Finding the Ideal Weight

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One of the first questions people ask when they begin a weight loss program or diet plan is usually centers around the reasons they are overweight. How does a person end up being overweight? What is the ideal weight for a particular person? So, how does a person determine just that ideal weight number? Read on and discover a few things about successful weight loss and the ideal weight.

The Body is Designed to Maintain a Certain Weight

Body temperature is a steady 98.6 degrees for most all people. The human body is designed to remain at that temperature level, unless something is wrong. The body also has a similar mechanism for maintaining a steady weight level. Thomas Wadden, PhD and director of the Center for Weight and Eating Disorders at University of Pennsylvania Medical School says that a person's body weight is designed to remain within a range of about 10 to 20% of ideal weight. He calls this the "set point."

When a person eats too much, this internal weight regulating system is overwhelmed, and the body reacts by increasing the "set point." It's much easier to raise this set point of ideal weight than it is to lower it, although it can be done. The body responds to all the overeating by raising this ideal weight set point higher. In other words, people train their bodies to accept a higher set point of ideal weight.

Weight Loss and Ideal Weight

Weight loss is so difficult for some folks because this ideal weight level has been increased over a period of time, sometimes over years, of overeating and eating the wrong type of food. When a person finally decides to start losing the weight, their body is already set at that increased ideal weight level.

Decreasing the ideal weight set point is possible, but apparently it's easier to make it go up than down. This is a lot of the reason why people have such a difficult time with weight loss. It's not an excuse for folks to remain overweight, it's just a reminder that weight loss is more difficult than weight gain. That sems so unfair, but that's the way it works.

Why Weight Loss is So Hard

Dr, Wadden explains that when a person quickly loses these huge amounts of weight on these crash diets or radical weight loss plans, an internal struggle is going on within the body. The body actually releases hormones like ghrelin to make a person feel even more hungry in an attempt to maintain the high ideal weight set point.

It's sort of like how a person's body would react to any substance – food, alcohol, chemicals, drugs. The substance introduced into the body alters the body's chemical makeup and composition. As more of the substance is introduced into the system on a regular basis, the body is literally trained to accept the presence of the substance as "normal." When the substance is restricted or removed entirely, the body reacts to defend what it considers as normal.

The solution is to take the idea of weight loss and changing diet very slowly. The body has been trained over time to accept poor eating habits and lack of exercise as it's normal state. A sudden commitment in the brain is not going to translate easily into the rest of the body. The body will defend it's "normal" condition, which means losing weight is going to be an uphill battle. Lose weight, yes. Start exercising more, of course. But lose weight and change activity levels gradually and give the body a chance to get used to the new normal – a slimmer, healthier body.

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