Post dieting auto regulation concept


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The best way to describe the concept of diet auto regulation is to compare it with the cruise control button of a motor vehicle. If you have no clue what a cruise control button is, it is a system that automatically controls the speed of a motor vehicle. The system takes over the throttle of the car to maintain a steady speed as set by the driver. Most modern vehicles these days are already equipped with this system as a standard feature. In the world of dieting for fat loss or maintenance, it can be considered as intuitive eating or eating instinctively. Some naturally lean people or those whom we refer to as people with fast metabolism does not necessarily have faster metabolism than most of us but, they were simply good intuitive eaters or intuitive movers or both. If you want to read more about intuitive eating, read this or this one.

Now, I am going to share my personal thoughts regarding intuitive eating because it may sound too simplistic to answer this principle by a yes or no answer because in my opinion, it just depends. I don’t know if you have heard the the theory of biological set point. Basically, set point is like the human body’s thermostat which regulates the body weight of a person. From this perspective given with the question above whether a person is capable of auto regulating his body weight or body composition without tracking calorie intake depends on his level of set point and his/ her former history of dieting. If he/ she has been previously tracking his calorie/ macronutrient intake for a given time, there is a potential that he may be able to maintain his current state of leanness by simply eating intuitively, but again, he is still aware of what he eats and how much at least subconsciously speaking.

The only reason why people get fat is due to the accumulation of acute surplus calories that accumulates overtime. No one is exempted to this law of thermodynamics. However, just like what I mentioned above regarding the theory of set point, there might be a big variance between the lowness or highness of a given person’s set point. People with higher set points will always have a harder time losing body fat because their body simply fights back in order to preserve it’s comfortable set point. It is still possible for them but it may take longer or they may even need a more complicated dieting strategy in order for them to keep their desired level of leanness.

Another scenario wherein auto regulation may not be applicable is when a person has an irregular sleeping – waking pattern. Based on my personal experience myself, every time that I was working night shifts, my appetite and hunger seems to become uncontrollable. Fortunately, with the use of my calorie tracking software, I am able to resolve this issue as a shift worker. In my opinion, this is also the reason why most night shift workers tend to gain excessive weight because most night shift workers also happened to just eat impulsively. People who works at night shifts also tend to make poorer food choices so it is probably the combination of both factors.

In my experience, it also depends on the level of physical activities done which can alter a person’s appetite. For example, whenever I am doing a twenty minute low intensity jogging, I tend to get ravenously hungry afterwards. But again, I am much leaner than an average person so it might not be applicable to the other people especially the ones who are carrying a lot more body fat than myself. Every time that I am working in my day job which makes me do at least 14,000 steps on average per 8-hour shift, I tend to get really hungry when I get home. I think this is simply my body’s reaction to compensate all the energy (or calories) that I had expended doing such activities above. Just like what I had mentioned regarding the thermostatic theory of set point, my body is doing that to me in order to put me into neutral energy balance state. I am lean because I am a dieted down person. To naturally lean people, they might not get the same effect doing the same amount of physical activities.

Another factor that I could think of that may affect the efficacy of intuitive eating is personal food preferences. Food preferences is highly individual which can be an innate factor learnt from childhood or as early as when we were still developing in our mother’s womb. Some foods can be more or less satiating than the others, so if you prefer to eat highly processed sugary stuff, you may get hungry sooner than expected and may end up co aiming more calories than you need.

The bottom line is, whether auto regulation will work or will not work depends on many factors such as what I’ve enumerated above. If you are previously tracking your calories and weighing your foods for a while, it may work in that context because you already have a clue regarding certain food’s calorie content by weight. If you are dieting down far away from your set point, you are probably better off sticking to meticulous calorie tracking especially if your calorie budget according to your goal is already low to begin with.

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