Set Point
16 September 2015

The first few weeks on a weight loss programme can be very exciting. A healthier diet, and a more active lifestyle can quickly make us feel great as our weight starts to decrease. Developing a new relationship with food can be a great experience. But like most new relationships it doesn’t always go smoothly to begin with.

When I first started helping my patients to lose weight I noticed that many of them found it more difficult after the initial 6 or 8 weeks. Their excitement faded, their appetite became harder to resist, and they started to lose energy. I thought it was a simple case of boredom, a loss of that initial enthusiasm we’ve all experienced. And many were tempted to give up. But if this is your experience, now is exactly NOT the time to give up. It’s the time to take stock, reflect on what you’ve already achieved and remind your self what it is you’re aiming for, to refresh your weight loss goals. It’s the time to stick close to your personal weight loss coach, let them know how you feel, and let them to help you through it. They will have dealt with this situation many times before.

A little understanding of why many of us experience this slowing rate of weight loss might also help you. What my research taught me was that it’s not simply a case of loss of enthusiasm or will-power. It’s your own body fighting back! It now seems likely that we each have a weight “set point”, a point at which our body feels comfortable, and balanced. That’s why many people, especially when they’re younger, keep a healthy weight without any effort. Apparently eating what they like and exercising when they feel like it, their body balances energy intake and expenditure to keep their weight at its “set point”.

Now, as life events occur, perhaps a new sedentary job, an injury that prevents exercise, maybe getting married or having kids, our lifestyle subtly changes, and gradually our weight increases. Our body’s regulatory system re-sets our set-point to a higher weight. One day we wake up to the fact that we have a weight problem and decide to do something about it. We start eating healthier, smaller portions, and we start to exercise more. Our weight starts to fall and, thinking we’re being physically challenged, our body starts to fight back, in an effort to return us to our new higher reset point. Our appetite might increase, and our energy levels decrease, and weight loss slows. And this is exactly the right time to redouble our commitment to a healthier, thinner future.

We all lose weight at different rates, and we know that, over time, losing 1 or 2 pounds a week is ideal. An initial brisk rate of weight loss can be quite normal, but so also can be a gradual slowing down. See it for what it is. Stick to your plans, remind yourself each day why you’re doing this (see my blog on goal setting “Goal”), talk with your personal coach and stay focussed. It’s time to show your body who’s in control! In time your reset point will reset again, to a lower, healthier weight, and gradual, healthy weight loss will surely follow.