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Tax Pendulum by jesadaphornIt’s tax day, so I hope you aren’t too stressed out. Maybe you did your taxes weeks ago, and taxes are off your plate for another year.

Will you get a refund this year? Or did you have to make a payment to the IRS (ouch!)? Or maybe your withholding throughout the year was right on, and your payment or refund was negligible.

Thinking about your taxes is one of those things that you can push aside, but only temporarily. Eventually, you have to settle the bill. Whether you underpaid or overpaid over the year, at some point you have to check and see where you stand.

Your body is a bit like the IRS. You can make decisions with the intent of controlling your weight, but in the long run your body decides what’s right. Your body has its own systems to regulate your weight, and when you try to override this (like by dieting), your body reaches into its back pocket and pulls out a few tricks. This is much to the vexation of dieters everywhere.

This also means that it isn’t your imagination when you have been following a weight loss plan and it doesn’t work. Or it works for a while but you have rebound weight gain. AKA, yo-yo dieting.

Everyone has a weight setpoint, which is a range of 10-20 pounds. People who don’t have a history of dieting or regular overeating – the increasingly elusive “normal eaters” – have remarkably consistent weight over time. So, for example, eating a bit more while on vacation won’t have a lot of impact on their weight.

Your setpoint is not for you to decide. My setpoint is different from yours, and different from my best friend’s. Your setpoint is not your “ideal” weight taken from a chart, or a goal weight you consciously choose. It’s the natural weight range where your body settles when you don’t interfere. Your body wants to stay within this range and it gets a little worried when you are underfeeding it. And unfortunately, chronic dieting tends to ratchet your setpoint up.

When you go on a weight loss plan, your body will kick into survival mode. You may lose some weight at first, but over time, your body readjusts itself as it tries to keep you within your setpoint range. Like the IRS, your body takes stock of whether you’re “paying in” the right amount over time.

If you aren’t paying in enough (eating enough), your body compensates by:

  • Increasing your hunger.
  • Not recognizing when you have eaten enough, so you won’t feel satisfied very easily.
  • Making a wider range of foods enticing. (I doubt it could get me to eat beets, but maybe…)
  • Decreasing your energy, so you feel extra Couch-Potato-ish.
  • Adjusting your body temperature to conserve energy.

The alternative is to get out of your own damn way. When you begin to eat in an attuned way with your natural hunger, it gives your body the opportunity to stabilize your weight. It decreases the likelihood that you will gain more weight in the future – and you might even lose some.

At the very least, you can stop feeling so obsessed and crazy around food and weight. That alone is worth the change.


Tax Pendulum – Image courtesy of jesadaphorn at