Why is it, that even when we all ate and worked about the same, we would still not look the same – and especially feel the same? Why do some people gain more weight in recovery than others? And how much of our weight management is actually in our control?
- what is the set point weight theory?
- Where does it come from?
- Why does everyone have a different happy weight?
- Have you reached the weight you function best at yet?
- find your seit point weight.
what is a set point weight?
The Set-Point theory claims, that we all have a preset weight baseline hardwired in our DNA. But instead of an exact weight it is more of a weight range – in which we can control our weight. If we try to break out of this range, our body will fight to stay within it. This means: when we eat less, our body regulates functions (physiological processes, thermoregulation, mucular activities), to save energy and maintain the preset body weight. The same regulation happens, when we gain weight. However, it is said, that the natural weight-regulation is stronger in the process of suppressing your set-point weight. Which makes sense – since losing too much weight is way more dangerous than gaining weight.
“science” behind it
Evidence that the set point theory is correct was observed in the Minnesota-starvation experiment in 1944. (more information about the experiment here ). Due to the lower calorie intake, the participants showed,
– decreased physiological processes (homone production, decreased heart volume and heart rate, loss of hair)
– decreased thermoregulation (lower body temperature, always feeling cold,)
– decreased basal-muscular activities (apathie, motionlessness)
All the things listed above are components of the basal metabolic rate. By decreasing these things, the basal metabolic rate also decreases. The explanation behind this is, that the body is trying to maintain it´s preset body weight – even with a lower calorie intake.
After the refeeding phase, the participants weight 145% of their ore-starvation-weight. But after approximately one year their weight has been back within 5% of their pre-starvation weight.
In conclusion, the set-point weight is basically the range of weight where a body is functioning on it´s best. Physical and cognitive.
what determines your set point weight?
A variety of things like environment, genetics, lifestyle and biology influence our set-point. It´s a dynamic and complex of all these things, which explains why our body weight naturally changes within different periods of our life.
- Genetics: just as dogs come in different shapes and sizes, humans will always have different shapes, builds and set-point-weights. It is simply something, we finally have to accept and stop shaming on others as well as ourselves.
- environment and lifestyle: in warmer/hotter areas your body needs less energy to keep your body temperature up, than when you are living in a colder area. Seasons changing and moving can cause slight changes of your basal metabolic rate. But also stress, anxiety, being more busy, your state of mental health can have an impact on your set-point weight. At different stages of our life, our body is in need of more or less energy reserves.
- hormones: hormones like ghrelin and leptin regulate our hunger- and fullness cues. Leptin is produced in fat cells. When having not enough the required amount of fat cells for your body, you´ll probably experience a lack of fullness. But more fat cells does not automatically mean, you won´t ever feel hungry. The more you ignore your physical signals, the more leptin-resistant you´ll get. So instead of working on losing weight, you should work on listening to your physical signals again.
signs you haven´t reached your set point weight yet
If you can answer any of the following queations with yes, you are most likely to not be within your set-point weight.
- do you get strong hunger and fullness cues?
- do you feel unsatisfied or uncomfortably stuffed after a meal?
- do you jump between restricting and eating in excess or skip meal and eat after past fullness aftwerwards?
- Do you use eating as a coping tool for boredom, emotional needs or anxiety often?
- Do you bounce back and forth between losing and gaining weight?
- Do you have irregular periods, very light periods or lost it at all? Lower libido?
- Do you burn off, what you have eaten?/Do you feel like you need to earn your food?
get back to your set point weight
Before I am giving some tips that can help you to find back to the weight, you will feel and function the best, I want to stress, that it could happen, that you gain, lose or maintain your weight. You need to trust your body and especially the process. It´s a journey.
#1 stop restricting. Work on identifying your fear foods and introduce them to your daily diet. Let go of hidden food- and eating rules. Mental restriction is restriction too!
#2 ditch the scale. Your weight says abosultely nothing about your process or your health state (as long as you´re not in a dangerous range of weight, then I highly suggest getting blind weighed). Weighing yourself will only hinder your journey and will probably lead to working against your physical signs.
#3 practice self care. Struggling with food or your body image, is less a problem of your body shape or food itself, it is more about a lack of self care and self compassion.
I hope this blog post clarified some questions about the theory as well as fears around it. Now I´d be interested what you think about this theory? Does it scare you? Do you feel like you already reached your happy weight?
Stephanie Buttermore about her amazing all in journey: https://youtu.be/DotlyWhBhak
A TED talk about embracing your set point weight: https://youtu.be/aPuk30ILAa8
Colleen Christensen explaining what it is and how to find it: https://youtu.be/F15UjGoNUlE
Follow the Intuition explaining overshooting the set point weight in recovery: https://youtu.be/w6y76yRZtr4