What is Obesity?
Why do diets fail?
The metabolic set point
What is Bariatric Surgery?
How do I get started?
More about our team
WHAT IS THE METBOLIC SET POINT?
The human body is a wonderful, complicated machine. Your digestive system, your brain and your fat stores all work together through a highly complex biochemical interaction to help you maintain a stable weight. These different parts of your body communicate with one another through various feedback mechanisms in an effort to coordinate the various activities that maintain your weight at a specific level. That metabolic level is known as the set point.
YOUR METABOLISM SET POINT
Think of your set point as a thermostat. In your home, you set your thermostat at the temperature you most enjoy and expect your heating or air conditioning system to respond to outside conditions and maintain your home at that temperature. By the same token, your set point raises or lowers your appetite and metabolism — the rate at which your body burns calories — in response to how much you eat.
MAINTAINING A STABLE WEIGHT
You may now ask the obvious question: “If my body is designed to maintain a stable weight, then why did I gain weight and why is it so darn hard to lose it?
Back to our thermostat analogy. Let’s say that the outside temperature is 28֠ ˚C and you want your home’s cooling system to maintain an indoor temperature of 24˚C. No problem. Your air conditioner won’t have to work too hard to cool the outside air by only 4˚C.
But let’s throw in a heat wave when the outside temperature climbs to a sweltering 43˚C֠. No matter how hard your AC struggles, it won’t be able to maintain that desired 24˚C temperature. The gap is just too big. So what does it do? It maintains the lowest temperature it can — but it will still be higher than 24˚C!
That’s what happens with your set point. If, over a long period of time, you develop a greater gap between the calories you eat and those you use up in exercise, your body’s weight regulation system will adjust your set point upward. Your body then settles in to maintain that higher weight.
That answers the first part of your question, but what about why it’s so hard to keep the weight back off?
KEEPING THE WEIGHT OFF
When you start to lose weight, your body’s metabolic alarm goes off. It alerts your body — which strives for equilibrium or that stable status quo — that you are not eating as much as usual. In turn, your body demands more food. It’s a survival mechanism, built in eons ago, and not easily reprogrammed.
For years, dieticians have reassured patients that dieters don’t fail for lack of willpower but because of cravings! As long as your set point remains elevated, you will be assaulted by those blasted cravings every time your body senses that you are not eating enough to maintain your present weight. Bariatric surgery resets this set point to a lower level allowing your body to defend a lower set point and by doing this the body defends a lower weight.