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Can metabolic setpoint be changed?

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Old 02-05-2011, 03:03 AM   #1
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Default Can metabolic setpoint be changed?

I'm not sure I understand the concept well, but I remember always
being told that you can't change your metabolic setpoint. I've found
websites that say it can be done...but they also tried to sell me something.

So if a person weighs 200 pounds, loses 50, the body is "used" to 200 and fights to return to that....(am I understanding this correctly?)

If that's so, does your body ever adjust to the new weight, or does it forever fight you for get back to 200?

And...I'm hoping to find someone to answer this who got their info from an expert source...not one of those websites I keep finding!

Thank you!
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Old 02-05-2011, 04:53 AM   #2
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I've read a lot about setpoint theory, the science behind it and the research that supports it, and the legitimate science has never claimed that setpoint is a rigid "set-in-stone" unalterable weight. All sorts of variables have been proven to influence set-point (if you believe it exists, as not all of the obesity researchers do).

Variables like genetics, availability of resources (food), diet (carb levels, perhaps), exercise/activity, and even climate/environment.

Variables that are known or suspected to drive a setpoint weight downward

repeated calorie restriction (that is dieting, the theory being that the body responds to food shortage by lowering setpoint so that you can more easily adapt to less food during times of famine).

fat gain and/or muscle loss (muscle burns more calories than fat).


Variables that are suspected to drive a setpoint weight upward

a relatively stable caloric intake

physical activity, both aerobic and resistance/weight lifting (muscle building)

Maintaining a stable body weight (the longer you can "keep" a weight, the more likely your body will recalibrate, at least in theory).
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Old 02-05-2011, 10:39 AM   #3
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I'm going to vote that it's something that was completely made up by the diet pill industry.

I'm personally new to maintenance, but I'm finding as long as I stay on my "maintenance plan" I, surprise surprise, maintain my weight. If I think about it, which is difficult because it was a long time ago, but the last time I weighed in the 140s my eating habits were similar to what they are now.

In general people return to their higher weights because the return to their old eating habits. Sure there are some no matter what they do still regain some weight, but if they are still being dilegent then they don't regain it all and there is usually some kind of medical or metabolic reason behind it. But if you work hard to change your lifestyle and stick to it long term you won't return to that 200 lbs. Over time as you age and your body changes you will need to make adjustment, but I do not believe that once we're heavy our bodies metabolisms have changed to want to return to that weight.
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Old 02-05-2011, 11:12 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by ncuneo View Post
I'm personally new to maintenance, but I'm finding as long as I stay on my "maintenance plan" I, surprise surprise, maintain my weight. If I think about it, which is difficult because it was a long time ago, but the last time I weighed in the 140s my eating habits were similar to what they are now.

In general people return to their higher weights because the return to their old eating habits. .
I concur, but I want to clarify ncuneo's point: a lot of people think "I was eating X and stayed at a stable 200 lbs. Therefore, if I lose 50 lbs, I can go back to eating X and stay at a stable 150 lbs". There IS a real set point, but it's not "your body will weigh 200 lbs no matter what", it's "If you eat like this, your body will weigh 200 lbs". It works like this:

The reason you reach a stable point at a certain level is that your body needs less energy as it gets smaller, and turns extra energy into fat. So if your body needs 2200 calories to maintain 200 lbs and you lose 50 lbs, now your body only needs 1800 to maintain (numbers all made up). If you then go back to eating 2200 calories, now your body has extra energy to turn into fat. Once that fat accumulates back up to 200, your body now needs all 2200 of those daily calories to keep going, so it quits adding more. This looks like a set point.

As you lose weight, your maintenance calories go down, so it might be something like this (numbers made up):

Maintain at 2200 calories.
Lose 50 lbs by eating 1400 calories a day.
New maintenance: 1800 calories.

The good news is that your appetite tends to adjust, if you pay attention (if you don't pay attention, eating HABITS take over, not appetite.)
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Old 02-05-2011, 12:04 PM   #5
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Hi Jura! I think you'd be interested in reading Break Through Your Setpoint by George L. Blackburn, MD, a doctor at Harvard Medical School. He believes that setpoints are real and that we can manipulate our weight in a 20-30 pound range around our setpoints fairly easily, but after that, we're fighting Mother Nature. He recommends losing a certain percent of your body weight (it might be 10% or 20% -- I don't have the book with me), stabilizing for a period of months, and then going back to losing. The book is a great resource for learning about current research into obesity and weight loss. The studies about setpoints are pretty convincing to me.
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Old 02-05-2011, 12:56 PM   #6
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Setpoint may or may not be a real thing but regardless our bodies are designed to get as fat as possible. Unlike other animals we don't have any mechanisms built in to keep our weights down because there was no penalty (evolutionarily speaking) to getting fat.

I wouldn't worry about it. Setpoint theory or not you're going to be hungry which you can minimize by eating plenty of caloricly undense foods.
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Old 02-05-2011, 01:13 PM   #7
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I'm not going to profess to being an expert, but I really do think weight loss maintenance is all about keeping a lifestyle that not allow weight gain. To be honest, I don't think I ever had a low weight 'set point' (meaning I think I always overate for my given weight and therefore, always got heavier every year). I basically can eat all the junk I 'personally' want and not think about what goes in my mouth at 265 pounds. I've been around that point for a very long time, fluctuating very little. But it was/is very unhealthy and I was beginning to pay the price.

I'm now eating for hunger and watching my carbs and exercising. I'm NOT hungry, yet I'm dropping 1.5 pounds a week because I'm not eating to 'maintain' my high weight.

Question will come some time in the future as to whether or not I will feel less hungry as I get smaller. I don't know. It's been EONS since I was in onederland (over 12 years, and then only there for a couple months and before that it was about 20 years ago).

I don't ever plan to go on a super restrictive calorie plan, but to continue to make good choices, and to continue exercising every day. Not so much for weight loss, but to get healthy and strong and to LIVE long.

I think the whole idea behind, lose a little, pause, lose a little, then pause is more for the mind to adjust to the new body, the new eating strategies (how to maintain and not always lose), than it is for any set point theory. A complete change in how you eat, for the rest of your life, is not something most people can do or are willing to do. I truly think that's why people gain the weight back. If they had grown up with the better eating habits and exercise habits in the first place, it wouldn't be as big of an issue!
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Old 02-06-2011, 02:31 AM   #8
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I think a large part of what causes people to gain weight is as follows. People, generally speaking, don't tend to understand when they are actually hungry.

My metabolism is burning harder because of my exercise regimen, a body builder for example will lose weight and fat if they go from... Let's say 500 to 270 at 6'2". But will be eating more then they were at 500 to maintain the 270 because now they are training their body to such an extent it needs those calories, working out or inactive they need those calories to maintain.

When I am hungry, I know I am hungry. Some of my friends, while they do not gain or lose weight. I can watch them eat with me, then I will watch them eat again before I do. Now and then I will tell them they are not hungry. They look at me oddly for a second, will continue eating, but say something well I wasn't hungry when I ate the other food earlier, or simply shrug their shoulders and eat.

I know my body burns more because I can eat close to 2800 calories in a day and not gain weight anymore. My caloric need is actually growing as I shrink from what it was when I first started losing weight.

Can my body return to it's old weight? I know exactly how to bring it back to it's old weight. Soda, Energy drinks, Fast food, roughly 2600 calories of soda and energy drinks a day, and 1500 in fast food. About 4100.

I was eating 1600 give or take to lose my original 70. I'm eating about 2200 to and losing about 2 pounds a week. This is with nearly 2 hours of exercise a day. My guess is I need 2800 to 3000 to maintain my body at this point for how hungry I can get. (No way to know for sure I'm not in the mood to stop exercising LOL!) Who knows it could also be less.

Perhaps it depends on what you do, or how you do it, maybe it is preset, maybe not. But I do know this, you might be surprised at what is needed to maintain larger body weights compared to your smaller weight, if you put on a lot of muscle. That muscle wants to be fed to, after all, it burns more calories then the same weight in fat will.

Study on health changes so often though it's hard to keep up. So I am always of the science of "Your body" You need to know your body. It's needs the calories you need to lose weight, when you are actually hungry, when you are not. No other science or study in the world will help you more then listening to what your body tells you, and then eating what you know is healthy.

Much as we might enjoy them, processed food is something we all know is unhealthy for us. Fruits, vegetables, milk, Meat, Grains. Things that are created naturally and not in labs that is the ticket to health and weight loss. Even then though, I wouldn't recommend eating 8 pounds of meat a day.

I'm rambling.

October 2009-March 2010 was not my goal, but was where I wanted to stop and see how permanent the loss was.

December 12th 2010 to... Well, I guess I'll see to when.

I stand at 6'2" Going this far, it would feel wrong not to finish.

October 2009 Feels like a long time ago from when I started all this...
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Old 02-09-2011, 08:06 PM   #9
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Thank you all for chiming in with your opinions. Even though most of you
didn't necessarily agree on one thing...it was still all encouraging to me. I guess
since I had recently read yet another article saying long term weight loss
was rarely successful, I was ready to give up. It was good to hear so many
different thoughts about this.
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Old 02-09-2011, 08:24 PM   #10
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I believe if you maintain your weight for a long period of time that becomes your new set point but you have to be eating the right amount without thinking about it. People unconciously eat a certain amount of calories a day and that results in their bodies reaching a certain point and maintaining it. I can't say I'm an expert that is the basic premise behind a set point. I wouldn't worry about it just keep doing what your doing and be sure to eat healthy and keep your calories at the right level when you reach maintance.

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Old 02-09-2011, 08:56 PM   #11
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I've been in maintenance for about three years and what I've learned is this, Setpoints don't matter even if they do exist; burn what you take in and you can basically stay at any chosen weight. The balancing act becomes how much am I willing to exercise/not exercise/eat/not eat to stay at my chosen weight. I think a lot of people aren't willing to take the steps necessary to stay at a low weight, but can take the steps, i.e. do the balancing of food and exercise, necessary to stay at a weight 10-20 pounds higher. That's not really a Setpoint, it's a choice.

I like the balance of food and exercise that it takes for me to weigh 155-160. I could weigh 145 but I'd have to eat less and/or exercise more to do it since my basic metabolic needs would be lower, and it's just not worth it to me. I don't feel like my body is naturally one weight over another; it's just a matter of what effort I'm willing to make.

Current Weight: 144 lbs.
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