How Starving Your Body Fattens Your Body!

posted on: September 22, 2017. posted in: Weight loss, Nutrition

We've had a question on our fan page...

"Hi Liam, I don't know if you have been asked this before. If our bodies are constantly adapting to changes and we are staying consistent for years with training, a healthy diet and maintaining a certain weight, wouldn't our mind and body eventually accept that weight as our set point?"

A really good question!

The answer is, we don't really know.

And not many people are honest enough to give that answer because they think it makes them look stupid by not having all the answers.

But actually it's the smart people in the world who say...

"We don't know, but let's research and find out!" 🤓

At present the evidence we have so far suggests that people who have had Metabolic Obesity (dieter's obesity) for a long period of time, tend to push their set point weight up and it stays up. The theory is that this is the way the brain reduces risk of starvation, because it is predicting another famine.

This research explains it in detail.

"Conclusions and implications: This implies that recurring attempts to diet, by signalling to the body that the food supply is often insufficient, will lead to a greater fat storage than if food was always abundant. Our results shed light on the widespread phenomenon of weight gain during weight cycling and indicate possible interventions that may reduce the incidence of obesity."

Now I appreciate not everyone has time to read and geek over research like me (it's my job!) so here's a really simple way to understand what's going on.

Imagine a situation where the world was going into recession after recession after recession. And imagine that during this very uncertain time, you felt that the sensible thing to do would be to reduce your spending and increase your savings as much as possible, to defend you from the risk of financial ruin.

If you experienced some kind of recession every year, for 20 years, but then on the 21st year there was no recession...

Would you go out and blow all your savings?

Definitely not.

You'd hold onto them, just in case there was a recession the following year. Or the following year. Or the following year.

If a few years down the line, or even 5 years down the line, the world had been recession free, you might feel a little bit more confident about spending from your savings.

But you still wouldn't blow them all.

You would most likely hold on to some of your savings, because you are scarred by the previous repeated recessions you've experienced, increasing your perceived risk of financial ruin.

Bodyfat is the same.

It all comes down to "risk of starvation".

The more we starve our bodies on diets (like recessions), the more our brains try to grow our fat stores (like savings).

If after 20 years of dieting (recessions) we suddenly stop dieting, our brain is still wired to predict a famine the following year, so it holds onto our fat stores (savings) to protect us.

And this "defending fat stores" or "higher set point weight" appears to last for many years after a long period of starvation. Just as someone who had been through 20 years of recessions might hold onto their savings, just in case another recession pops up.

So when we ask the question...

"Can we bring our set point back down?"

The answer is...

"We don't know, but the evidence appears to suggest that an elevated set point after years of dieting will stay up there."

In other words...

Dieting creates a "persistent metabolic adaptation", which was highlighted in this study into The Biggest Loser 6 years later.

But if there is a way to reduce your set point, the answer is most likely to be the same answer we've been trying to teach people for years.


Stop starving your body and in time your brain will feel fuelled, nourished and feel less at risk of starvation, bringing your set point weight down as it feels less threatened by famine.

Learning how to nourish and train your body with good quality, high calorie, fresh food is your best strategy for convincing your brain "there is no famine, we can burn off our fat, chill!" 😎

So the sooner people stop swapping high calorie real food (like avocados) for low calorie diet food (like curly wurlys), the sooner we can start preventing set point weights going up, and potentially bringing those set point weights back down.


p.s. If you're ready to stop dieting and start nourishing your body, join us on the Winter Warrior™ mission, launching this October! You can find out more in the Warm Up group here!

share this post


related posts

rebelfit updates!

subscribe to our weekly nutrition, fitness and mindset lessons!

about rebelfit


our online fitness and fat loss missions have helped thousands of people discover a new, different and better way to get in shape.

find out more

join us on facebook

join us on the rebelfit fan page for more articles, insights and rants!