Linda Bacon, PhD, professor, researcher, and consultant, is a leading advocate for Health at Every Size and sustainable agriculture. Her recently released book, Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight has received great acclaim from health professionals and consumers alike.
Dr. Bacon's article below originally appeared on EZine Articles.
Suppose you had a "fat meter" that would send a loud "STOP!" message to your brain once you'd accumulated enough fat. Suddenly, you'd have no desire for pizza, ice cream, or potato chips. You'd look at these favorite foods, even smell their enticing odors, and wouldn't even be tempted. Or maybe you would decide to eat anyway, and your metabolism would just rev up to burn off the extra calories.
Nice fantasy, huh? Well, it's not so far-fetched. Believe it or not, you do have that built-in mechanism. Why, then, you're asking, do you always feel driven to eat, even though you consider yourself overweight or struggle to maintain your weight? And why do you gain weight when you aren't restraining yourself?
Well, maybe your meter is broken. Or maybe its alarm isn't loud enough to trigger a reaction from your brain. And that's too bad. Because this mechanism is so powerful that people for whom it works never have to fight the temptation to eat when they're not hungry. Remaining at a healthy weight comes naturally to them; it's not something they have to work at through deprivation diets and long hours at the gym.
Unfortunately, for too many of us this potent weight regulation system has gone awry. Food still tempts us long after our caloric need is satisfied. And extra calories result in packing on extra pounds. Our body no longer knows how to regulate its "setpoint," the level that is biologically ideal for us.
But don't worry. I offer information to help you learn how to reset this powerful mechanism so that your body can naturally achieve its healthiest weight. You'll be able to eat normally without thinking about calories, allowing your hunger/fullness/appetite levels to regulate what and when you eat in a remarkably efficient mechanism. Eating will be simple and enjoyable.
Setpoint: Your Ideal Weight
When it's working right, this weight regulation mechanism is as precise as the most sophisticated scientific instrument. Don't believe me? Just consider a fifty-year-old woman who weighs about five pounds more than she did when she was twenty. If she eats about 2,000 calories a day, over the course of thirty years she takes in about 22 million calories. Since five pounds of body fat stores about 17,500 calories, that means that her body was just .08 percent off in balancing energy in vs. energy out. This amounts to a difference of about 50 calories per month-less than the calories in one egg!
In other words, her energy balance was regulated with a precision greater than 99.9 percent! How many things in life can you say that about? Certainly there's no way you can be as precise by trying to exert your own willpower over what you eat and how much you exercise.
Until recent decades, adult weight stability over long periods of time was the norm and was an effortless process. One 1970s research study showed that the average weight of a sixty-year-old man was only four to five pounds more than the average thirty-year-old man. That kind of weight maintenance is no accident.
So why fight? Give up counting calories and trying to control your eating through dieting. Instead, let your body do the regulating for you. I promise you'll have far better results.
The healthy weight that your body aims for is called your setpoint weight. Think of it as the preferred temperature on a fat thermostat. Like any thermostat, this one can be set at whatever point is most comfortable. The system then works tirelessly to do anything it can to bring your body into alignment with that point. It acts like a biological force: The further you go from center, the stronger the pull to get you back to the comfortable range.
This system only works if we let it, however. If you keep "jiggling" with the thermostat via diets, the mechanism breaks down. This jiggling is like a power struggle to wrest control away from your body's innate weight-regulation mechanism, and in the end, it only makes your body fight harder to retain control. The result: Your body forces you to not only regain any weight you've lost, but you may even pay a penalty with extra weight gain-and a setpoint now set higher to protect against future diets.
Rather than continuing to engage in this weighty battle with your body, you could declare a truce and join forces with it to help achieve a healthy, natural weight. You'll find that you will lose interest in eating when you are full. And your body itself will make up for those occasional party overindulgences without you having to deliberately deny yourself.
Read Linda Bacon's book:
Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight