There are several different theories that attempt to explain why our bodies appear to have a preferred “set” weight. Given the difficulty that most people have with sustained weight loss, it would appear that our genetics have hard wired a weight baseline into our DNA. If is this true, is it pointless to try and manage our body composition?
The Set Point Theory
The set point regulation model position is that the hormone leptin helps regulate body fat in all humans. If you deviate from your body’s fat set point for any reason leptin levels will decline, driving up hunger and prompting you to increase your energy intake, and decrease your energy output. Eventually you will regain the weight you have lost and return to your set point. We see this cycle play out time and again with people dieting down only to regain the weight, so it feels reasonable to assume that our set point is tightly regulated at a biological level.
However, the set point theory does not account for environmental and socio economic factors in fluctuating weight over the course of one’s lifetime. For example, more affluent members of Western society tend to be obese compared to the less affuent, children who are more sedentary have more adiposity, and life events such as going to college and getting married increase obesity. This negates the ideas of a set point. The set point theory also fails to explain why certain diseases and disorders can cause major weight alterations.
A Different Perspective
It is very unlikely that genetics are solely responsible for body weight. A more likely explanation is that there is a weight range that our body will settle on influenced by both genetics and our environment. This theory is the dual intervention model. This would explain why certain individuals are more prone to obesity in obesogenic environments, and why others seem to be more resistant to weight gain. It accommodates both the socioeconomic-environmental views and the molecular-physiological views of energy balance within a single framework.
What does this mean for individuals pursuing weight loss?
Our genetics determine the boundaries for potential leanness and fatness. So basically, our body composition will be influenced by multiple factors. Our weight will settle within a certain range based on a combination of our biology and our behavior. You do have the opportunity to set goals with gaining muscle and losing body fat. You also have the opportunity to manage these changes over your lifetime by establishing certain habits.
Indeed genetics load the gun, and lifestyle pulls the trigger.
By adopting a healthy lifestyle and practicing sustainable habits, you can influence where your body weight settles. It’s important to implement a personalized approach that factors in your genetics, your hormones, your environment and your preferences. It’s important to note there is still much that is not understood on the subject of obesity and weight loss. Ongoing research attempts to understand the complexity of this issue.
When it comes to a fitness and nutrition plan a coach can help you set realistic goals, manage your expectations and stay accountable. If you need help, reach out here and let’s get started today!