Saturday, April 26, 2014

Body fat, weight and set point theory

Ever feel like it's game on with your exercise and diet plan, but you're not seeing progress on the scale?

There's a solid piece in my new book "Mind Over Diet" that unpacks how your body reacts to its set point. There's an emotional, psychological and physical dimensionality to how your settle in with a specific weight range and body fat profile.

I was intrigued when the following input came into my inbox today. It's another update from blog reader and Mind Over Diet adherent David Campbell. David is a former vascular surgeon, so I'd give his medical perspective a lot of credence. What resonated for me was that on some occasion, we eat to satiate emotional needs, while on other occasions, our bodies are making a physiological response.

David thanks...and keep us posted on your Mind Over Diet progress!

MOD advocate David Campbell and wife Kristi
I have a couple of thoughts on your set point discussion in MOD.

 In medical school ( this was back in the 80's for me) they taught a lot about set points in the body. Not only weight, but things like blood pressure, heart rate, hormone levels and all sorts of things like that. The set points are controlled by feedback loops. On a biological level, too much (or too little) of one product stimulates the production of another product that in turn inhibits (or stimulates) the original product. 

For example, if hormone A gets too high that stimulates the production of hormone B , which then acts back on hormone A to either decrease A's function or it's production. In this way hormone A's activity stays in a preset range or set point. 

I think weight works in much the same way. As you point out there are methods to alter this set point both in a good way and or in a bad way. The more we understand how set points work, the more we can do to reset in a good way.

For me personally, I know when I am burning off fats because my body feels the lack of energy due to the shift from carbohydrate to fat metabolism. Fats are a poor fuel compared to carbs and the metabolic byproducts of fat metabolism (ketones) also make you feel bad. That's the feeling you get at mile 22 in a marathon when all your liver storage of carbs (mostly glycogen which is converted into glucose) are used up from the run. The shift to fat metabolism causes that "hit the wall feeling".

When you are burning fats the quickest way to feel better is to get carbs into your system. Your body craves a carb fix. Consequently the calorie intake goes up to reestablish the weight set point. My personal set point is about 140 lbs which is where I am now. I can already feel the urge to take in more carbs. But as you mentioned, we can fight through that set point to establish a new set point. It takes a lot of determination because the physiology is slow to react. 

 I think exercise is key to changing your set point. Exercise releases a number of hormones that shift metabolism towards fat burning. I think high intensity training especially does this. Exercising hard up to a near failure point fools your body into believing it is in "fight or flight mode" and release stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine which are both huge fat burners. Getting people to exercise to the point of failure is only for the truly motivated!

As for supplements, I don't use any. I'll do my homework and research the topic a bit but most seem like fads to me. 

Enough for now! Clearly I'm enjoying my MOD journey. Thanks!


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