August 19, 2013
What’s your temperature? Mine is 68 degrees. That’s what I like to keep my house at. This all goes to pot in the summer when I am at the mercy of the temperature outside, but in the cooler months, I like to keep it at 68. A lot of people don’t know this but just as we all have preferred temperatures that our heaters or air conditioners work diligently to maintain, our bodies have preferred weights that they too work hard at maintaining. This weight is called your set point. Decades of research shows us that our bodies fight hard to maintain our set points. This system can work magnificently but we can screw it up by messing with it too much. As I go over this system, I’ll also go over the things we do to muck it up. The first key player in this system is our hypothalamus. This guy is the control center for a lot of cool stuff that happens in our bodies. If you want to know all of its functions, have yourself a little google session. One of its functions is food and water intake regulation. Wait, what?! There’s something in us other than our wills that can help to regulate how much we eat??? Yes, yes there is. The hypothalamus receives and sends signals in our bodies to help keep things in balance (homeostasis). Get this, this guy can change our cravings for food, how foods taste and even our activity levels. Ever come down with a case of the mighty couch potato when you are trying to get motivated and hit a diet hard? The ol’ HT may be influencing this (GASP! What a traitor!!). This is where we start to mess with the thermostat. We go on diets and try to get our bodies below the set point they want to be at so our HT revs up our cravings for say, fatty foods and tries to get us to rest more. We deny ourselves food when we are hungry; we deny ourselves of things our body wants us to do to maintain the weight it was programmed to maintain. Oh, and by the way, we all have different set points. We aren’t all programmed to be the size 2 models that all the celebrities are and weight loss programs advertise with. For real, we aren’t. So we start messing with our set points and our bodies start fighting back. Our bodies fight so hard that they may even raise our set points to protect the weight they want to maintain.
There are quite a few really cool experiments done on rats that show the HT fighting to maintain homeostasis. Some sweet research has been done on us humans too! For example, one study chose 100 participants who were currently at their set points (determined by being at a stable weight for at least six months). First, they made these peeps gain 10 percent of their original weight, and then made them lose that weight plus an extra 10 percent below their original weight. Regardless of the weights they entered the study with, when they gained the extra weight, their metabolism increased its power by 15 percent and when they lost weight, their metabolism slowed by 15 percent. Tell me that those bodies weren’t fighting to maintain a certain weight!!
If there is a weight that you keep returning to in between diets, that weight is probably your set point. If you aren’t happy with that weight then stay tuned! I’ll be blogging about that too!
Today you learned a smidge about the control center but next time I’ll be talking about Leptin, one of the hormone messengers that tells the HT what’s up. Hang out with me in the geek zone for a bit as we walk through some sciencey stuff!
Blogspot: window seat in my cottage
Listening to: Matt Corby
Drinking: Merlot, a cheap variety from the good ol’ Grocery Outlet.