tell me you aren't only eating 1000 calories a day! :-O That is extremely, extremely unhealthy!

our bodies want to establish equilibrium.  maintenance is sort-of an ideal state, because it's sustainable.  when we create instability between energy provided and energy needed--which we have to do to lose (or gain) weight--triggers the body to adjust to try to re-establish stability.  that's why we plateau, and that's why it's good to just let the body reset once in awhile.

if it helps to personify the process, losing weight scares the body.  it responds as it would do to famine, by conserving energy, slowing the metabolism.  allowing it to re-establish a steady state--or new set point--is reassuring.  your body feels safe again there's no shortage of resources.  after awhile, you can start to lose again.

as far as the 10% and 6 months, i don't know if there's anything concrete behind those numbers.  they're estimates.  but the process seems to be real.

I usually average about 1200 - 1300 calories a day...I am under doctor supervision.  I would never lower my calories so much otherwise!  But thank you.

A few weeks is understandable to me...I can do that, but 6 months was a crazy number to me!

Thanks everyone!

My plateau came right at 10% too. I think 6 months was a good idea for someone in my situation, as I'd get a better feel for how to maintain a weight.

If you've got a lot to lose, I think it depends on whether you've always been heavy since being a child or whether you got heavier in adulthood. 

I'm the latter, a skinny kid who got heavy after college, and the weight came off for me pretty easily until I was down 95lbs and 5lbs out from my goal.  I've heard that people who were heavy before becoming adults can have a harder time of it, as your weight at 18 years old or so becomes a stable point.

Closer to your goal-weight it comes off harder for everybody.  I plateaued for a couple weeks in December, ate maintenance calories for a couple weeks (gaining around 1-2lbs), and since then have been aiming to lose slowly at about 0.5lbs/week and it seems to be working.  But I've heard that if you've plateaued for longer, it can take a longer period of eating maintenance before your body is willing to start burning fat again.

I don't see why that would happen.  So if you have to lose say 50% of your weight, it will take you 2 1/2 years (actually more, since your starting weight gets lower each time).  

Here is my theory on Set point: your body contains x amount of fat.  Fat produces a hormone, that goes to the brain and regulates appetite.  If the amount of hormone is less than your brain expects, your appetite is increased.  Similarly the other way.  Before the age of 25, I was the perfect example of set point theory.  My weight was stable, so stable that I didn't even know how much I weighed, I had no need to.  

Then I developed an illness, and my weight started increasing dramatically.  The hormone regulation system was broken. 

If you want to try changing your set point, read up on the Shangri Lah diet.  I've done it, it works.  It tricks your brain into suppressing your appetite.  You have something energy dense, say extra light olive oil, but you hold your nose while you eat it, so you can't taste it.  Your brain doesn't realise you've had it, but it notices the increased available energy, so it will suppress your appetite. 

Original Post by james_64:

Your brain doesn't realise you've had it, but it notices the increased available energy, so it will suppress your appetite. 

this is in the top ten most ridiculous things i've seen on this site.  and there have been plenty of ridiculous things.

Blatant ridiculousness of the science aside, an article on the creator of this diet cites that he maintains on 1200 calories on this diet, including the oil. I'm none too impressed.

Original Post by pgeorgian:

Original Post by james_64:

Your brain doesn't realise you've had it, but it notices the increased available energy, so it will suppress your appetite. 

this is in the top ten most ridiculous things i've seen on this site.  and there have been plenty of ridiculous things.

Well, whether or not you believe it, it happened, so there you go.  You are welcome to believe or disbelieve, but the reality is different from what you believe.

i lost 10% a short while ago!!!!! and i was 216... and now i am at... 192.5 ... and my scale has still moved down the last few weeks :)

and i've been heavy since childhood!!

i think it's all relative really.. i notice that i have "set points" where my weight loss struggles.. 209 was one of them... i'm sure i'll have another weight soon where my body will love to vacation at lol.

if you hit a plateau just maintain for a few weeks then try creating a deficit again... and if you're still plateaued you may have to go back to maintenance again... it's all about what YOUR body wants.. and it'll tell you.

I lost 8% of my body weight and the scale hasn't moved now almost 3 weeks.  It might be too soon to call it a plateau, but it is for me, the scale has been pretty steady showing a loss since November. 

I upped my calories this week so hopefully it gets moving again soon, I've still got 15 pounds to go to my goal and have lost about 30 overall, 20 last year and then maintained for 7 months because I quit trying to lose, and then 12 since November 09.  I really want to be down some more by summer,

My weight loss of 60 pounds took place over 4 years and was a series of long plateaus and then a drop to the next level.  After being on a prolonged plateau, I followed Mary's advice, logged my food and ate at my maintenance level.  Then, 6 months later, I went back to cutting calories and I dropped really fast.  Now I have about 15 more pounds to go to get to my goal and if I plateau again, I'll do the whole thing again.  It was worth it.  My weight is staying off too.

12 Replies