The Vitl Nutrition Team / 16 Jun 2021
Calorie deficit has long been the accepted theory for weight loss, but is that all there is? The idea of eating less than you burn to lose weight is simple mathematics, but our bodies are far from simple.
Research is emerging that supports a theory known as the ‘weight-set point’. Your brain is essentially wired to keep your weight within a certain range and will do everything it can to stay in that range. As soon as you start restricting your calorie intake, your metabolism will slow down and you will burn fewer calories, essentially entering survival mode to conserve as much energy as possible to keep the weight on. When the calorie restriction is lifted (i.e. you stop dieting), your metabolism will remain slow and your hunger and satiety hormones will work hard to return to your weight-set point. The body will also store a little extra energy for the next ‘famine’ that may be around the corner.
This explains yo-yo dieting, and why, once you lose weight rapidly, it’s so hard to keep it off. Your weight-set point is determined by genetics, epigenetics and your environment, which means you can change it! But how?
Firstly, change the composition of your diet. Swap out highly processed and refined foods such as fast food, ready-made sauces, bacon, donuts, sweets and chocolate bars for ‘whole’ foods. The fewer ingredients on a label the better (ideally no label!).
Secondly, adopt short bursts of muscular activity to stimulate your muscle cells and the production of new muscles. Your muscles are the key to increasing your metabolism and so decreasing your natural weight-set point.
Thirdly, tune into your body and really listen to it’s cues. Only eat food when you are hungry. This may be the most obvious sentence but in our obesogenic environment we are surrounded by irresistible ‘empty’ calorie foods (those with high calorific content but low in essential nutrients). Adopt a habit of eating until you are 80% full and not until your plate is clean or when the oversized packet is empty.
Lastly, a way to decrease your weight-set point permanently is to very slowly decrease your weight in intervals. Instead of a sudden and significant loss of weight, it would be best to lose a few kilograms and then maintain this new weight for a few months before you carry on. This way your metabolism won’t suffer and your body won’t try to ‘fight’ the weight loss.
Do ask our nutrition team if you have any questions; we are always here to help!