A body fat’s thermostat | Inquirer News

A body fat’s thermostat

/ 10:25 AM July 23, 2012

What are the causes of weight gain? The answer seems to lie in a weight regulating mechanism located in a control center in the brain called hypothalamus. It determines the level of fat that it considers ideal for the body. It proceeds to maintain that level come what may. That level selected by the weight-regulating mechanism, then becomes the set point. The set point is analogous to a thermostat. A thermostat set a 70 degrees activates the heating system when the temperature falls below 70 degrees. Similarly, a set point of 140 pounds activates the weight-regulating mechanism to store more fat if the body weight falls below that 140 pound level. In it’s effort to maintain the set point, the weight-regulating mechanism works in two ways: it controls the appetite and it regulates metabolism and the storage of energy.

Appetite control determines when we feel hungry. It sends a message to eat. We may have no control over the urge to eat. The hypothalamus make sure of that, but we do have complete control over our response. We can choose when and how to response. What we eat and how much we eat are totally up to us. The hypothalamus will continue to feel stimulate the feeding mechanism and will continue to feel hungry and eat until the desired set point level is achieved.


A weight-regulating mechanism signals the body when it needs to conserve energy and store it, and when it need to use it up. If we eat a large amount of food, it increases the rate at which the body burns calories. I we eat a small amount the body decreases the rate. In each case, the goal is to preserve the set point. This explains why people on diets may lose weight temporarily but ultimately regain it and then keep their weight closer to the former. It’s called the yo-you syndrome, and every dieter is familiar with it. Usually one’s weight has been typical for them for many years. It is their set point. The body is accustomed to it, it feels safe and secure at that level and consequently does what it can to maintain it. People who are overweight commonly observe that they don’t really eat that much. Studies have confirmed that underweight people commonly eat more than overweight people do.



Lean body mass increases when intramuscular fat is replaced with muscle. Muscle have special enzymes that burn calories during exercise. The more muscle we have, the more enzymes we have that burn calories. As the amount of muscle increases the amount of fat decreases, and the capacity for burning more calories is further enhanced. So when muscles move, they burn calories and increase lean body mass. It’s a new cycle, but this time it’s not vicious!

Although there probably genetic tendencies that predetermine set points, it is still possible for most people to reset their fat thermostats. The key to reprogramming lies in understanding and acting on the relationship between the kind and amount of exercise we do (your energy output) and the kind and amount of food we eat (your energy input). The trick lies in changing from a fat cycle to a fit cycle.

Running and other type of aerobic exercise can help us enter the fit cycle. Aerobic exercise (brisk walking, jogging, running, bicycling, swimming, jumping rope, circuit weight training) use large muscle in repetitive, rhythmic pattern. During aerobic exercise, the body is fueled primarily by free fatty acids and secondarily by glycogen. While exercising you do not use many calories. For example, you would have to walk 17.6 kilometers to burn up 3, 500 calories or 1 pound. Weight loss is the effect of a cumulative process in which calories are being used on a more regular and frequent basis. This cumulative use of calories produces ongoing changes in the body’s chemistry, lowering the set points, increasing the lean muscle mass with it’s fat-burning enzymes and increasing the metabolism so the body burns calories at a higher rate. For hours following the exercise period, the body continues to burn calories at a higher rate. The effects of exercise on the body last long after the exercise period has ended. This will be true as long as you continue to do aerobic exercise at least 3 days a week. Remember duration is more important than distance or intensity.

Your individual exercise program will start the same way whether your goal is overall fitness or weight management. If you step on the scale after a few weeks of exercising, you may notice an increase in pounds. Don’t be dismayed. That is a good sign. It means you increasing muscle in relation to intramuscular fat (muscle weighs more than fat). Interpret the increase as getting better and stronger not heavier. Then throw away the scale. Pounds do not measure fitness. Your tape measure and your clothes are better indicators of changes in your body. You will lose inches usually in the right places.


Counting calories is not as important as thoughtfully choosing the kinds and amounts of food you eat. The typical Filipino diet needs to be adjusted to include more complex carbohydrates, fewer proteins and less fat. Begin your new eating plan by eliminating the tree whites from your diet: White sugar, white flour and salt. Then eliminate processed food including most canned, frozen  or prepared convenience foods. Read the labels and do not eat anything you can’t pronounce.

Again the best eating plan is to eat more frequently and that is every 3 to 4 hours so that both hunger and satisfaction can be experienced. Do eat breakfast, just keep down fat and sugar consumption. More people who skip breakfast are overweight than underweight. Get in touch with your eating drives. Keep lunch light preferably eating complex carbohydrates, which are low in calories. Soup is a satisfying lunch, especially a water-based soup full of vegetables, grains and legumes. salads are good for lunch, but after eating one you could feel hungry again quite soon. Add whole grain bread to complement it. Beware of salad dressings; most are high in fat, sugar and calories. Eat enough to feel full. If you are hungry before the next meal, have a snack. Eat only in response to hunger not for entertainment.


The weight you eventually reach may not necessarily be the weight you desire. Be realistic and philosophical. The genetic determinants of your set point may limit what you can realistically accomplish. If you follow the principle of exercise and diet for a reasonable period of time, and your weight stabilizes at a point higher than your fantasy weight, accept it and enjoy being yourself, as you are.

Source: “Get Healthy Now! with Gary Null 2nd Edition: A Complete Guide to Prevention,

Treatment and Healthy Living”

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