Set-point Theory and Weight Loss Surgery

If you’re overweight, you’ve likely gone through plenty of attempts at diet and exercise in the past, and you know firsthand how weight loss often seems to plateau after a little while. At that point, you likely ask yourself, “what am I doing wrong?” But you may not be doing anything wrong; it may simply be a result of something called set-point theory.

Set-point Theory Explains Why It’s Difficult to Lose Weight Naturally

Your body is a complex system that carries out many processes. But ultimately, most bodily functions, both physical and psychological, are reactionary. That’s why your body pumps you full of adrenaline in threatening situations and makes you sleepy when it needs to repair itself.

But sometimes, those reactions can be damaging to your body or cause negative behaviors.

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If you’re in a threatening situation for a long period of time, you could develop PTSD, causing you to experience adrenaline rushes or fear when you should feel safe. If you’re worried about something, you may experience insomnia despite the fact your body needs to rest.

Your body goes through a similar experience when you try to lose weight because it’s adjusted to carrying out normal functions at a higher weight. That causes your body to naturally resist your efforts to slim down, at which point most people become discouraged and give up on their efforts to lose weight.

That also explains why the effects of set point theory are most obvious when you stop seeing progress trying to lose weight; it’s your body fighting to maintain what it believes is its optimal operating weight.

How Set-point Theory Affects Weight Loss Efforts

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Set-point theory was developed by William Bennett and Joe Gurrin in 1982. Their book, “The Dieter’s Dilemma,” provides an in-depth look at the theory.

Set-point theory suggests that your body’s internal scale normalizes at a certain weight and then fights to maintain that weight. Regardless of what that weight is, it becomes your set point. It’s believed that some people’s internal scales are set at a higher weight than others due to genetics and long-term lifestyle factors.

For example, if you weigh 300 pounds for an extended period of time your body will adjust your metabolism and hunger levels to help you stay 300 pounds. If you were once 300 pounds, and through diet and exercise, you drop to 250 pounds, your body will increase your hunger levels and slow your metabolism to help gain back the 50 pounds you lost.

Experts believe it’s possible to change your set point over time. Just like a person who was once thin can gradually become obese, those who are currently bigger can lower their set points through a long-term commitment to a healthier lifestyle. But it can take between four and eight weeks for your body to adjust to a new set point weight.

Is There Evidence That Supports Set-point Theory?

Most experts believe set-point theory is valid, and studies have confirmed that weight loss causes a subsequent drop in metabolism. Some experts believe it often drops lower than it would have if a person had never been obese.

This means that it’s more difficult for a person who reaches 150 pounds after once being 300 pounds to maintain that weight than it would be for a person who has never been over 150 pounds.

The scientific explanation for this involves ghrelin, a hormone that signals us to feel hunger. Ghrelin increases after weight loss, causing you to feel more hungry. People who have lost a massive amount of weight will experience more ghrelin production after losing a significant amount of weight, making it even harder for them to resist hunger and cravings.

Weight-loss Surgery and Changing Your Set-point Weight

Weight loss surgery is a promising option for people suffering from obesity and struggling to lose weight, especially people who have attempted to lose weight through dieting and exercising in the past but struggled to keep going when their progress comes to a halt.

Most people assume that gastric sleeve and other similar procedures are done simply to restrict the patient’s caloric intake. However, the surgery also triggers a reset to the body’s metabolic process, effectively teaching the brain to accept a lower set point.

This removes one of the greatest barriers that tend to halt weight loss, and it allows the patient to ease into a healthier diet and lifestyle.

For more information about the weight-loss surgery services we provide, please contact us today.