Many people today struggle with body image or accepting where their body’s natural weight may fall. Research surveys have found that approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and engage in dieting behaviors in order to achieve what they consider to be their ideal body shape or weight .
The mainstream media and culture, in general, is one that supports a body thin ideal, with the dieting industry pouring billions of dollars into marketing messages that promote weight loss products.
Unfortunately, many individuals of all cultures, sizes, genders, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds fall subject to the dieting culture, fighting against their own body’s natural weight in order to achieve something that may not even be realistic.
Understanding Set-Point Theory
It is not uncommon for a person to have a specific number in mind when it comes to their weight, often taking extreme measures or strides in order to reach that number. Fixating on weight is a trap that leads to a vicious cycle of dieting and weight loss measures.
The reality is that weight is a simple measurement, much like a vital sign. There is very little information that weight can reveal about a person’s health, though weight alone is typically used as an overruling factor for many health-related issues.
In general, weight tends to fall within a specific range rather than remaining stagnant at a certain number. The human body undergoes a variety of changes over the course of days, months and years that can cause weight to fluctuate within a particular range, such as fluid retention, hormonal changes, medications, and more.
According to the set-point theory, body weight is maintained at a relatively stable level for long periods . This weight range in which the body typically stays within is thought to be influenced by many different factors, including genetics and regulation of food intake.
When a person attempts to achieve a weight outside of their body’s set-point range, feedback control mechanisms are usually activated to bring the body weight stable.
For example, a person who might diet in an attempt to lose weight will usually have difficulty maintaining any weight loss following a diet.
This is the body’s attempt to keep weight stable within the set-point, which often makes for frustration and constant yo-yo dieting as a person fights against their body’s natural weight range .
Impact of Diet Culture
Diet culture completely ignores these biological facts, imposing the idea that a certain weight or size is desirable whatever the costs. However, a majority of individuals will not naturally fall into this size or weight that is unrealistic for their body, based on a range of biological factors.
Hyperfocusing on achieving a specific weight is often futile and leads to only negative consequences. People who are often chronic dieters alter their metabolism, or worse, may fall into more extreme behaviors that can trigger the development of an eating disorder.
Ultimately, eating normally and moderately engaging in exercise can help the body naturally fall in a weight range that is appropriate for one’s own body.
Supporting Health at Every Size and Natural Weight
Learning to embrace one’s weight and body size is a struggle for many, often a process that takes months or even years. The first step toward making peace with your own weight and body is recognizing that your weight is not a defining factor in your identity or who you are as a person.
Sadly, many people put their lives on hold until they reach their “ideal weight,” which just leads to time wasted and lost. It is also important to recognize that there are many factors at play that influence your weight range, things that you cannot necessarily control or change.
Rather than attempting to change or fight against this, you can honor and best support your own body by making positive choices, like eating intuitively and exercising in a manner that feels good to you. It is also important to dress for your body type and choose clothes that fit comfortably.
Your weight may not fall into the standard that is deemed acceptable by society, but this does not mean that you need to punish or torture yourself trying to fit into a mold that was never meant for you in the first place.
Learning to feel comfortable at your natural weight is not something that will happen overnight but rather, gradually as you honor your body and make choices that reflect body kindness.
About the Author:
Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC is a Masters-level Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with a specialty focus in eating disorders, maternal/child health and wellness, and intuitive eating. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing. As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work and nutrition private practice.
References:: National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders. “Eating Disorders Statistics.” ANAD. Accessed 15 July 2017 http://www.anad.org/get-information/about-eating-disorders/eating-disorders-statistics/.
: Harris RB, Role of set-point theory in regulation of body weight. FASEB J, 1990 Dec;4(15):3310-8
: NEDIC, “Set Point: What Your Body Is Trying to Tell You”, http://nedic.ca/set-point-what-your-body-trying-tell-you Accessed 15 July 2017
The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.
We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.
Published on September 22, 2017.
Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on September 22, 2017.
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com