If your body hovers around a certain weight no matter how much you exercise or diet, it’s not all in your head. This is referred to as the ‘set point’ theory and it suggests your body will fight to maintain a specific weight and body fat range and that you have little control over it.
Set Point weight could be a result of evolution. Wanting to hold onto excess fuel may have helped our ancestors stay protected from famine. The body is constantly adjusting hormone levels, temperature, energy levels and more, so it might begin holding onto fuel when you cut calories or exercise more. However, while you may be born with an upper and lower Set Point range for your weight, you do still have the power to change it.
We all have an internal thermostat which works by increasing metabolism when the body begins to gain weight. When we lose weight, this “thermostat” decreases and metabolism slows down.
The main two hormones involved are insulin and leptin. When we gain weight, the body increases production of insulin and leptin, which reduces our appetite. When we diet, insulin and leptin production is decreased, causing our appetite to increase.
The body strongly protects against going below your Set Point, so when you lose weight your body may react by raising your Set Point, protecting against future threat. With each diet, the metabolism learns to slow down and at some point it will adapt to a reduced rate which makes it much easier to gain weight thereafter.
WHAT’S YOUR SET POINT WEIGHT?
There is no solid formula or lab test to determine your Set Point. Scientists estimate that the average person has a Set Point range of about ten to twenty pounds at which your body will be comfortable and will not resist attempts to change. So losing/gaining small amounts of weight may not be difficult.
Some people’s Set Point range is higher than others. One person who is 5’5” may have a Set Point range of 125-145 pounds. Another 5’5” person may have a Set Point range of 145-165 pounds. This is just where the body likes to be. Genetics mostly decides our Set Point by about 80% (Lifestyle accounts for 20%).
Just because one person has a lower Set Point does not mean that person is healthier.
HOW CAN YOU FIND YOUR OWN SET POINT?
By listening to your body and eating normally.
You will know you are at your Set Point weight when you eat naturally in response to signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite. Eating is effortless and enjoyable.
You will know you have reached your Set Point when you listen to your body’s needs and your weight no longer fluctuates. (It’s normal to fluctuate within about 5 pounds per month).