One of the toughest questions people face is why is it so hard to lose weight?
Gaining weight, for most, after all, is not too difficult. Actually, most of us are experts at doing so, being so good at it that we do it without conscious effort.
The opposite skill – losing weight – is a lot harder. And, to cover everyone, for some people, gaining weight is extremely difficult. Why?
The answer is that our body has a setpoint, a specific weight that it tries to maintain.
And the reason it has that is relatively straightforward. There was a time in our history when starving to death was not uncommon. There, if you manage to gain a lot of weight during times of plenty, when the food ran out, you’d survive.
Every 15 pounds of weight or so, according to a Doctor specializing in Endocrinology and metabolism, who gave a lecture I attended, means an additional month of survival in starvation.
So to put it simply, those who we now view as lucky – that it is either very hard for them to gain weight, or they lose it easily, would not be so lucky if they were in a city with no food and it was winter.
That’s kind of general, though. What is the more scientific explanation?
The more sciency explanation is that of setpoints.
Imagine that inside your body there is a little scale. On this scale is displayed a number that is your weight and next to it a number that is what your body thinks your weight should be.
So let’s say you weight 120 pounds and your body thinks you should weight 130.
To get you up 10 pounds, it will slow down how fast it digests food, make you hungrier, and do whatever it can to get those 10 pounds there.
The weight your body wants you to be is your setpoint, and it will do whatever it takes to get your actual weight to be at the setpoint.
“That’s interesting. But in that example, the setpoint is 130 pounds. What if I gain 10 pounds from there, and weight 140? Why won’t my body do whatever it takes to lose that weight?”
And there’s the problem.
Your body is willing to change its setpoint – but in general, only does so upwards. So if you weight 140, your body will possibly change its setpoint to 140. So it then becomes extremely hard to lose weight from there.
It’s a system that was possibly designed to store fat and protect you from starving when there was no food.
It is also a system that makes it very hard to lose weight and is probably playing a large role in the epidemic so to speak of obesity today.