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Set Point Theory 

body image treatment austin tx

Alexandria Turner, MS, RD, LD

Weight loss has become an unhealthy focus in society, causing anxiety, shame, and fear in millions of individuals. Diet culture has resulted in a weight normative, fat-phobic culture that pressures people to believe their body needs to look a certain way and be a certain weight.

Diets have ravished their way through people’s lives, destroying healthy relationships with foods and body image leaving people questioning why they can’t keep the weight they lost off 3-5 years later. Set point theory, which we would argue is more a fact than theory, is a way to explain this phenomenon, and states that every individual has a biological blueprint that creates a set point range of about 5-20 pounds that our bodies thrive and want to stay at.

Our thin-obsessed culture has a hard time accepting this theory and wants people to believe everyone can attain and sustain a thin body type. However, body diversity exists due to this beautiful biological blueprint allowing a variety of all body types. Unfortunately, many people who are fighting to keep a “healthy” body type may not be at a weight they are meant to be at and are doing so by dieting, restricting, or over-exercising. Our culture has also made it hard to believe that those in larger bodies are actually healthy and can have normal markers of health. But alas, this is true more times than not. Size does not determine health and fighting for a body size you may not be meant to have is damaging and exhausting. If you haven’t watched Poodle Science on Youtube, we encourage you to do so!

Your body wants to always be at an equilibrium, a balance. Once you manipulate that balance, your body initiates survival mechanisms. For example, if you start dieting and restricting your food intake, your body will automatically go into starvation mode thus decreasing your metabolism, increasing your appetite, and reducing your fullness cues. Evolutionarily speaking, your brain reacts to this food insufficiency and initiates what it needs to in order to balance the body back to its set point, and the more times weight loss is attempted, the higher likelihood that your body increases your set point to shield it from starvation in the future.

You know you are within your set point range when (excluding underlying medical issues) hormones are balanced, labs are stable, hunger and fullness cues occur, periods are regular, and weight maintenance is effortless. This occurs with the absence of counting calories, dieting, over-exercising, avoiding specific foods, or obsessing over what to eat. If your body is significantly changing after eliminating these behaviors, then it’s likely your body was not at its natural set point.

Diet culture has made it difficult, but trust that your body will know what its healthy weight is. Doing so will allow for healing of a negative body image and unhealthy food relationship. It can be scary and uncertain territory, but it may be the most important step in achieving acceptance of your body and learning how to love food again. Remember to have compassion for yourself and if you would like support in this journey, please contact us. We would love to help!

Call or text (512) 655-3878 today for more information or to schedule an appointment.

body image therapy austin tx

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