Weight loss is not a linear process for those who are obese. Data from 249 studies with more than 60,000 participants showed that people with obesity are more likely to regain their lost weight once their diet and exercise programs have ended. Some people regain all the weight they lost after five years, while some bounce back to their original weight quickly.
This pattern can be frustrating for many people, especially for those putting in extra effort to lose excess weight. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to overcome obesity through diet and exercise because the body likes to maintain a set point weight.
People with Obesity Often Regain Their Weight
Exercise and diet are the top two lifestyle changes recommended for people with obesity. These two lifestyle practices are undeniably critical in helping people manage their calorie consumption and control their weight.
However, losing weight can be difficult for people with obesity, even if they exercise and diet regularly. A group of international scientists discovered that increased levels of physical activity will prompt the body to compensate for the loss of energy by limiting the energy expended on basic metabolic activities, such as wound healing and immune function. Though physical activities can increase one’s total energy expenditure in the short term, this phenomenon causes the body to adjust to the energy exertion of exercise programs and reduce the energy spent on other processes over time. As a result, people with obesity may lose a few pounds in the first few weeks, then experience plateaus or weight gain after a while.
The same thing happens when people try to control their calorie intake through diets. Dr. Robert F. Kushner of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine explains that the appetite centers of the brain largely influence one’s set point weight. Dr. Kushner noted that the brain may keep tabs on the amount of fat in your body, which is why it may adjust factors like appetite whenever there are any variations in one’s weight. As such, it’s not surprising that plenty of evidence shows how people tend to keep consistent weight measurements over long periods.
How to Overcome Roadblocks Caused by Set Point Weight
It’s common for people with obesity to regain their weight. However, it’s not impossible for them to lower their set point weight and achieve their health goals.
People with obesity can lower their set point weight by doing lifestyle practices that can support slow and steady weight loss. Dr. Franchell Hamilton states that drastic diets and lifestyle changes can cause hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin to send lots of signals to the appetite centers of the brain. Diets involving fasting or the removal of entire food groups can trigger these hunger hormones, which is why people tend to regain the weight they’ve lost once they’re done with the diet. As such, those who are obese should make simple dietary adjustments to help them manage their calorie intake.
The same principle applies to exercise. Rather than diving head-first into extreme workouts, people with obesity can do tailored exercise programs instead. To illustrate, the flexible exercise routines from the Sweat app allow people to start off with low-impact workouts before gradually transitioning into more challenging routines as clients progress with their journey. These customized workouts allow people to lose weight slowly but surely, making it easier for the body to adjust one’s energy expenditure over time gradually.
Working against one’s set point weight is undeniably difficult, but it’s not impossible. People can achieve their own weight loss goals by managing their set point weight through slow yet effective lifestyle changes.