The process of weight loss can be frustrating to begin with, even when our bodies cooperate like we expect (which is not as common as we would like to believe).  When we hit weight loss plateaus or have a high “setpoint,” it can get even more frustrating. Metabolic setpoint is basically the weight that your body “likes” or keeps returning to no matter what you do.  For most people, this setpoint is far higher than they would like.  This often causes people to feel helpless, get frustrated, and abandon their weight loss efforts.

For those of you who feel like your body is stuck at a high setpoint,THERE IS HOPE!  Once you understand the science behind this phenomenon, you will be able to make some simple changes to get your weight moving in the right direction and reset your setpoint to the weight that you desire.

Here are the major contributing factors to a high setpoint AND what to do about them:

  • Cortisol – When we embark on a weight loss program, we often go crazy with long, intense exercise sessions. Short-term, this seems like a great solution as it contributes to initial weight loss. After a while, the body adjusts and starts to see this as a state of chronic stress. As a response, the body elevates its production of the stress hormone cortisol which causes your body to HOLD ONTO fat, especially belly fat. The higher your body fat, the higher your setpoint will be.
    • Solution: Get less exercise! Keep your workouts to 30-45 minutes BUT NO MORE! When you exercise more than 45 minutes, cortisol levels raise and stay elevated. Make sure to keep your workouts varied to include cardio intervals and resistance training. Just decrease the duration and often the frequency. Give your body rest days. This seems counter intuitive, but it really can make a major difference.
  • Whole Foods v/s Processed Foods – Studies have shown that a diet high in processed foods actually INCREASES YOUR METABOLIC SETPOINT.  This is because the liver is so busy processing the chemicals and other additives in the foods that itcannot process fat loss.
    • Solution: Migrate toward a consistent eating pattern of whole foods.  Substitute Ezekial bread instead of waffles, steel cut oatmeal instead of granola bars, plain Greek yogurt instead of the sweetened variety.  Simple changes make a big difference, so start with one small change at a time.
  • Lack of Consistency – Constantly switching on and off restrictive diet plans can leave your body completely confused and holding onto excess weight.  It takes a MINIMUM OF 2 WEEKS to assess each change that you make, so HANG IN THERE!  Restrictive dieting can leave your body feeling starved which leads to a decreased metabolic rate.  CAREFUL CHANGES OVER TIME PRESERVE THE METABOLISM.
    • Solution: Continue to make only one change per week.  This is truly the best way to lower your body’s setpoint.  When you give your body consistent messages, it feels “comfortable” letting go of excess fat and allowing your body’s setpoint to reset at a lower rate.
  • Weight Lifting Is Not Your Priority – Muscle is the BUILDING BLOCK OF METABOLISM and must be the central focus of lowering your setpoint. The more muscle you have on your body, the higher rate you will burn calories when your body is at rest.
    • Solution: Aim for a full body strength training routine 3 days per week for optimal metabolic functioning.  Cardio is a good addition to a weight loss routine, but RESISTANCE TRAINING will help you reset your setpoint.

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  • If you are unhappy with the weight that your body seems "stuck" at, see the changes above and see if any of them apply to you. ALWAYS REMEMBER that the body senses extreme changes and responds by holding onto weight. Make ONE CHANGE AT A TIME to both LOSE WEIGHT and RESET YOUR BODY'S SETPOINT.