I understand that trying to eat intuitively when focusing on weight is impossible and I do know that weight is not an accurate measurement of health.
But I’d still like to know: if I do get it “right-ish” with food and re-learn how to eat intuitively, and get over binge eating,
can I expect weight loss as a result? Will I lose weight?
Good question. The truth is, you might lose weight and you might not.
It really depends on where your body weight currently falls relative to your natural “set point” weight. Your set point weight is the weight that your body naturally wants to be in the absence of interference (like diet-binge cycling) or other dysfunctional behaviors with food, and everyone’s set point weight is different.
While a “normal eater” may naturally fluctuate around their set point by 5-10lbs, a dieter may fluctuate more severely—leaving you farther from or nearer to your set point (either up or down) depending on where you currently are in your yo-yo cycle.
At my lowest weight in the diet-binge cycle, I was about 35lbs less than my current set point weight (that is, the weight I naturally maintain without effort); and at my highest weight in the diet-binge cycle, I was about 20lbs heavier than my current set point weight.
When I chose to stop dieting for real, I happened to be somewhere in between—about 10lbs above my current set point weight, and therefore lost about 10lbs when I healed my relationship with food. That being said, had I stopped dieting at a different point in my weight cycle, that number might be completely different.
It all depends on where your weight is now, relative to your natural set point weight.
**It’s also worth noting that when I first stopped dieting, I initially gained weight in the first few months, and then lost weight over the following year or so—not only is everyone’s “end result” different, but the road to our set point is not always a straight line.**
The only way to find out what your set point weight is, is to work towards developing a healthful relationship with food (both physically and mentally) and see what happens when you’re truly eating (and thinking) “normally.”
Don’t try to guess your set point while you’re still struggling with food— guessing just creates expectation—which fast-tracks you to self-judgement around food (aka emotional or subconscious restriction; which, for the record, usually leads to binge-eating, emotional eating and continued swings).
Guessing your set point is also pointless because your set point weight can change over time. Meaning, just because you were 140lbs when you first started dieting, doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily go back to that pre-dieting weight after years of restriction. Some factors that may affect your set point over time include things like age, pregnancy/child-birth, hormones, and diet-history.
Yup—dieting can push up your set point weight over time—as restriction that leads to temporary weight loss, can also lead to permanent changes in your metabolism in the other direction. (It’s evolutionary biology—your body can’t tell the difference between a physical threat of starvation, and that juice cleanse you went on before your wedding—metabolic slow-down is one of your body’s attempts to keep you alive).
Ultimately, you’re likely always going to bounce around your set point over time (because your body is constantly fighting to get there, and it’s a lot stronger than your will power).
The question is, do you want to embrace your set point, stop diet-binge cycling, and eat relatively “normally?”
OR do you want to keep trying to suppress it against all odds, experience more dramatic swings around it (in both directions), with a likelihood of pushing your weight up further and further over time?
I personally chose to cut my losses on attempts at weight suppression—and a major side effect was that I also stopped bingeing.