What is the Set Point Theory of Weight

In 1982, nutritional researchers William Bennett and Joel Gurin introduced a controversial theory concerning weight loss. The setpoint theory states that a person’s body has a setpoint weight at which it is programmed to be comfortable. This theory proposes that the body will sabotage itself during weight loss by slowing down metabolism (the body’s rate of burning calories).

You can simply think of the set-point as a weight range that your body attempts to maintain at any given point in time. The body likes things to remain the same – that’s called homeostasis. This also applies to your weight. Whatever your weight has been for a period of time (months) is what the body considers to be normal. This is what we refer to as the set-point.

A part of the brain called the hypothalamus, helps maintain the set-point. It does this by controlling hunger and appetite (your desire to eat) and metabolism (the rate at which you burn calories).

If you eat less and begin losing weight, the hypothalamus attempts to maintain the set-point by increasing your hunger and appetite so you’ll eat more, and by decreasing your metabolism so you’ll burn fewer calories. Of course that makes it pretty frustrating, and often very difficult, when we’re trying to lose weight! The Lean for Life® program uses a ketogenic eating plan during the Weight Loss Phase because it helps you bypass the effects of your body trying to maintain the set-point. Being in dietary ketosis reduces hunger and forces the body to efficiently burn excess fat stores. Being in ketosis also helps improve your mood, which is a plus.

When you stop dieting to lose weight, your body wants to return to the weight that it considered to be normal, or it’s set-point. It’s still attempting to keep your weight stable. If you follow an appropriate maintenance eating plan and are physically active; however, you can stay at the new, lower weight long enough for the body to come to terms with it and consider it to be the new normal. This is what we refer to when we say the set-point has changed. The number of months it takes to achieve this varies per individual.

Once you’ve maintained your new weight for an adequate period of time, the body will attempt to remain stable at the new set-point. Again, it does that by controlling hunger and appetite and the metabolism. If you occasionally eat too much, the set point decreases your hunger and appetite (so you’ll eat less) and increases your metabolism (so you’ll burn up the extra calories you’ve eaten). However, if you ignore the signals and continue to eat anyway, you’ll eventually overpower the set-point mechanism and gain weight. To avoid that happening to you, it’s important to follow the Lean for Life® Lifetime Maintenance plan and continue to work on the lifestyle changes you began during the Weight Loss Phase. In order to manage the new set-point, you will need to continue these lifestyle changes so that you will be able to maintain your weight loss.