We have two cats in our house. One is Peewee and the other is Oreo Bing Bing (don't ask about the name, it's a long story).
Oreo Bing Bing goes by Bing for short. She's about 17 years old and lives one heck of a life.
Now Bing has grown as she's gotten older. Not quite as fat as the cat above, but definitely fat.
And she was slowing down as a result.
We told ourselves heck..she's almost 18 years old...of course she's slowing down.
So we just sort of accepted it. You get old..and you slow down. It's a nature thing.
But then something REALLY interesting happened.
We changed the way we fed her.
We had one of those large gravity feeders that you can buy for your cats that you refill a couple of times a week. The food refills the bowl automatically as they eat it.
She'd basically just snack all day to her needs.
Now she's been eating this way for as long as I can remember so she was used to it.
We changed NOTHING else other than to feed her a fixed amount of food twice daily. There was no real short term change.
To our surprise, she suddenly lost all of her extra weight in a matter of only a few weeks.
We actually thought she might be sick...but then she starting playing more, running around, chasing the other cat.
Once when I was looking around the corner when I knew she wasn't looking, I saw her bullying Spike, our self proclaimed strongest dog in the world and chief motivation officer.
This cat totally had her strut back and she wasn't taking any crap...even from an 85 pound bulldog who flosses with squirrel bones.
So what happened?
You see the cat was set in her ways, and she was accustomed to eating a certain way. Her body was expecting a certain amount and frequency of nutrition.
And she was surviving...just fine. There really was no reason for her metabolism to do anything different...and her body didn't change for a couple of weeks.
But then her body realized this was the new "norm" and reset her set point to her new fighting weight of about 10 pounds...and that's where she has pretty much stayed.
This happens to us as well. It is called your metabolic set point.
The Metabolic Set Point
We all have a set point as well...and your body will defend that set point as a default behavior.
If you've slowly gained wait over the years, then your body has adapted to an ever increasing set point (weight).
That's because our bodies DO NOT like drastic change. Although our bodies are incredibly adaptable, we prefer slow change over time.
Does this sound familiar?
- You see yourself in the mirror one day and have that "oh god what happened" moment.
- You decide to embark on (insert any current diet fad here) and you're eating low calorie and low fat rabbit food.
- You start doing cardio and burning calories.
- In other words, eat less and exercise more.
- You lose weight and drop a dress/pant size or two. Everything is great right?
- Since you can't eat rabbit food forever, you start eating your "normal" food and all of the weight comes back..and then a couple of more.
- You actually end up gaining more weight than you lost. This is called the "catch up fat" phenomenon and explained in this paper.
How to Lower Your Set Point
Stop thinking about diets...In fact we hate the very term diet. How many times have you said.."I'm going to go on a diet" or something to that effect?
Stop and think about how that sounds for a moment. You've actually already set yourself up for failure BEFORE you've even started.
By "going on" something, you're implying in that very statement that you're eventually going to "go off" that same something.
The key to establishing a new (lower) set point is to not only make a change, but make a lasting change.
Your body needs to recognize that what it is experiencing is the new norm.
A Double Edged Sword
So the good news is that you can actually work to lower your set point (more on that in a bit). The bad news is that this is often the very same mechanism that causes your fat loss to plateau.
Your body gets accustomed to a new body set point and unless additional change occurs, you'll often stay at that weight despite maintaining a similar nutrition intake and exercise routine.
Ask anybody who trains for a fitness or body building competition and they know that in order to cut the last 5% of body fat, that they have to change their nutritional macros to force their body to change.
Tips for Lowering your Set Point
- Add smaller permanent changes rather than large temporary changes. I'll take a small change that last a lifetime over a drastic change that I can only stick to for two weeks. Do you drink 3 sodas a day? Commit to drinking two from now on.
- Consistency is KEY here. Be consistent with whatever change you make
- Start with Nutrition...even just one of your meals (breakfast for example). Eating refined carbs? Ditch them for a green smoothie.
- Sugar and Alcohol are low hanging fruit - ditch these if you haven't already
- Stop counting calories. Calories in Calories is out is simply NOT True. Instead, focus on where your calories are coming from (eat real non processed food).