Have you ever watched someone who appears thin and healthy eating a piece of chocolate cake and wondered how they stay thin? Part of the reason is that they have a set-point in their brain that keeps their body fat and weight from varying that is, until they do something that causes the brain to change its settings for weight control.
That is what happened when I stopped smoking. After being slender all my life, I quit cigarettes and gained almost 25 pounds! I had unknowingly triggered a reaction that changed a weight control mechanism in my brain. My body began making fat out of everything I ate, where it formerly eliminated excess calories. (Quitting nicotine is only one of many life changes that can cause your brain's bodyweight controls to be adjusted upward.)
I'll refer to the weight controller in your brain as the 'set-point.' A good image for understanding how the setpoint works is to think of the thermostat for heating and cooling your house. If the temperature is set at 70 degrees, then the room's warmth doesn't change by more than a degree or two before the thermostat tells the air conditioner to cool it down, or the furnace to heat it up.
Your brain's set-point functions similarly, maintaining a consistent weight and fat level through interactions of hormones, etc. Exploring the body's chemistry is beyond this article's scope. It's sufficient to understand that if your weight has increased (or decreased), it's because the set-point in your brain changed. And so, if you prefer to lose (or re-gain) that weight, specific habits are necessary to adjust the set-point to your desired level.
First, eat the right stuff. This is not hard if you follow these simple guidelines: a) minimize sugar and flour based foods (refined carbohydrates); b) eat less animal fat, like butter, cheese, marbled meat, and eat less fat in general~ but don't use low-fat products like low-fat mayonnaise, because the chemicals they have to use to make this stuff palatable is hard for your body to process; just use real mayonnaise, only less of it; c) eat complex carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits and whole grains, which your body recognizes as normal foods and will process them as fuel, giving you long-term energy.
Second, Drink water. It is necessary to your metabolism and helps your body eliminate toxins and other excesses. Sweetened juice, coffee, tea, diet or regular soda, and alcohol don't contribute to good metabolism or health. Keep use of them minimal, if at all.
Third, do the right kind of rhythmic large muscle exercise daily, and sustain it for 30 to 60 minutes. If this sounds like a lot of time, ask yourself, how important is it to you to be healthy and/or lose weight? You're not going to re-set your brain's weight regulator (the set-point) without exercise - it's that simple. But the exercise can be a pleasure once you understand which types to do. Fortunately, your not faced here with push-ups or lifting weights.
In terms of the exercise that will affect your set-point, 'large muscle' means especially using your legs. Walking is the perfect place to start because you don't need special skills or equipment. You can also bike or swim or jog. Whatever you enjoy. 'Rhythmic' means something you can do steadily, repetitively. 'Sustained' means without stopping: continuous. Thirty minutes is a minimum. Work up to an hour for best results. Get your heart rate up to the level where you are exerting yourself, but could still carry on a conversation. More than that level, and you're not into set-point changing exercise anymore. Here, no pain no gain is an undesirable approach.
If you make a habit of these three things, (eating, drinking and exercising the right way), your set-point will change. You'll lose weight. By adopting these habits, I shed the 25 pounds I had gained when I quit smoking. In the process, I developed some pleasant behaviors that have improved my overall health as well as the quality of my life. It's an enjoyable lifestyle to eat tasty whole foods, have the pleasure of a daily walk, and quench thirst with pure water. I feel good these days, and being slender is a nice bonus. You'll feel good, too when you adopt these habits. Your body will thank you, and bless you with glowing health.
Articles by Serena Harstad
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