Treating Obesity

Treating Obesity is complex!

Managing and treating obesity is a complex process. Over thousands of years of evolution, the body has developed complex defence mechanisms against famine and starvation.  The human body is today a great defender of its fat stores and will work diligently against our very best efforts to lose weight! The harder you work to lose weight through diets, exercise, and perhaps also with the use of medications – the harder your metabolism compensates to maintain your current weight, or to regain lost weight. The body interprets less calorie intake, along with weight loss, as a sign that we are not able to find food and are in distress. Our preserved fat stores then are considered by the body as a source of future energy to ensure our survival – which is a very good reason for the body to fiercely defend it from our efforts to lose it!  Historically, this resistance to weight loss has kept people alive through times of famine or illness.

Have you heard about the 'Set Point Weight' theory?

The set point weight theory is a concept that helps us understand how our bodies regulate and maintain a certain weight range. It suggests that each individual has a genetically predetermined weight range, often referred to as a “set point,” at which their body strives to maintain.

According to this theory, our bodies have a natural tendency to defend this set point weight. When we deviate from our set point, either by gaining or losing weight, our body initiates certain mechanisms to bring us back to our original weight range.

The set point weight theory takes into account several factors that influence our weight regulation:

  1. Genetics: Genetic factors play a significant role in determining our body weight. It influences our metabolic rate, fat distribution, and even our susceptibility to gaining or losing weight.

  2. Hormones: Hormones, such as leptin, ghrelin, and insulin, play a crucial role in regulating appetite, metabolism, and energy balance. These hormones signal our brain about our body’s energy needs and influence our hunger levels.

  3. Metabolic Rate: Each person has a unique metabolic rate, which is the rate at which their body burns calories. Our metabolism is influenced by factors like age, sex, muscle mass, and activity level.

  4. Environment: Environmental factors like diet, physical activity, and lifestyle choices can also impact our weight. Unhealthy eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, or certain medications can disrupt the balance and push us away from our set point weight.

It’s important to note that the set point weight theory doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to lose or gain weight. It simply suggests that our bodies have a natural inclination to resist substantial and long-term deviations from our set point. However, by making sustainable lifestyle changes, such as adopting a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity, it is possible to achieve a healthier weight range.

Remember, everyone’s set point weight is different, and it’s essential to focus on overall health and well-being rather than solely aiming for a specific number on the scale. Consulting with your GP or a dietitian can provide you with personalised guidance and support on losing weight, or maintaining a healthy weight.

How does the body maintain 'Set Point Weight' range?

  • It is believed that weight lost when we ‘go on a diet’ encourages the body to burn fewer calories overall, and to burn less stored fat for energy – our metabolism SLOWS down in an attempt to hang on to the weight.  The body then implements strategies to recover this lost weight by adjusting our hormone levels as described below.
  • The hormone LEPTIN that signals FULLNESS to the brain DECREASES – so you feel LESS FULL.
  • The hormone GHRELIN that signals HUNGER to the brain INCREASES -so you feel MORE HUNGRY
  • These hormonal changes results in the brain ‘obsessing’ about food in an effort to encourage you to eat – it is trying to regain the lost weight to get itself back to the predetermined set point weight range.
  • Over a long period of time, our repeated efforts at ‘dieting’ and the constant and complex changes in metabolism and hormones, results in the body adjusting the set point weight upwards in an effort to keep us alive longer.  And so over the ensuing years, we very frustratingly gain more and more weight, and find it harder and harder to lose weight.

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'What is Set Point Theory'

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So then, HOW do we treat obesity?

We cannot trick our brains into ignoring its powerful survival response.  Treating obesity is a complex process that relies on a number of different strategies and lifelong effort to be successful.  There are both surgical and non-surgical options for treating obesity.  

Weight Loss Treatment Options

Non-Surgical Treatment

Lifestyle modifications such as dieting, exercise, and medication have long been regarded as the conventional methods to achieve weight loss. Sometimes, these efforts are successful in the short term, but can fail in the long-term.

Surgical Treatment

Doctors today recognise that once a person's weight exceeds a certain range, they are more likely to suffer from a wide range of other health conditions. Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery may be considered if you have had a long-term battle with your weight or if you have weight related conditions such as diabetes, for example, that may be improved with dramatic weight loss.


Suitability for Surgery?

There are many things to consider when assessing suitability for surgery. Your GP as well as our specialist bariatric Practice Nurse can give you an early indication of your suitability for surgery prior to making an appointment with Dr Willingham.

30-minute Chat

Do you want to learn a little more about bariatric surgery before arranging for a referral to see Dr Willingham?  Then please request a FREE 30-minute chat with our specialist bariatric Practice Nurse. Fill in and send your details to us and we will call you to arrange a suitable time for a chat.


The information herein is not intended as medical advice. It should be considered as a reference only, or a starting point for further discussions with Dr Willingham and his team about weight loss surgery. Please be aware that results may vary from person to person