Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Set Point Theory and your Weight

In the last couple days I have read a number of articles from the Health section of the New York Times that were written by author Gina Kolata of "Rethinking Thin" fame.

The first article dealt with the possibility of the human body having a weight set-point that is tightly regulated.

According to the article 'For the Overweight, Bad Advice by the Spoonful',

"Scientists now believe that each individual has a genetically determined weight range spanning perhaps 30 pounds".

Immediately after I read this I thought of all the examples of people who have gained (or lost) more than 30 pounds.

At the age of 24 I weighted 216 pounds. At the bodybuilding contest I did when I was 28 I weighed 168 pounds, and I currently weigh between 175-180 pounds. That is a range of 48 pounds.

And while it took an extreme amount of eating to get to 216 (I did this on purpose), I also spent most of my late twenties between the weight of 185 and 195 pounds. For the last two years I have weighed between 175-180 pounds, but use fasting to maintain this weight.

So what is my set point?

John Barban, the editor of Eat Stop Eat has another similar story. When I first met John he weighed over 240 pounds. This was the weight he was at for duration of his graduate work.

When he returned from the first year of his PhD, he weighed 187 pounds.

For the three to four years after that he weighed between 220 and 230 pounds. Since he started following Eat Stop Eat almost two years he has weighed around 205 pounds. So this is a range of over 50 pounds.

What is his set point?

The truth is, I beleive there is some validity to the set point theory, but I think it is very ignorant to suggest that this is purely biological (NOTE: this was not Gina Kolata's suggestion, but one that is prevalent).

Biologically, I can see how your lean mass could be relatively fixed. Your height is the best determinant of your lean mass. A 6 foot 8 human being is almost always going to have more lean mass that a person who is 5 foot 3, regardless of any weight training or even drug use.

As another example, an adult man who is 175 pounds at 10% body fat would be very unlikely to ever reach 215 pounds at 10% body fat. However, if that same adult man is who is 175 pounds at 10% could change his lifestyle dramatically enough he could become 215 pounds at 27% body fat.

So just by increasing fat mass, you could easily move outside of a 30 pounds set point.

Now here is where it gets interesting. In another article by Gina, she reported that scientists have shown that:

Every year, whether you are fat or thin, whether you lose weight or gain, 10 percent of your fat cells die. And every year, those cells that die are replaced with new fat cells. The result is that the total number of fat cells in the body remains the same, year after year throughout adulthood. Losing or gaining weight affects only the amount of fat stored in the cells, not the number of cells.

So based on this information I believe that drastic changes in lifestyle can cause drastic changes in weight and body composition. I can see how a set point of 30 pounds would and could apply to lean body mass, and I can also see how changing fat mass can completely blow this 30 pound limit out of the water!

The problem is that for most people, drastic changes in lifestyle are not possible and/or desired.

Your family, where you work, the foods you like, the friends you have, the activities you do, even the shows you watch on TV, all can effect how you eat, what you eat, when you eat and how active you are.

The bottom line is that even though at some point in our lives the amount of fat cells we have may become fixed, and our ability to drastically alter the way our body looks is limited by factors including genetics, height and lifestyle, we can all still get leaner and we can all still add muscle.


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Dean said...

hello..can we exchange links?



billy said...

I like Gina Kolada. And getting caught in the rain. ;)

Anonymous said...

The best way to help lower your blood cholesterol level is to eat less saturated fat and cholesterol, control your weight and walk or do another physical activity for at least 30 minutes each day. Our plan is based on these simple steps:

Use up at least as many calories as you take in.
Be physically active.
Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week, if not all.
Eat a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
Choose whole-grain, high-fiber foods.
Eat fish at least twice a week.
Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods.
Limit how much saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol you eat.
Choose lean meats and poultry without skin and prepare them without added saturated and trans fat.
Select fat-free, 1 percent fat and low-fat dairy products.
Cut back on foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils to reduce trans fat in your diet.
Cut back on foods high in dietary cholesterol.
Cut back on beverages and foods with added sugars.
Choose and prepare foods with little or no salt.
If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation.
Follow the American Heart Association recommendations when you eat out.
Read the nutrition facts label and ingredients list.
Avoid use of and exposure to tobacco products.

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Anonymous said...

Amerishape helped me!

I was having a problem with my spouse.

He loves pizza........

You've identified your weight-loss goals. You've declared them to others. You've talked the talk, and now you're walking the walk by exercising regularly and making healthy changes to your diet. Your efforts are starting pay off. You've lost some pounds, feel energized, and are committed to staying the course.

Why then, does your loved one not seem as excited about your self-improvement as you? Maybe he or she is always trying to persuade you to skip a workout, or always suggests pizza. Is your partner subtly sabotaging you on your journey to total health?

If you feel this might be the case, ask yourself why. It doesn't mean that the person doesn't care about you. It could be that he or she is feeling insecure and threatened at the prospect of your transformation for the better. Your partner might be worried that if you lose weight and get healthy, you'll leave and find someone better. More likely than not, this person has no idea that he or she is undermining your resolve.

Sit down together and assure him or her of your love and then talk about what's going on. Give examples of behavior he or she's exhibited that has sabotaged you in the past. Keep reassuring this person of his or her value and importance in your life.

Once this person clearly understands the affect they are having, maybe they'll be able to be a supporter and not a saboteur. In the end, they wants what best for you. They just may not know how to best go about it.

Yours in Health and Fitness,

Cindy Jackson

Thank You Amerishape