Kelly Neilson, MDA RD LD
Why You Can't "Control" Your Body Weight
Updated: Mar 29, 2021
If you live on earth, odds are you’ve had thoughts pop up at some point that sound like, “Can I change my body weight?” or “How do I control my body weight?”
You weren’t born thinking this - so where did this idea come from?
The so-called “science and facts” about body weight are evident throughout media, friends, family, healthcare providers, health coaches, and personal trainers.
Society standardizes weight, telling you there's a “correct” number you should be and that there’s a simple equation to achieve it. If you match that standard, then your body will be deemed acceptable.
However… if this equation (dieting) worked, why do 95% of intentional weight loss efforts fail? If dieting led to sustainable change in body weight, wouldn’t everyone succeed and move on with life? Why does the weight loss industry have to keep coming out with new diets?
Here’s the short answer… your body doesn’t care about what size and shape is currently trendy. You have your very own set point weight.
Whoa, mind blown... I know. Let’s unpack this!
What is a Set Point Weight?
Your body has a predetermined weight that is naturally the healthiest for you, where everything runs smoothly, operating at its best. This is a weight range of ten to twenty pounds, called your set point.
You are a human, not a robot, dynamically living through different stages and seasons of life. Your weight is not meant (or able) to be one fixed number.
To better understand, compare your biological weight to a temperature set on a thermostat that is selected to make the house (a.k.a your body) most comfortable.
Your body chooses its most optimal weight for you. Read that one more time. You do not get to choose your weight.
You have a unique height, shoe size, eye color, and hair color that you didn’t assign yourself. It is entirely possible AND NORMAL for two people of the same height to have different shoe sizes.
That is absolutely true regarding your individual size, shape, and weight too.
You are the only person ever to have the DNA that you have with your genetic blueprint. That’s why body diversity is so real!
Of course we all don’t look the same, how boring would that be?!
Your body is meant to look like your body. Embrace your genetic blueprint.
Can You Change Your Set Point Weight?
It’s common to think, “I can certainly lose weight if I just stick to my diet and workout plan. It just hasn’t happened yet because I wasn’t strict enough last time.”
Even if you were able to white knuckle your weight down for a period of time, the answer stays the same. Temporary weight loss? Yes. Ultimate control? NO.
Believe it or not, your body is 100% on your side, invested in keeping you alive and healthy! It will do whatever it needs to keep you at your version of homeostasis.
And SPOILER ALERT, it may be a higher weight than you think it should be.
Before you even go there... there’s nothing wrong with a higher body weight, mmkay?
Innate physiological mechanisms are hard at work regulating your biological design.
If you try to take over control by going against your body’s systems, forcing weight loss below your set point, signals, alerts, and messages jump into action mode.
Your body is smarter than you think. It will respond by:
Reducing your metabolic rate
Slowing down your desire for movement
Increasing thoughts about food in your brain
Decreasing your inhibitions around food, so you EAT
Manipulating your body keeps you stuck between restriction and bingeing. The pursuit of weight loss is simply a neverending story of weight cycling.
If you choose to fight your body's natural weight and shape, you will be fighting your entire life.
How Do I Know What My Set Point Weight Is?
There is no medical chart or formula to tell you what your set point weight is. Rather it’s a gradual learning process of relying on eating intuitively to help you find your body’s most balanced place.
Your body is extremely wise and resilient. If you release control back over to your body, your body will guide you to your natural set point, taking care of itself.
This means saying goodbye, adios, sayonara to dieting, and shutting out the noise and pressure to fit the thin ideal of our society.
Diets are rigid and the more rigid you are the more your body’s regulating system feels threatened by what’s happening, causing your weight to be affected by anything.
Intuitive eating is fluid, living in the grey and allowing for your body to work its way toward settling where it needs to without you getting in the way.
Your set point weight is the weight you can effortlessly maintain while:
Following your body’s hunger and fullness cues with ease; this includes both physical fullness and mental satisfaction
Never counting, measuring, or tracking food
Sometimes eating past comfortable fullness
Enjoying movement; not compulsively exercising to counteract calories
Eating for fun and pleasure rather than solely to end hunger; think birthday cake, vacation, or grandma’s (not so) famous chocolate chip cookies!
Remember that your body can manage itself, just like when you were a kid and didn’t think twice about making food choices. As a kid you just did what felt best in the moment.
As you take a step back to process this information, it can be a huge sigh of relief! When you know you don’t have control, the burden of trying so hard is taken off your shoulders.
So much mental energy can be wasted chasing after an impossible ideal. Now use that energy to focus on what you can control!
Call a truce on the fight and let your body land where it wants to be.
Embrace it. Accept it. Feed it. Move it. Love it. Don’t control it!
Start your journey to finding peace with your body by working with a virtual anti-diet dietitian. If releasing control of food and your body makes you sweat...click here, let’s talk!