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Old 12-06-2013, 01:47 AM   #1
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Cutting Calories & Set points

Just some thoughts I've been having about weight loss:

I'm still undecided if calorie cutting when in nutritional ketosis is desirable. I just finished pgs. 350-354 in Good Calories, Bad Calories.

In summary, any time you restrict calories, your body compensates by slowing your metabolic rate. According to the LCHF theory, since your body is in a ketogenic state it is able to access fat storage. So, you should be able to eat until you feel satiated, and your body will draw on energy from both food and fat stores. But, if you are restricting too much, your body's metabolic rate will simply slow down.

In general, I believe this is why long-term fat loss is going to be an extremely slow process. I also believe that if you overeat, your body will use that fat preferably to your fat stores. While you need to eat enough, you should also not eat too much - which I believe only the body can tell us (not any external calorie calculator made for the masses).

I've already noticed that my body temperature has increased substantially in the past few weeks, I don't get tired in the afternoon, and I simply have a steadier flow of energy during the day. I am eating more, yet still feeling lighter everyday (ok, I will eventually get the dreaded scale out for real data)

My belief is: people are too quick to restrict. Weight loss is very slow in nature. If you try to speed up your weight loss, either you won't because you will just slow your basal metabolism rate OR you will lose weight, slow your basal metabolism rate, but you will gain the weight back as your body will seek to restore homeostasis.

The more I learn about the body through the evolutionary sciences, the more I realize that we have very strong, internal self-regulating forces. Internal change is avoided at all costs. This is to offset the often uncontrollable, external environmental changes.

I believe the examples of people that have lost weight quickly and maintained that weight loss usually represent a person that put the weight on very quickly and hasn't lived in that weight for many years or decades.

Sarah from EverydayPaleo is a perfect example. I'm not 100% sure, but I would bet money that she spent the majority of her life being somewhat in shape and thin. Then, after a pregnancy, she found herself with a broken metabolism. However, through a lower-carb diet and exercise, she was able to restore her former, thinner state in a very brief amount of time and maintain that weight because that is still her set-point.

Others who have had a high set-point for years, such as myself, are different; I've watched my set-point slowly lower over the past few years since starting lower-carb approaches. My old set-point used to be about 195... if I ate "normally, like everyone else", I always drifted to about 195.

Since I just had the experience of incorporating carbs in again on a more paleo-esque diet over the summer and fall, I noticed my set-point sort of settled around 170-175. I think if I continue to eat in ketosis, that eventually, my set-point will continue to decrease, but only very slowly.

Ultimately, I believe one must take this into consideration and try to lower their own set-point very slowly, especially if they have been overweight for years. And I also don't believe this can be done through a restrictive calorie regime which causes one to feel hungry all the time.

I think the pictures on the internet of fast weight losses (such as Sarah) are excellent motivation, but I do not believe they are realistic for those who have been overweight for a long time. I think we need to exist in our own category and should not compare ourselves to them at all.

I also believe that this 1-2lbs per week is "safe" weight loss mantra is bullcrap. Don't ever hold yourself to this standard.

I hope my musings are not disheartening, but realistic. Don't torture yourself; and I think through ketosis you can slowly learn how to listen to your body's cues again.
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Old 12-06-2013, 06:02 AM   #2
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Interesting thoughts. I think Sarah is just another one of those nutritional/lifestyle/exercise gurus who is mainly about making money. She might have something to offer for some people, but they tend present nothing new under the sun. My main issue with people like her is that they tend to spread nutritional rumours. As a society as a whole, we let the media pretty much control how we think. And people like her don't help. But I think as long as people keep in mind that she is basically wanting to make money and also that what worked for her may not work for everyone, then you can read her stuff with an open mind.

From my experience I can say that extreme calorie cutting never really worked for me, my body seemed to backlash and just put the weight back on, after the extreme calorie reduction period was over. Having said that though, my diet was never high fat. Maybe it is possible that when your body is high fat, it thinks there is no food available (ie. period of famine) so it focuses on using up stored fat instead of forging for food. (ie. overstocking). In the modern world food is always available so most people probably never mimic that period of famine. Going into NK might be the closest thing to it, however, I think you have to be eating less than you need to get it to work. Like you said. I have been trying to maintain my weight for about 3 months now and I found it easier to reduce the fat and up the carbs. The carb addition for me came from adding more veggies and some fruit. But that is the only thing I plan on doing because I don't think adding processed foods and more wheat products is a good idea. I am also careful with the fruit because I think wild fruit is different than the fruit we buy now.

Also, I have never been able to identify a set point so based on my experience, I don't think there is such a thing. Maybe some people have a set point. But I think it could be individual. Set point could be caused by the individual's behaviours and not necessarily physiological. I have spent my life either going up or going down. I have never maintained a certain number within a few pounds for any period of time. Having said that though, until recently, I have not been eating for nutritional reasons. That is a new thing for me, so maybe I will find a set point. One thing I do know, is that the BMI charts are not accurate for someone like me which I realize. I had 50lbs of body fat on me and was considered in the healthy range! 50lbs! I bought a 30lb weight vest for crossfit training and I can't even get it on it is so heavy. No wonder there was a time I could run to catch the bus without feeling like I was going to have a heart attack.
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Old 12-06-2013, 10:46 AM   #3
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I'm considering reading GCBC a third time. Each time, I retain a bit more. If I recall, Taubes discusses studies where individuals lost MORE weight eating higher calorie loads. In fact, Taubes (lecture, video, ?) states he'd like to see a very simplistic study comparing calorie load in conjunction with LCHF to finally disprove the calories in calories out myth.

Referencing the 2 lbs/week - hear that all the time. Who said it was safe? Also, who said it is better to keep the weight on than lose it?
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Old 12-06-2013, 02:55 PM   #4
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What is the calories in vs. calories out myth exactly? I have been calorie counting for almost 4 years now, and I have simply found that to lose body fat which is not necessarily the same as losing weight, is basically just eating less calories. However. The ratio of the macros is significant when dealing with hunger and bingeing. For me for example, my maintenance intake is around 1500 cal/day. I have to eat below that to lose reduce body fat levels.. It is easiest on the high fat/low carb diet. But I can also accomplish it on a high carb/low fat diet. It is just harder because I fanticize about food more and am more suceptible to bingeing. I also seem to need to exercise more in order to lose it. The exercise seems to keep the hunger at bay. I prefer the high fat diet, because it is just easier. But in reality, for me it is eating less calories that does in fact cause a reduction in body fat.
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Old 12-07-2013, 12:29 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Punkin View Post
What is the calories in vs. calories out myth exactly?
Simply put (for people who haven't read the book at all), Gary Taubes really hates it when people say that obesity is due to:

1. A lack of willpower
2. Not enough exercise
3. Because food nowadays simply tastes too good (food reward hypothesis)

He believes that due to these myths, scientists and doctors have been wrongly telling patients to eat less and move more, and treating them like they are morally "weak" people, simply succumbing to the sin of gluttony.

I couldn't agree with him more. In fact, this part of the book made me cry. When I was suddenly morbidly obese at 13, doctors, family, and friends thought I was a glutton and sloth. It really hindered my development of self-worth, something I still struggle with.

Taubes surveys the history of nutritional sciences and endocrinology, which are still relatively newer fields (took off in the early 1900s), to show that doctors have not always believed that being overweight was just a matter of too many calories in (yummy food) and too few calories out (too little exercise). Rather, this is a modern day "myth".

He never says that if you cut calories, you won't lose weight. But he does not see this as truly addressing the real cause of the obesity. And, as we know, (most of us here have been pure calorie counters at some point in our life), our bodies always adjusts to the new caloric intake, despite the large amounts of fat that still exist. We cannot access our fat stores. Also, as we've all experienced as well, calorie counting in and of itself usually only produces short-term weight loss (maybe for a year or two, at the longest).

Taubes asks, Why are people eating SO many more calories than they actually need in the first place (the cause)? He believes this is due to the nature of eating insulinogenic foods and the ensuing hormonal effects, which signal to the body to store more and eat more simultaneously.

This is in a nutshell. I'm sure I've forgotten something important. Others should chime in.

Last edited by unna; 12-07-2013 at 12:40 AM..
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Old 12-07-2013, 12:31 AM   #6
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Interesting thoughts. I think Sarah is just another one of those nutritional/lifestyle/exercise gurus who is mainly about making money. She might have something to offer for some people, but they tend present nothing new under the sun. My main issue with people like her is that they tend to spread nutritional rumours. As a society as a whole, we let the media pretty much control how we think. And people like her don't help. But I think as long as people keep in mind that she is basically wanting to make money and also that what worked for her may not work for everyone, then you can read her stuff with an open mind.
I love this part of your comment! I'm so naive, really. I always forget that people are out to make money and need to be reminded often!
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Old 12-07-2013, 12:36 AM   #7
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If I recall, Taubes discusses studies where individuals lost MORE weight eating higher calorie loads. In fact, Taubes (lecture, video, ?) states he'd like to see a very simplistic study comparing calorie load in conjunction with LCHF to finally disprove the calories in calories out myth.
I saw this video with Taubes in it as well (I think he was at a crossfit function).

I wonder how well it would work. Some Bodi tribe members every year take in an excess of calories (but I don't believe anyone has ever measured) of cow blood and milk to become fat, still a very ketogenic diet. It works, they become very fat in a matter of months.

I believe Taubes is too optimistic with this idea. But eating to the cues of satiety, the high fat diet works really well.

Last edited by unna; 12-07-2013 at 12:41 AM..
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Old 12-07-2013, 12:38 AM   #8
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Referencing the 2 lbs/week - hear that all the time. Who said it was safe? Also, who said it is better to keep the weight on than lose it?
The "2lbs. per week" is just a standard saying in the diet world by doctors and laymen alike.

I don't understand your second question. But, it is healthier to keep weight on than to lose it and gain it in a yo-yo fashion.
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Old 12-07-2013, 05:30 AM   #9
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Yes, there is something behind it for sure. I am so glad there are people out there like Taubes writing books about it. Wild foods do contain carbs, and can be low in fat. In fact if you are living in the wild, fat would be scarce because larger game are hard to catch. However wild food also is of high water and fiber content. And not to mention, it takes a lot of energy just to collect a few calories. I think we are programmed to overeat for surival, but the problem is that we have made food so easy and cheap, that it is around all the time. Not to mention that we have removed the fiber and water. I think our bodies are just always in storage mode or we ourselves are always in storage mode. Meaning we always in storage mode and we never need to access fat! NK helps get us back into the fat utilization mode by keeping the insulin response at bay.

However what happens when you get to maintenance? This is where I am at. Ok, so now what. I don't need to lose any more body fat? But yet I am still in storage mode, so how do I stop being in this mode? I basically look at it from two angles. I have to get rid of the stored food in my house (ie. crackers, cereal, pasta, oils etc) and I also have to get on a diet that more closely resembles what our ancestors would have had: high water, higher fiber, carbs, protein and some fat. That is going to be difficult. Oh well, at least I know about the low carb diet. I should probably read the Taubes book again as well.
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Old 12-07-2013, 05:56 AM   #10
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Another great, informative discussion for which I am grateful. You are all so knowledgeable and I find what you share extremely helpful as well as thought provoking.
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Old 12-08-2013, 01:26 AM   #11
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Wild foods do contain carbs, and can be low in fat. In fact if you are living in the wild, fat would be scarce because larger game are hard to catch. However wild food also is of high water and fiber content. And not to mention, it takes a lot of energy just to collect a few calories. I think we are programmed to overeat for surival, but the problem is that we have made food so easy and cheap, that it is around all the time. Not to mention that we have removed the fiber and water. I think our bodies are just always in storage mode or we ourselves are always in storage mode.
I think this is interesting.

I do research work in the evolutionary sciences. You would be surprised to know how much we do not know about human evolution, given the absence of fossils and artifacts. A good introductory book to read about this is: What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr.

1. In the paleo diet world online, I believe people like Loren Cordain tried to push the idea that a paleolithic diet would have been very lean meat as wild animals are lean. Well, this neglects the fact that the entire animal was always eaten, and the parts besides the muscle meat have extremely high fat percentages.

2. We aren't sure that humans experienced prolonged periods of feast and famine. It is only a hypothesis. In fact, I would argue the opposite: Humans are flexible and so can feast and fast, but I believe that food was for the most part present.

If a living organism experiences too much suffering in their environment, they will lose their internal motivation to live and become extinct. Being in a perpetual state of hunger with anxiety about finding the next meal - I imagine that would be a painful existence that would not be worth it!

Also, in early hominid evolution, humans formed pair bonds (the male and female came together) to ensure offspring survival. There was a division of labor: The male hunted and the female gathered. If the female really gathered so much of the food, then she would never have had a need to form a pair bond, as males can also be dangerous even to their own children.

The hunting seems to have played an extremely large role in the increase of calories and subsequent increase in brain size. Due to the increase in brain size, it seems humans had a pretty steady supply of meat. Humans also have different tooth enamel than other primates, which could only suggest that they developed a diet radically different from other primates, not eating so many fruits (on a side note, chimpanzees always eat meat if it is available). The female offered continuous sex to the male in return for the hunting (unique hominids traits are continuous sexual receptivity and concealed ovulation).

Ultimately, there seems to have been a decent food supply year round.

Well, those are just a hodge-podge of thoughts ... with an unclear structure!

My point is: Just because we imagine as a culture that humans evolved experiencing extreme hardships and conditions, such as long-periods with no food, does not mean this actually happened.

I think Intermittent Fasting is interesting as a weight loss tool.... but I don't think it can be justified with an evolutionary hypothesis.

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Old 12-08-2013, 01:38 AM   #12
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However what happens when you get to maintenance? This is where I am at. Ok, so now what. I don't need to lose any more body fat? But yet I am still in storage mode, so how do I stop being in this mode? I basically look at it from two angles. I have to get rid of the stored food in my house (ie. crackers, cereal, pasta, oils etc) and I also have to get on a diet that more closely resembles what our ancestors would have had: high water, higher fiber, carbs, protein and some fat. That is going to be difficult. Oh well, at least I know about the low carb diet. I should probably read the Taubes book again as well.
The animal carcass has a very high fat percentage.

I think you have to eat in a way that leaves you satisfied and keeps your cravings at bay, regardless of evolution.

Though don't get me wrong, I love evolutionary theory.

In my opinion, you are on a really good path - you don't simply believe what everyone tells you, but instead you focus on what really works for you and what doesn't. I like your approach, and I'm trying to follow it as well.
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Old 12-08-2013, 06:07 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by unna View Post
Simply put (for people who haven't read the book at all), Gary Taubes really hates it when people say that obesity is due to:

1. A lack of willpower
2. Not enough exercise
3. Because food nowadays simply tastes too good (food reward hypothesis)

He believes that due to these myths, scientists and doctors have been wrongly telling patients to eat less and move more, and treating them like they are morally "weak" people, simply succumbing to the sin of gluttony.

I couldn't agree with him more. In fact, this part of the book made me cry. When I was suddenly morbidly obese at 13, doctors, family, and friends thought I was a glutton and sloth. It really hindered my development of self-worth, something I still struggle with.

Taubes surveys the history of nutritional sciences and endocrinology, which are still relatively newer fields (took off in the early 1900s), to show that doctors have not always believed that being overweight was just a matter of too many calories in (yummy food) and too few calories out (too little exercise). Rather, this is a modern day "myth".

He never says that if you cut calories, you won't lose weight. But he does not see this as truly addressing the real cause of the obesity. And, as we know, (most of us here have been pure calorie counters at some point in our life), our bodies always adjusts to the new caloric intake, despite the large amounts of fat that still exist. We cannot access our fat stores. Also, as we've all experienced as well, calorie counting in and of itself usually only produces short-term weight loss (maybe for a year or two, at the longest).

Taubes asks, Why are people eating SO many more calories than they actually need in the first place (the cause)? He believes this is due to the nature of eating insulinogenic foods and the ensuing hormonal effects, which signal to the body to store more and eat more simultaneously.

This is in a nutshell. I'm sure I've forgotten something important. Others should chime in.
Unna, excellent synopsis of a rather large and complicated topic and book. I too think I am going to read it for the 3rd time.

The one point that I would make is that Taubes makes the point that when people 'cut calories' they are in effect cutting carbs, protein and/or fat. This is an important distinction because as we all know, the types of food has far more impact on the body than some man made method of measuring that foods energy worth (i.e. calories). Which is like a one dimensional picture as opposed to a 3 dimensional of the same thing.
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Old 12-08-2013, 09:58 AM   #14
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I am just going on what I know based on experience. I have camped in the winter. It is very difficult to find food. Even with the best equipment, you can go days without fish to eat. Small game and insects just simply aren't available. Some birds can be caught, but they aren't dumb, you have to set out bait as traps. One of the easiest sources of foods comes from conifer trees, but they are difficult to eat. Yes, we went hungry and we were also really cold. Finally when we got out of the bush, we stopped at the first McDs and ordered enough food for an army. Talk about overeating!
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Old 12-08-2013, 11:57 AM   #15
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I am just going on what I know based on experience. I have camped in the winter. It is very difficult to find food. Even with the best equipment, you can go days without fish to eat. Small game and insects just simply aren't available. Some birds can be caught, but they aren't dumb, you have to set out bait as traps. One of the easiest sources of foods comes from conifer trees, but they are difficult to eat. Yes, we went hungry and we were also really cold. Finally when we got out of the bush, we stopped at the first McDs and ordered enough food for an army. Talk about overeating!
That sounds like it was a super interesting camping trip!

I think experience is interesting. I love hearing people's experiences.

From an evolutionary science perspective, humans evolved in the African savannahs, where they had a more pleasant climate.

I think the Neanderthals experienced some harsh winters. Unfortunately they are extinct now. I can't elaborate any on how they may have lived because I don't much about them...
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Old 12-08-2013, 03:09 PM   #16
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I don't know if I would do it again, it was a good experience, but really hard. I want to try the survial trip again, but in the summer when its warmer 8)
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Old 12-09-2013, 01:50 PM   #17
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I just wanted to chime in from my own personal experience with this with calorie restricting on a "regular" diet vs calorie restricting on a nutritional diet. In the past year, I have lost 50lb, going from 240lb to 190lb.

For the first 7 months of the year I was on a classic reduce calories and exercise to lose weight plan. I would reduce my calories by about 1000 calories a day (for that "safe" 2lb a week goal, though I did not average 2lb a week weight loss), though when I exercised any calories I burned I got to eat. So, a typical non-exercise day would be a limit of lets say 1400 calories (2400 normal burn-1000), but if I ran for 3mi and burned 400 calories I got to eat 1800 calories. It worked, but in a very sucky way. I was hungry frequently, and cranky, where sometimes I would completely lose it and have a bad day of eating way too many calories because my body was starving. If I got sick or lazy and didn't exercise I immediately gained weight. If I ate a normal amount of calories I would gain weight because my metabolism was slowed down. It was basically one big roller coaster ride of gaining and losing, even though I did lose about 30lb over those 7 months. Long term, just very hard to keep going. Also, it was a real struggle to hold onto muscle mass and not just lose fat.

Then, in July, I was looking into low-carb for runners/athletes (I do half marathons, yoga and weights), found an account of a ultra-marathon runner that did low carb based on the The Art and Science of Low Carb Performance book, read that, did some other research, and decided to try nutritional ketosis(LCHF). I have now been on that diet for about 4 months and have lost 20lb. It is hands down the best diet I have ever been on. I basically eat the same amount of calories as I did before (-1000, eat more when I exercise), but I don't get hunger cravings, I keep losing weight even when I don't/can't exercise, I steadily lose weight (or at least fat percentage on my scale) every week, and I don't have to be as strict with my calories. If I eat a little more because I'm still a little hungry it doesn't really set me back like it would have on the other diet, because I don't think my metabolism has slowed down. And I am more consistently losing the fat and not losing muscle.

So, getting back to your post, for me, calorie restricting on a low carb diet is not a problem at all. I know my metabolism was slowed down on a "regular" calorie-restricted diet, but it's definitely not slowed down like that on my LCHF calorie restricted diet - eating the same calorie deficit. I suppose I could try upping my calories to see what the effect is, but at this point I'm in a "if it's not broke don't fix it" phase where it's working just how I want it to. My goal is to get down to 20% bodyfat and by loose calculations thats another 20-30lb to go, which I hope to (and should) reach by June at the latest.

I do agree that people need to stop looking for quick fixes...everyone's body is different and it's going to take whatever time it's going to take. The important thing is to be committed to a permanent lifestyle change...forming good habits that you'll continue even after you reach your end goal. For me switching to nutritional ketosis has made getting healthy and in shape so much easier because the high fat & the efficient burning of fat stores means I'm not struggling with constant hunger any more.
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Old 12-10-2013, 11:42 AM   #18
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blablues: I once had a similar experience as you with normal calorie counting. And, after awhile, as my metabolism kept down regulating, I would just want to cry and I wondered "Why me?" "Why do I have to live this dreadful existence?"

With NK, I have energy, I don't even keep track of my calories, and I love the foods I get to eat. My only problem with NK is that it is not socially accepted... at least not where I live.
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Old 01-16-2014, 03:36 PM   #19
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WOE: calorie restricted ketogenic -0 carbs
Start Date: 1/8/2014
I absolutely agree Unna, I have noticed through the years that my set point has changed as well. Mine use to be at a 170. Now as time has went on and with some ups and downs I believe it to be about 150 or so. I could be wrong but I have to think that maybe I was referring to my set point as a stall. Because it seems that when I would reach my set point that I would have to really be off plan for awhile to break that weight. Or when I did go over my set point and try to then be on plan again I would stall at that set point. Does this make sense?
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