The Set Point Theory

Have you ever heard of the set point theory? A lot of people have trouble accepting this theory because it seems like a “cop out” to weight loss. The Set Point Theory states that “Everyone has a  [weight] set point and, just as you have no control over your height, eye colour or hair colour, you also have no control over what your set point will be. Your body is biologically and genetically determined to weigh within a certain weight range.”

How do you feel when you read this statement? I can tell you that when I learned this when I was in the midst of my eating disorder I was outraged. Stay at the same weight forever? There is no way I’m accepting myself at this weight!! My goal ever since I can remember was to weigh 125lbs and I think I achieved that for possibly a day before binging my way back up to my original weight and then some.

Now I’m fascinated by the set point theory because it’s been proven to me time and time again. Do you know where you body naturally feels most comfortable? Usually it is a range within 10-20lbs. I can tell you mine exactly. It’s about 136-140lbs. How do I know this? When I was obsessed with weighing myself I would write it in my journal every single day. I look back over years and years of journals- and EVERY TIME I would go on another mission to lose weight- that’s exactly where I was. From Grade 9 to the age of 27. That’s almost 14 years of being in the same weight range while starving myself, over exercising, purging, being happy, letting go of dieting, dieting again.. and so on and so forth. All to end up at the exact same weight I was unhappy at years ago. Isn’t that madness? I wish I could go back in time and tell myself- YOU ARE PERFECT AS YOU ARE. Start loving and accepting your body now and you won’t waste 15 years of your life on this STUPID fucking goal of weighing 125lbs. My weight goes up and down if I try to force it or if I’m binging a lot, naturally. But it always settles around the same number when I normalize my eating habits. Have you ever noticed this happening to you? I think I really learned this when I went travelling and really stopped trying to diet. I went for a few runs while I was away, drank (a lot) almost every single night, ate out for every single meal.. And in 3 months I ended up gaining.. 3 whole pounds. WHAT!? Turns out when you just listen to your hunger, and fullness and enjoy living each day your body just does it’s thing and regulates your weight perfectly! I ended up at 136lbs after that trip after starving myself down to 133. My set point is right here.

I believe everyone has a healthy weight range set point where they feel their best. Where they eat lots of nutritionally dense foods and enjoy working out- and also enjoy wine and chocolate whenever they want to, without guilt. Since we are conditioned as a society to constantly be “dieting” or improving our bodies or being a “work in progress” this can be hard to accept. But the truth is, 95% of every dieter gains the weight back and then some.  So what if you started accepting your body right now. Accept that it will end up naturally where it is supposed to be when you stop viewing food as the enemy? How would you start living your life differently?

Here are the facts behind set point. When you go on a diet and start you lose weight- your body automatically lowers your metabolism, produces the urge to binge, & your appetite will increase over time. (For some this may take a lot of time and why it is quite common for Anorexics in recovery to swing over to binge eating disorder once they start eating again). It will conserve energy, and do whatever it can to stall the weight loss process. The body is so good at slowing down metabolism that you will need to continue eating the same low amount of calories just to stay where you are- and the set point will still make your weight go up! This is a fight that a dieter can never win at.

This also goes the opposite way! When you gain weight- your metabolism increases in attempts to normalize weight. Your body is brilliant at this process. You may also find when you are listening to your body your hunger decreases when you gain weight past your set point.
There is one thing that I know to be absolutely true- your set point is much stronger than your willpower. So why keep fighting? Put all that energy towards love and acceptance to where you are. Finding a way of eating that feels amazing. Take weight loss out of it and let your body settle where it will. Imagine this- you go on “just one more” diet- lose 30lbs through sheer willpower and then a year later you are right back exactly where you were and then some? I’ve seen this happen many times. Now imagine if you just let yourself be for the next year and you ended up at a perfectly healthy, happy weight as a result- without even TRYING. Doesn’t this sound more appealing?

Let me know what you think about the set point theory, and here are some resources for you to check out if you are interested!

Understanding Weight Set Point Theory (and diet-induced metabolic damage)