What is My Setpoint Weight?
Are you uncomfortable with weight fluctuations?
Do you wonder why it’s so hard to lose weight but so easy to gain weight?
Are you wanting to find your body’s setpoint weight?
The answer to these questions can be explained by setpoint theory. If you’re thinking, “what is setpoint theory?” you are in the right place. This post will breakdown setpoint theory and reveal how you can use it to determine your body’s happy weight.
What is Setpoint Theory?
In simple terms, your set-point is your body’s stable weight range that is comfortably maintained without calorie restriction, obsessive exercise, or control of food. It’s a weight that you FEEL GOOD at and your body is comfortable maintaining.
And it’s not just one number; it’s a range of approximately 10-20 lbs that accounts for changing factors such as aging, stress, sleep, and level of activity.
Your setpoint is largely predetermined by genetics, but can also be influenced by lifestyle choices over time.
Body Fat is Essential, Not Useless
At the cellular level, the human body is hardwired to maintain its preferred storage of body fat.
Body fat is demonized by diet culture, but the truth is – it’s actually essential. Fat cells are an active organ and play an essential role in maintaining a healthy metabolism. Fat cells help:
- Regulate body temperature
- Store fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, K
- Provide a protective layer for our internal organs
- Provide long-term energy stores as they can be synthesized as energy when carbohydrate stores are too low
Because of the importance of fat storage, the brain maintains close regulation of your body’s fat stores.
The hypothalamus (the body’s control center) is in constant communication with fat cells and the GI tract. This keeps your brain well informed of your body’s nutritional status. When fat stores become too low (due to diet or starvation) the brain drives up the production of hunger hormones. When fat stores are sufficient, hunger is reduced.
Again this explains why dieting is not an act of will-power; your body works at maintaining a genetically predetermined setpoint weight.
Why Does My Weight Fluctuate?
As mentioned earlier, your setpoint is a weight range of 10-20 lbs. If you notice your body bouncing around within that range, it’s actually quite normal and most likely due to changes in lifestyle such as sleep, stress, activity, and or energy intake.
However, if your weight has significantly increased over some time after multiple dieting attempts, it’s most likely the dieting itself that leads to weight gain.
The body works aggressively to maintain it’s setpoint. If you keep threatening this system through dieting or restriction, your body may react by raising your setpoint, protecting against future threats.
This explains why dieting is a strong predictor of future weight gain (1). Are you starting to see why it’s so hard to lose weight and easier to gain weight?
What is My Setpoint Weight?
At this point, you’re probably wondering, how do I get to my setpoint? Am I already there? Consider these prompts to determine if you are above, at, or below your body’s happy weight.
Signs you might be above your setpoint:
- It’s difficult to interpret your fullness cues and you constantly eat past comfortable fullness.
- You regularly eat for emotional reasons (like boredom, stress, or sadness) even when you aren’t hungry.
- Restricting calories is a part of your day, but end up binge eating large amounts of food later.
- You often feel lethargic, stuffed, and uncomfortable after meals.
- In anticipation of dieting again, you often eat large amounts of food before you have to restrict them.
Signs you might be below your setpoint:
- You feel cold all the time and have difficulty maintaining body temperature.
- If applicable, your periods have become irregular or are gone.
- You try to get by on the bare minimum amount of food you can eat.
- Saying that you feel hungry all the time. You wake up with an urgency to eat breakfast.
- You are constantly thinking about food 24/7.
How to tell if you are at your setpoint:
- Eating feels effortless, mindful, and enjoyable.
- It’s easy to listen to your body. You eat when you feel hungry and notice when you feel full.
- You have a healthy relationship with exercise; it’s no longer a means to “make up” for what you ate.
- No more obsessing over food.
(The above prompts are inspired by an excerpt from the book Health at Every Size)
Everglow Nutrition’s Key Takeaways
If you think that you are currently above or below your set point weight based on these prompts, you’re not alone! Intuitive Eating will help you return to your setpoint weight because it takes the focus away from weight control and to health-promoting behaviors. You’ll learn how to connect to your body’s internal cues around hunger and fullness and unlearn the diet mentality that’s been keeping you stuck.