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Set Your Fat Thermostat at a Healthy Level

Have you ever watched someone who appears thin and healthyeating a piece of chocolate cake and wondered how they staythin? Part of the reason is that they have a set-point intheir brain that keeps their body fat and weight fromvarying~ that is, until they do something that causes thebrain to change its settings for weight control.

That's what happened to me when I quit smoking. I'd beenslender all my life until I stopped smoking and gainednearly 25 pounds! Quitting nicotine had triggered achemical process that altered a weight control function inmy brain. My body began to create fat out of what I ate,where it used to eliminate any excess calories. (To quitsmoking is only one of many events that can trigger achange in the weight controls of a person's brain.)

Let's call the weight regulator in your brain a *set-point,* and a good image for the set-point is thetemperature you set on the thermostat for the heating andcooling system of your house. If it is set at 71 degrees,then the temperature doesn't vary by more than a degree ortwo before the thermostat tells the furnace to heat up (orthe air conditioner to cool down).

Your brain's set-point functions similarly, maintaining aconsistent weight and fat level through interactions ofhormones, etc. Exploring the body's chemistry is beyondthis article's scope. It's sufficient to understand thatif your weight has increased (or decreased), it's becausethe set-point in your brain changed. And so, if you preferto lose (or re-gain) that weight, specific habits arenecessary to adjust the set-point to your desired level.

One. Eat the right things. This is not difficult, if youfollow these clear guidelines: a) Keep refinedcarbohydrates to a minimum. That is, avoid foods made withsugar or flour. b) Eat less fat, but that doesn't mean touse products labeled 'low-fat' such as low-fat mayonnaise.Producers have to use so many chemicals to make low-fat,processed foods taste OK that you're better off just eatingthe real thing - only less of it. Also, eat less animalfat, like cheese, butter and marbled meat. c) Eat complexcarbohydrates: whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Yourbody recognizes these as normal foods, so it will processthem to give you energy now, instead of giving you storedenergy (fat).

Two: Drink water. It is necessary to your metabolism andhelps your body eliminate toxins and other excesses.Sweetened juice, coffee, tea, diet or regular soda, andalcohol don't contribute to good metabolism or health.Keep use of them minimal, if at all.

Third, do the right kind of rhythmic large muscle exercisedaily, and sustain it for 30 to 60 minutes. If this soundslike a lot of time, ask yourself, how important is it toyou to be healthy and/or lose weight? You're not going tore-set your brain's weight regulator (the set-point)without exercise - it's that simple. But the exercise canbe a pleasure once you understand which types to do.Fortunately, your not faced here with push-ups or liftingweights.

For exercise that will adjust the set-point, 'largemuscle' means in particular to use your legs. Walking isthe ideal exercise to begin with; you don't need specialgear or equipment. You could also swim, bike, or jog. Dosomething you can enjoy. 'Rhythmic' refers to exercise youdo steadily, repetitively. 'Sustained' means continuous -no stopping. The minimum is 30 minutes a day. Forquickest results, an hour daily is better. Your heart rateshould be at a level where you exert yourself, but canstill have a conversation. Go much higher than that level,and you're no longer doing set-point changing exercise. Inthis case, 'no pain-no gain' is undesirable.

If you make these three things a daily habit, (propereating, drinking, and exercise) your set-point will change,and you'll lose weight. I lost the 25 pounds I'd gainedwhen I stopped smoking, and in the process I learned somepleasant habits that have improved the quality of my lifeas well as my health. Habitually, I eat delicious wholefoods, enjoy a daily walk, and drink mainly water. I feelgood now, and looking good is just a bonus. You'll feelgood, too, and your body will thank you, blessing you withgood health.

Please note: This article is for information purposesonly. Always consult your doctor or health-careprofessional.

Serena Harstad has written extensively on nutrition, fitness and health topics for All About Nutrition, the best on-line nutrition information resource. Visit: for additional articles by Serena Harstad


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