It's the question so many women are afraid to ask (often because they're afraid of the answer)- and yet it's one of the most common ones I get ask. How do I know if I've reached my set point weight (or natural weight, as I like to call it)?
I've talked about weight and intuitive eating in the past. It's a tricky topic, because intuitive eating isn't a weight loss plan- it's a path to re-connecting to your body's needs, learning to tune into and trust your body instead of following outside plans or diets. But it's a concern for a lot of women- and I get it, I do.
It was a concern for me in the beginning, too.
I was worried if I ditched diets I'd continue to gain weight and end up heavy and unhealthy. I thought if I didn't have a plan to follow I'd just eat junk all the time. I know many women feel the same.
But the truth is, part of intuitive eating is discovering what feels good for your body. And when you are tuned into your body and eating the foods that feel good- while allowing yourself freedom to enjoy all types of food without restriction (avoiding the restrict-binge cycle), your body falls into a range that's right for her- your natural weight.
When you are tuned into your body and eating the foods that feel good- while allowing yourself freedom to enjoy all types of food without restriction (avoiding the restrict-binge cycle), your body falls into a range that's right for her- your natural weight.
Your natural weight isn't a specific number on the scale but a predetermined range (anywhere from 5-20 pounds) that your body feels best at. It's the size your body maintains without force. It's the size where you feel good, have energy and are eating in a way that is nourishing and joyful.
It's also the reason for body diversity. Just like our eye color, hair color, skin color, height and shoe size vary drastically- so does our set point.
The size my body needs to be to function optimally might be different than you. It's not our job to decide what size our body is meant to be- that's our body's- it's our job to take care of them well- and when we do, this is when we find our natural weight.
It's not our job to decide what size our body is meant to be- that's our body's- it's our job to take care of them well- and when we do, this is when we find our natural weight.
Our natural weight is determined by genetics, metabolism, energy intake and expenditure, hormonal state and a variety of other factors. Our set point can change over time due to metabolic adaptation- drastic shifts in weight due to on-again, off-again dieting (the more your weight fluctuate the more your body believes you're in a place of starvation your set point might adjust over time to avoid this- it's why the more we diet, the harder it is to lose weight).
If you have to restrict your food intake, eat a set amount of food or a certain type of food to maintain the number on the scale, you likely aren't at your body's set point. The same goes if you're consistently overeating from a place of stress, anxiety or boredom- your body might not be where she naturally would like to be.
But here's the thing- your body WANTS to achieve homeostasis. She desires balance. She doesn’t want to be moving up and down and that's why she fights against your efforts to try and force her into a size that's not right for her. When we let go of the force and allow ourselves to eat in a way that feels good for us, listening to our cues and eating from a place of satisfaction and self care, our natural size isn't hard to find or maintain, even with fluctuations in our eating habits and movement.
When we let go of the force and allow ourselves to eat in a way that feels good for us, listening to our cues and eating from a place of satisfaction and self care, our natural size isn't hard to find or maintain, even with fluctuations in our eating habits and movement.
So how do we know if we’re there?
1. You’re listening to your body and trusting in your body to tell you what she needs.
You're tuning into your hunger and fullness, eating foods that are satisfying and you trust your body will tell you what she needs without you forcing her to moderate her intake.
2. You’ve released rules, restrictions and tools
You've let go of counting, tracking, portioning, diets, plans and apps that tell you what, when or how much to eat- instead, you're relying on hunger, fullness and satisfaction and you've given up restriction- allowing yourself all types of foods to avoid the on-again, off-again cycle.
3. You’ve moved beyond emotional, stress and binge eating.
If you're still struggling with emotional overeating, consistent eating out of boredom or stress, or binge eating, you might not be at your natural weight- your size will even out once you work on finding balance in these areas.
4. You’re moving in a way that is flexible
If you are exercising obsessively or as a means to maintain or change your weight instead of from a place of joy and wellness, you might not be at your natural size. Your natural weight doesn't require force to maintain- including moderate changes in exercise routine. What happens if you become injured and can't work out for weeks? At your natural size, you shouldn't see much of a shift- it any at all, if you're tuning in and trusting your body (see point 1).
5. You’re eating the foods that FEEL good in your body.
You can have permission to eat all types of foods and eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full and if you're still eating foods that don't feel good, you're sluggish and exhausted all the time- you might not be serving your body in the way she needs, and your size might reflect this.
The key here, friend- your body will stop fighting against you when you stop fighting against her. When we lean into our body's needs and choose connection and care over control, our size will even out- and we can give the struggle with the scale, once and for all.