Evolution and why it makes sense. We evolved at a time when food wasn’t always readily available. Think back to cavemen and women who had to hunt for and gather food if they didn’t eat as much food as they could when it was available. For example, when a big beast had been caught, or in the summer months when there were lots of berries and leafy greens were ripe for foraging, they might not have had enough food stored or fat to survive the long winter months when little or no food was available.
These cavemen and women who survived were the ones who had the drive to eat when they could and store the energy as fat. These were the cave people who survive long enough to have cave people, babies, and pass on their genes to the next generation. And these are the genes we have inherited today which are designed to get us to eat as much as we need to ensure a safe supply of energy to survive.
This is often even harder for people to believe. But our bodies have a natural, in-built mechanism to reduce our body weight. If our body sense a weight is over its natural set point range without us consciously having to reduce the number of calories we consume or burn extra energy off through exercise. Evidence for this comes from over feeding studies where people are required to eat up to 400 extra calories a day and after a certain point, were unable to gain further weight.
Well, effectively is the opposite of what we described earlier. Our bodies increase our metabolism so we burn more energy off throughout the day without us consciously having to do this. And it reduces the circulating levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin and increases Y awfulness hormone to reduce our appetite and reduce our drive to go out and seek food.
The problem is, a lot of people don’t know our bodies have this natural in-built mechanism. So when we perceive that our body weight is too high, we believe that we have to do something about it. So we go on a diet which, as we saw in the section above, can actually end up making things worse. So overthinking and trying to override our body’s natural homeostasis mechanisms may be part of the problems we have with maintaining our weight.
You might be wondering if bodies have this natural, in-built way of maintaining weight.
Well, there’s a few things to consider here.
Firstly, there’s body diversity. We as a society need to get better at accepting the fact that there are naturally a range of different body shapes with naturally different set points. Some people never have a smaller body and were never designed to. It’s literally in the genes.
Secondly, dieting. We have now seen how the impact of creche and yo yo diets can actually lead to the increase in set point levels over time.
And lastly, our environment I’ll set point can interact with our environments in different ways due to our genes. Some of us will naturally be more likely to gain weight in our current environment than others. Look out for our future series exploring more about the genetics of white regulation.
Well, we can’t change our set point, but we can use the information we now have about our set point and use it to work with our bodies rather than against them. We can practice tuning into our natural hunger and fullness signals and eating in line with our bodies cues. Using them to guide decisions around eating.
One of the ways we can do this is by developing introspective awareness skills and learning about approaches such as intuitive and mindful eating. It can also be helpful to work on other factors that will improve our health and support our body to find its natural set point weight range, for example, by reducing stress and ensuring we are getting enough sleep.
We can also work on accepting our body at the weight. It naturally feels happiest that if this feels like it’s something that you might need more help with. Please do look out for an upcoming blog series exploring the topic of body image. If you feel that your weight is having an adverse impact on your physical health or you have any health concerns, please contact your GP or speak to a qualified health care provider. Interested in learning more.
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