The Set Point Theory Explained


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According to the Set Point Theory, there is a control system built into us that dictates how much fat he or she should carry. Some refer to the set point theory as an internal “thermostat” that regulates body fat. Different individuals have a high setting, others have a low one. According to this theory, body fat percentage and body weight are matters of internal controls that are set differently in different people. Everyone has a set point and, just as you have no control over your height, eye color or hair color, 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.


The set-point theory was originally developed in 1982 by William Bennett and Joel Gurin to explain why repeated dieting is unsuccessful in producing long-term change in body weight or shape. In theory, their speculation was that going on a weight-loss diet is an attempt to overpower the set point, and the set point is a seemingly tireless opponent to the dieter. According to the set-point theory, the set point itself keeps weight fairly constant, presumablybecause it has more accurate information about the body’s fat stores than the conscious mind can obtain. At the same time, this system pressures the conscious mind to change behavior, producing feelings of hunger or satiety. Studies show that a person’s weight at the set point is optimal for efficient activity and a stable, optimistic mood. When the set point is driven too low, depression and lethargy may set in as a way of slowing the person down and reducing the number of calories expended.

Scientists estimate that the average person has a set point range of about ten to twenty pounds, meaning at any given time, there is a ten-to-twenty-pound range at which your body will be comfortable and not resist attempts to change. The set point, it would appear, is very good at supervising fat storage, but it cannot tell the difference between dieting and starvation.


Everyone who has ever tried dieting knows just how hard it is to lose weight and keep it off. In the first few weeks of dieting, weight is usually lost, but it is almost always gained back. Many people become frustrated because after a few weeks of dieting, they usually stop losing weight or start gaining it back, even though they are still restricting their food intake. That is a sign that the body is trying to fight to retain it’s natural weight. The dieter who begins a diet with a high set point experiences constant hunger, presumably as part of her body’s attempt to restore the status quo. Even dedicated dieters often find that they cannot lose as much weight as they would like. After an initial, relatively quick loss, dieters often become stuck at a plateau and then lose weight at a much slower rate, although they remain as hungry as ever.

Many people who diet also experience uncontrollable urges to binge. That is because their bodies are asking for more food than is being provided in order to function properly. Just as your metabolism will slow down when you go under your body’s set point, it will also increase if you go above it. The body will try to fight against the weight gain by increasing its metabolic rate and raising its temperature to try and burn off the unwanted calories. Dieting research demonstrates that the body has more than one way to defend its fat stores. Long-term caloric deprivation, in a way that is not clear, acts as a signal for the body to turn down its metabolic rate. Calories are burned more slowly, so that even a meager diet almost suffices to maintain weight. The body reacts to stringent dieting as though famine has set in. Because of this biological response, dieting becomes progressively less effective, and as countless dieters have experienced, a plateau is reached at which further weight loss seems all but impossible.


Learning to accept the fact that your body needs to be at a certain weight is a good way to stop the vicious cycles involved with dieting. The more you try to go below your body’s set point range, the harder your body will fight to retain its natural weight. Engaging in a healthy eating and exercise routine will allow your body to go to the weight it wants and needs to be at.

However, there are a number of individuals who have tried everything to lose weight, from diets to exercise, and everything else in between, without much solid results. For those in that category, there are other options to help you. Now is the time to reclaim control over your weight loss journey. At West Medical, our physicians are dedicated to individualized treatment, ensuring that your specific needs are met. In addition, we offer consultations and FREE seminars in which a member of our surgical team can personally address any questions or concerns you may have regarding our weight loss procedures. To learn more about these weight loss options, call us at (855) 690 – 0565 and schedule your consultation today!

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