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The "setpoint" ?

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Old 08-15-2013, 12:11 PM   #1
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Default The "setpoint" ?

I have heard tale of your body having a "set point" a weight at which it decides it is most happy. Then, you will hit that weight and have trouble getting lower than it. Does anyone have any info on this idea? Because I am sure starting to feel like I'm stuck at some pre-determined set point, and it's not fun.

ETA: Something like this http://jn.nutrition.org/content/127/9/1875S.full or http://voices.yahoo.com/lowering-bod...526.html?cat=5

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Old 08-15-2013, 12:30 PM   #2
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I have heard tale of your body having a "set point" a weight at which it decides it is most happy. Then, you will hit that weight and have trouble getting lower than it. Does anyone have any info on this idea?
I join those who believe more in a settling point -- a balance between caloric intake and weight that keeps your mind happy -- than a biological setpoint. In other words, many of us find it psychologically taxing to restrict our calories below a certain point, which becomes our settling point.

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Old 08-15-2013, 12:49 PM   #3
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freelancemomma - What is your field of study? I have noticed that you seem to know much about health/medical issues.

I found this thread from the Straight Dope.

Quote:
I do not think that that is a probable answer.

OTOH water shifts can be part of the answer. One hypothesis is that the the physiologic stress of caloric deficit leads to hormonal responses (such as aberrant cortisol pulses) that result in water retention. Fat loss continues but is not reflected in the scale. Hence the paradoxical experience that many have of a sudden whoosh of weight loss when they slack off from their strict program for a day or so, eating a bit more and taking a day off from exercise ... the body relaxes, so to speak, and the excess water is released. BUt the water is not in the fat cells I do not think.

I also doubt that such is the whole answer.
It's interesting. I'd love to see scientific papers on dieter's edema.
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Old 08-15-2013, 12:56 PM   #4
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I think it's a mental thing. I am nowhere near goal, but I've realized that I've been stuck for months at around where I was for about four years, before I started a steady gain again. This is the last weight my body "sat still" at, and I think somewhere in the back of my mind is going "well this is better than where we were, and we're used to this". I know of others who get close to goal and it becomes "is it really worth the stress for 5 pounds?"
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:27 PM   #5
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I join those who believe more in a settling point -- a balance between caloric intake and weight that keeps your mind happy -- than a biological setpoint. In other words, many of us find it psychologically taxing to restrict our calories below a certain point, which becomes our settling point.

F.
I agree with this but hormones also play a role in this as well. Ultimately we don't really quite understand the mind/body relationship.

In the context of the OP's question - if you're monitoring your caloric intake and not losing weight it has nothing to do with set point. You're either not in a deficit or you're in such a small one that you need more patience. Also, water can confound the issue.
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Old 08-15-2013, 01:30 PM   #6
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I believe in set points, it may be water edema, or something else.

I can be in a caloric deficit (yes I track and measure everything) and stall at a certain weight for weeks at a time. But when my body gives in to my stubbornness I will quickly lose whatever I should have lost over a few days to a week (depending how long the stall was) before going back to my normal steady loss (down .2 - .5 every couple days if I am on track).

I have noticed that they tend to happen at the same numbers every time for me, and they are at weights I stayed at for a year+ when I was on my way up. around 262-265, 246-244, 220-223. I have never stayed on track in the low 200s long enough to know if I stall there.

I am hoping to skip the 240s stall this time since I only recently regained above it.

Best advice is just keep at it, maybe stay off the scale for a couple weeks if you can if it is frustrating you and making you want to cheat. It has to give up eventually.
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Old 08-15-2013, 04:10 PM   #7
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I think there is something to this phenomena -- I know the plural of anecdote isn't data, but I find it interesting that so many encounter this. It's clearly not something that breaks the laws of physics, but I do wonder if being at one weight for awhile doesn't somehow affect your body's concept of homeostasis. Freelancemomma's point about a "settling point" and a certain calorie level that your body likes also is probably a very big part of what's going on - but I think there's something else beyond that.

I find my weight "stickiest" in the low 170s, probably because I was that weight for 10+ years. Above it, and it's relatively easy to get back down to there. Budging from the low 170s was much harder than any of the weight that followed after. Again, anecdotal - and not insurmountable. I'm not suggesting that this violates any laws of thermodynamics - but I think something is at play we don't understand fully.
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Old 08-15-2013, 04:32 PM   #8
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I believe in set points, it may be water edema, or something else.

I can be in a caloric deficit (yes I track and measure everything) and stall at a certain weight for weeks at a time. But when my body gives in to my stubbornness I will quickly lose whatever I should have lost over a few days to a week (depending how long the stall was) before going back to my normal steady loss (down .2 - .5 every couple days if I am on track).

I have noticed that they tend to happen at the same numbers every time for me, and they are at weights I stayed at for a year+ when I was on my way up. around 262-265, 246-244, 220-223. I have never stayed on track in the low 200s long enough to know if I stall there.

I am hoping to skip the 240s stall this time since I only recently regained above it.

Best advice is just keep at it, maybe stay off the scale for a couple weeks if you can if it is frustrating you and making you want to cheat. It has to give up eventually.
What you're describing is water retention and is extremely common. The fact that it happens at weights you were stuck at before is not relative to the situation other than that stress is a huge contributor to water retention.

Set point theory is quite a bit different than what you're describing.
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Old 08-15-2013, 05:22 PM   #9
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freelancemomma - What is your field of study? I have noticed that you seem to know much about health/medical issues.
I'm a freelance writer specializing in health and medicine, so I do a lot of research. In the area of obesity and dieting, however, the more research I do the less I feel I know! No two studies seem to agree on anything. And a lot of the stuff I read (especially about carbs) doesn't seem to apply to me at all! I love carbs and have no trouble losing or maintaining weight on a high-carb diet.

Re: edema, some people seem to be bloaters and others (like me) don't retain extra water in response to high salt intake, TOM, etc. I assume that's the reason I lose weight quite linearly and thus tend not to have whooshes. I've only bloated visibly once in my life, after the birth of my second child.

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Old 08-15-2013, 09:06 PM   #10
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I'm a freelance writer specializing in health and medicine, so I do a lot of research. In the area of obesity and dieting, however, the more research I do the less I feel I know! No two studies seem to agree on anything. And a lot of the stuff I read (especially about carbs) doesn't seem to apply to me at all! I love carbs and have no trouble losing or maintaining weight on a high-carb diet.

Re: edema, some people seem to be bloaters and others (like me) don't retain extra water in response to high salt intake, TOM, etc. I assume that's the reason I lose weight quite linearly and thus tend not to have whooshes. I've only bloated visibly once in my life, after the birth of my second child.

Freelance
You should subscribe to Alan Aragon's research review. He does a great job of discussing the pros and cons of various research which makes it helpful when you're reading a study to see if it is well done, or not.
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Old 08-15-2013, 09:49 PM   #11
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Re: edema, some people seem to be bloaters and others (like me) don't retain extra water in response to high salt intake, TOM, etc. I assume that's the reason I lose weight quite linearly and thus tend not to have whooshes. I've only bloated visibly once in my life, after the birth of my second child.

Freelance
I am the perfect counter example to you. A carb-sensitive dieter who looses step-wise with 2-3 months adjustment periods in-between. I am also a crazy bloater who can lately pack on up to 7 lbs. I still loose fat, but the scale reflects my true weight only about 5 days per month. I suspect everything is linked in the end to mild hypothyroidism. My plateaus sometimes just happen, sometimes they are chosen diet brakes and necessary for my hormones to catch up as they seem to go out of whack every 15 lbs or so. Maybe this can be called a reset point. I am not sure whether I could force the issue somehow and avoid breaks. I feel healthy and do not want to mess this up. But sometimes it is hard to watch others race through lbs.
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Old 08-16-2013, 08:45 AM   #12
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This is something I've been interested in lately. As someone up thread said, a collection of anecdotes is not data, but the notion of set points fits what I've been experiencing. I've been stuck in the 220s for a few months. The month before last, I was just feeling rotten. I was cold, hungry all the time, depressed and anxious. The final straw for me was when I rigidly clamped down on my caloric intake, was definitely eating at a deficit and actually started gaining weight. Not to mention, that I just got colder. Like bone chilling, shivering colder. (FYI, I did get my thyroid tested and all tests came back dead nuts on normal.)

I started googling about being cold all the time, which was my major complaint, and was introduced to the idea of weight set points and diet breaks. There is so much conflicting information; it's been hard to sort through. In addition to the articles already listed in the OP, I found this article: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990627/

I also found this: http://www.webmd.com/diet/guide/idea...r-happy-weight

I can't find it now, but I also read something from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute that dieters should lose 10% of their body weight, then maintain that for 6 months, then go back to losing more weight after that, if they so choose. I've lost 27% of my starting body weight. Hmmmmm...

Not really as much related to set points, but more to the point of my own experience, I found this: http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/fat...iet-break.html

Anyway, since I've been on a diet for a year and a half now, I decided to take a month long break and eat at maintenance. My experience has been good. My hunger is back to normal, I'm not shivering and teeth clacking cold, my depression is gone and my anxiety is much, much better. Initially, I gained a couple of pounds but then last week, I actually dropped weight.

I don't really know how much my experience relates to set points but I tend to think that maybe it does.
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Old 08-16-2013, 07:00 PM   #13
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I definitely believe in set points. I've yo-yo dieted for 30 years and they've always been a part of my experience. The numbers I remember my body returning to on the way up were: 128 in my early 20's, 137 in my late 20's, 145 in my early 30's, 155 in my late 30's, and then I went on meds at age 40 and hit 197 in 6 months, and then in my late 40's, I went to 210 (and although I'd go as high as 215-16, it'd always drop back to 210 within days). And now in my 50's, 210. Every time I dieted, and I dieted at every age, it would hover around those weights at least for a few days, even weeks, before dropping any lower, and whenever I'd stop dieting, it would hover around those weights for months and sometimes years before moving any higher. I'm sure I have set points on the way down for the 180's, 170's, and 160's too, but it's been so long since I've been there, I can't remember what they are.
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:53 AM   #14
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This is an old theory that came up in the 70s and there was even the setpoint diet. During weight loss it is entirely normal to have periods, even for weeks, where you don't lose. It is not a setpoint that your body doesn't want to go under. It is your body fine tuning your hormones and functions to lower weight.
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