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By Sara Colman, RDN, CDE, Balanced Habits RD

Calories in = calories out for stable weight
Calories in < calories out for weight loss
Calories in > calories out for weight gain

These are the simple formulas for weight management that seem logical. So why is it so hard to keep off the weight you were successful at losing? It may not be so simple. Obesity researchers have searched for answers and compiled data and theories to help understand why weight management is not so easy.

One theory, called the Set Point theory, says that our bodies have a “set point” weight that is internally regulated. When weight is gained or lost, internal mechanisms act to return the body to the set point weight. Some studies support this theory and others do not.

Another theory is that toxins, chemicals and pesticides from the environment, along with toxins from the gut, are stored in the fat cells. These toxins interfere with weight control by altering metabolism, increasing inflammation, lowering thyroid hormones and altering our body’s rhythms and nervous system.

Stress and lack of sleep also alter how hunger and appetite are regulated. It’s thought that hormones that affect appetite are produced by stress and may promote excess energy intake.

Genetics too, have been shown to impact things like your number and size of fat cells, where fat is deposited, and your metabolism at rest. These genes may be activated or deactivated by nutritional and lifestyle choices.

In addition, chemical messengers (called brain neurotransmitters), gut hormones, thyroid hormones and insulin help regulate appetite and weight. All of these have been studied in the quest for weight control solutions.

Obviously there are things that are beyond your control. But we know that maintaining weight loss is not impossible. Chances of success are greatest in people who make lifestyle and dietary modifications. However, these changes must be embraced for life, not for a temporary time period.

Components of lifestyle modification include
  • Goal setting—for example increasing minutes or frequency of activity
  • Self-monitoring—for example using food and activity logs
  • Stimulus control—for example using a grocery list and shopping when you are not hungry
  • Confronting barriers—for example planning ahead when eating out
  • Sleep and stress management—for example practicing meditation or yoga
  • Social support—surrounding yourself with others who encourage your weight management effort

Dietary management is a vital part of the Balanced Habits™ program. By embracing changes in your eating habits and making them your new normal, your chances of appetite and weight control success are much greater.

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