Set Point Theory 


A few weeks ago, we did a blog post on the effects of “yo-yo dieting” also known as weight cycling. Oftentimes after dieting, an individual will regain the weight that they have lost within the months/years that follow and a reason for this is due to our body’s set point weight.


What is it?

Set Point Theory is the ideal weight that your body likes to be at. Your set point weight is determined by factors such as your genetics, hormones, and environment which are all unique to you. Essentially your set point weight is part of your genetic blueprint the same as your height. 


Whatever your set point weight may be, your body will allow you to be in the 5-20 lb range of it. Your body has mechanisms in place to keep your body weight within its natural range. If you eat more than what is needed for your body at a given time, your metabolism will speed up to burn the excess energy and if you eat less than what is needed for your body your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Another reaction your body has when there are not enough calories is to increase your hunger. Your body’s reaction to being underfed is an evolutionary response to prevent the body from starvation. 


Diet culture does not believe in this theory as diet culture thinks that every individual should be able to achieve the unrealistic thin ideal that they put out. BMI or body mass index is another example that does not believe in weight set point. BMI categorizes individuals based on height and weight aka two things that we just learned that we do not have much control over as they are genetic. BMI involves that unrealistic thin ideal in the middle that very few individuals naturally fit into. 


At Food Ease Co. we know that the set point theory is more fact than fiction. It is the reason for body diversity and the health at every size (HAES) movement. A healthy weight is whatever is comfortable for your body. It is not the thin ideal that is glorified on social media. 


Trying to match the unrealistic thin ideal causes our body’s set point mechanisms to ramp up. Eventually, we can become so preoccupied with food it is hard to concentrate on our day-to-day life. In order to stop this preoccupation with food, our bodies must be returned to a weight that is within our natural weight range. 


What the Research Says

There are lots of research and studies that have been published to prove that the set point theory is accurate/more than a theory.

One study specifically; the Minnesota starvation study put participants on a 24-week energy-restricted diet and found that the participants lost 66% of their initial fat mass. When individuals went back to their normal diet this resulted in a regain of fat mass reaching 145% of the pre-starvation values (i.e., there was a rapid increase of fat mass, known as the catch-up fat phenomenon, when the body tries to make up for lost weight). The fluctuation in body weight that results from under-, and overfeeding requires a considerable change in the set point weight, at least after starvation, re-feeding, and overeating. However, months after the study, the individuals’ weight returned to within their normal range pre-study (Müller et al., 2010).


How to Know if You’re at Your Set Point

First of all, a good way to tell that you are in your set point weight range is that you do not experience overwhelming thoughts of food and hunger. This means that your body is not fighting to get you to eat more calories for energy and your normal hunger and fullness cues are present. Other examples include:

  • Regular menstrual cycle
  • Strong hair and nails
  • Having energy 
  • Not getting sick frequently
  • Regular bowel movements


Accepting Set Point Weight

Living in a society that is so hyper-focused on trying to constantly shrink our bodies it can be extremely hard to accept our unique set weight. However, the first step in accepting our set point weight is rejecting the diet mentality. When we are able to ditch the vicious diet cycle and find our hunger and fullness cues again, we are able to adequately feed ourselves. Adequate energy and calories for the body means it can start to find the weight that is healthiest for you. 


The second step in accepting our set point weight is to ditch the scales. The classic bathroom scale that every family knows, and loves has got to go. We know that weight is not an indicator of health therefore constantly weighing ourselves every day brings us nothing but shame and guilt. Our weight will fluctuate and that is normal. Our set point weight is not something we can make up so weighing ourselves every day in hopes that it will be a number that we want is extremely unhealthy for us. 

The first step in accepting your set point weight is ditching diet culture. If you are ready to take that first step, the dietitians at Food Ease Co. are here to help! 



Christensen, C. (2021, June 25). Set point weight theory: What it is & how to find it. Colleen Christensen Nutrition.

Hilton, R. R. D. (2022, June 5). Set point theory: What it is and how to know if you’re at it. NourishRX.
Müller, M. J., Bosy-Westphal, A., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2010). Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight? F1000 Medicine Reports, 2.

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