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Ever since The F*ck It Diet book came out, I’ve been paying attention to the most commonly asked questions, and trying to address them. And one of the biggest question themes is about weight set point.
And the first thing I want to always point out, is that it’s a weight set range. Whenever anyone refers to weight set point, the point is actually a weight range where your body feels safest.
This is not exactly a newbie question, this is usually a question people ask after they’ve read the book and start worrying about what this process is going to be like for them, which is understandable. There is usually a thought process that goes something like:
“Ok, so you’re telling me that my bingeing and food addiction is not actually a food addiction, but more of biological food fixation thanks to food insecurity, past attempts at dieting, diet mentality, food guilt, and the threat of future diets? Ok. And you’re telling me that when I get out of the yo-yo, stop restricting, start truly trusting and feeding my body, that my appetite will normalize? OK… And you’re telling me that my body has a weight set point where it wants to be, and will settle there if I can just trust my appetite??”
Well, again, it’s a weight range, not a static point.
And with the disclaimer that The F*ck It Diet book will do a way better job of explaining the nuances of this process beyond the 95-word inner monologue synopsis I wrote above, let’s get to the common questions about weight set range:
HOW MUCH OF A RANGE IS MY WEIGHT SET RANGE?
HOW LONG IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO STABILIZE IN MY WEIGHT SET RANGE?!?!
HOW WILL I KNOW THAT I’VE SETTLED IN MY WEIGHT SET RANGE????
In a way, I regret all of the focus I have to put on normalizing in a weight set range because it can become, in it’s own way, a diet-like mentality. It puts the focus on weight. It makes a promise about weight that people focus on in a way that can undermine healing.
I tend to prefer focusing on how allowing food, and eating more food, can calm down fixation on food, compulsive eating, binge eating, feelings of food addiction, and even emotional eating.
At the same time, I also understand the focus on weight. I understand that’s an essential piece of the puzzle. And if I said: Just eat a lot, gain lots of weight, fuck weight stabilization and frankly: fuck everything and everyone, most people would say: Eh, No thanks. Sounds like anarchy. Though, it should be said that I think that anarchy would be healing in its own right, it’s still not really the full picture. Because… what the fuck is going on with our weight? Why do we struggle with weight? Why do we seem to gain weight at the drop of a hat, while other people don’t? How does weight work? Of COURSE WE WANT TO KNOW THE ANSWER TO THESE QUESTIONS! And without some sort of assurance that you will have a more stable experience with your eating and weight, I’m not sure many people would take the leap.
And, contrary to what The F*ck It Diet’s biggest detractors think, I’m not encouraging people to gorge themselves into oblivion just for the freaking sake of it, even though, again, I support it if that’s what your soul is calling you towards. Because after being forced to obsess over something as soul sucking as the size of your body for years, fuck everyone, really. But, the truth is, that we are obsessed with food, act out of control with food, and feel addicted to food because of our fear of food and weight. The biggest predictor for future weight gain, weight cycling, and binge eating, is dieting and intentional weight loss. So if what you want is to feel calmer around food, and stop putting your body through the ringer, you’ve gotta step off the treadmill, figuratively speaking, in the very least.
Talking about how feeding yourself can help you stabilize in your weight range is a selling point for TFID and listening to your hunger, because, first of all, it’s true, and second, it’s what we are searching for: Calming down. Less drama. Less of a roller coaster. We just want to be able to trust our bodies. We just want to trust that we don’t have to micromanage everything.
Assuring you that we all do have a weight set range where our body wants to be, and will settle in, is a way to help you understand that you can trust your body, without promising everyone thinness, because you cannot promise thinness.
So, before I go on, a book that I really like to go a little bit deeper into the science behind weight stabilization and weight set range theory, is the book Body Respect by Lindo Bacon and Lucy Aphramor. I highly recommend it.
Let’s get to the questions:
How big of a range is our weight set range?
Everyone is different. And, there is no way to truly know where your body wants to be, until you get out of the yo-yo up and down, and let your body settle where it wants to.
This is a harder pill to swallow than what bastardized versions of intuitive eating promise, when they promise that you’ll lose weight once you start listening to your body. That’s a totally irresponsible promise in my experience, because you cannot account for what someone’s weight needs to do, especially after years of dieting, yo-yoing, disordered eating, or a more restrictive eating disorder. Especially in a culture where so many of us are actually chronically under eating, and that’s the reason why we are bingeing in the first place. Promising weight loss is assuming that everyone is inherently overeating, and also not understanding weight set range theory and the healing role of weight gain after restriction.
Some people start allowing food, normalize their eating quickly, and do end up losing weight.
But in my experience, after years of off and on dieting, more people end up gaining weight, at least for a time, if not permanently.
The thing that will be different from dieting is that you won’t be struggling to stay where you end up, because your body will want to maintain the weight range that it wants to maintain. How’s that for vague assurance?
We all have genetic weight set ranges that are governed by the hypothalamus.
And our body works pretty hard to stay within that range. Why isn’t this more common knowledge? I do not fucking know. But the consequence of people assuming that our weight a simple matter of calories in vs calories out, means that so many people in larger bodies, who have been dieting their whole lives, and who barely eat, and should probably be diagnosed with anorexia, are not only not diagnosed, but they’re encouraged to keep starving themselves. Y’know, for their health. And happiness.
So, how big is our weight set range? It’s different for every person. Scientists say it’s about 10-20 lbs, but I’ve seen that for some people it can be a bigger range than that, especially when you are constantly dieting.
That’s also why and how different people yo-yo within different ranges. Some people yo yo 15 lbs. Some people yo-yo 50 lbs. Some people yo yo between 120 and 140 lbs their whole life. Some people yo yo between 200 and 260 lbs. Everyone is different. But no matter what you do, you’re probably not going to become someone who settles at 140 lbs, if you tend to yo-yo between 200 and 260 lbs, and vice versa.
When you go below the weight where your hypothalamus feels safe, just like a thermostat, your hypothalamus eventually slows your metabolism way down, and fixates you on food in order to help you gain back to a place where it feels safer and healthier. And, one of the things that can actually mess with this homeostasis, and make you go above your original weight set range, besides endocrine or other health issues, is restriction. Dieting.
Dieting can raise your set point, because your body wants to make sure you have enough stores if the diet / famine comes back. So, just know that if you want to settle somewhere safe and stable, dieting and restricting is not the way to do that.
Also, the expectation and hope that intuitive eating or the F*ck It Diet will eventually lower your weight set range again is not something that anyone can promise either.
How long is it going to take to normalize????
Again, there is no simple answer. It depends on so many factors:
How long have you been dieting?
How resistant are you to actually going through this process?
How long does it take you to fully stop dieting and restricting?
How long does it take you to stop trying to micromanage your hunger and your weight?
Did you have an eating disorder for years?
How dedicated are you to uncovering your sneaky subconscious beliefs?
I tend to notice that people are able to do the bulk of the stabilization by going through the “Physical Part” from the book in a few months to a year, then the Emotional and Mental parts take longer. But, that doesn’t mean that everyone will stabilize in that same amount of time, especially if they are someone who was very restrictive for a long time.
How will I know that I’ve settled in my weight set range?
I think the most important thing to note that overthinking your weight range stabilization is kind of like its own form of resistance. It’s a false sense of control, because you can’t control it no matter how much you overthink it. So, in a way, it’s counter-intuitive to even discuss, because there is nothing to be done about it anyway, except the practical issue of clothes. Which is a very annoying and practical issue that can’t be ignored. I understand that buying new clothes can suck, but that doesn’t change that it still needs to be done.)
This is how you can tell you’re close to your stable weight:
Once you feel pretty calm around food, and stop gaining or losing weight but instead stay around a certain weight for more than a few months, you can probably guess your body is settling in a safe place for you.
But here is something else, you will still fluctuate within your range. That’s normal. It’s human. And ranges can change for lots of hormonal and metabolic reasons throughout your life. So, counting on a body that finally never changes at all is going to end up disappointing you because bodies change and age. Change is the only thing that we can count on, so hoping change won’t happen to you is only going to up breaking your heart.
In conclusion… eating normally and listening to your appetite is going to end up being way more stable than our experience when we were going from diet to diet, waiting for an absolution that would never come, (as Old Rose said).
Please send in your personal stories and experiences with TFID (especially if you have one that can speak to your experience with weight range stabilization) if you think your story will be calming and inspiring to listeners of the podcast. Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org !!!
Listen to the episode version of this to also hear helpful stories from people on The F*ck It Diet as well as some listener Q&As. Ask your questions for the podcast by signing up for Patreon.