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If your weight has been something you’ve been unhappy with or wanted to change, it’s more than likely you’ve undergone some type of diet or exercise regimen to try to change it. You get started and you finally see the scale go down! Clothes are fitting better, you’re feeling good and everything is falling into place.

Until you inevitably stop the protocol you started.

Maybe the scale gradually creeps up, those jeans you were pumped about fitting into get tighter again, or you start to feel sluggish like you did before. You feel you’re back to square one. You get discouraged and wonder, “Why is it so hard to lose those last 10 pounds for good?”

The bad news is that this is all too common, but the good news is that there’s a reason for it.

It’s called the Biological Set Point. Long story short, it’s a metabolic function that is largely determined by your genetics, that tells your body to stay within a certain weight range. There’s a “happy weight” that your body likes to be at, and when we try to get out of this weight, our bodies upregulate appetite (through hormones like leptin and ghrelin) and reduce how much fuel (calories) you burn. When appetite goes up, food consumption typically follows. When our metabolic rate goes down, we don’t use the food we consume as fuel, and it ends up being stored (as fat tissue).

Try not to be mad at your metabolism for this. Way back when we had to hunt and forage for food, this would have been advantageous. It would have been unhealthy and inconvenient if we lost significant weight while going long periods of time without food, and then over time we would have lost so much weight that our bodies couldn’t perform their basic functions, which would mean no more hunting and foraging. Our bodies are designed to stay alive, not shed weight for the sake of shedding weight!

Now that it makes sense, how can we use information from set point theory to our advantage if the goal is weight loss? Here are 5 tips that can help you change your biological set point.

Focus on body composition, not weight.

When we focus on the scale alone, we neglect the progress that is happening under the surface. Gaining muscle is vital to changing your set point, because muscle is a metabolically active tissue. When you have more muscle, your body required more calories just to stay alive. However, muscle is dense and at first, can cause the scale to go up! If you’re afraid of seeing the scale go up, that might be your primary problem.

No overly aggressive measures.

Simply put, if the measures you take to lose weight are too crazy and aggressive, you won’t have any hope of keeping up with it. It’s not your fault, it’s because what you’re doing is unsustainable. For many of those with a poor lifestyle (e.g. no physical activity, processed food with every meal, binge drinking on weekends etc.), who abruptly change everything to support weight loss but don’t do the work to make these new, better habits a long-term part of our lives

Go slow and stick with it.

We know that rapid weight loss comes back just as quick (if not quicker)! Create reasonable expectations for yourself – this also plays off the 2nd point above – if your goal is to lose weight slowly over a longer period of time, you won’t HAVE to do anything overly aggressive to get there, and then you’ll be less likely to fall off the wagon. Stick to within 0.5-1lb of weight loss per week to avoid that rebound effect that nobody likes.

Increase your NEAT.

NEAT stands for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis” and includes any movement you’re doing outside of structured exercise. This can include cleaning, gardening, walking your dog, grocery shopping, and the list goes on and on. Too much focus on exercise and not enough on NEAT can lead to overtraining and at the end of the day, the calorie burn you get from that hour of exercise doesn’t even come close to the calorie burn you’re getting through the other 14-16 waking hours of the day. Things like taking your dog for an extra loop around the block or parking far away from the store can add up and go a long way.

Do “fat loss phases”.

If you’re chronically and persistently dieting, you’re doing nothing good for your metabolism. Chronic dieting lowers your basal metabolic rate (BMR) – meaning you’re burning fewer calories at rest. When you give a solid effort at weight loss for a set period of time and then gradually reverse back up to maintenance in between, you can hang on to your progress and keep your motivation and willpower on your side.

If you’re tired of losing and gaining the same 10lbs, book an appointment with one of our naturopathic doctors to come up with a strategy that will get the weight off, and keep it off for good.