Everything you need to know about set point theory

With lockdown easing and gyms reopening, diet culture will be deflecting it’s message from #stayathomeworkouts to #getsummerbodyready because summer is no longer cancelled. You may be feeling the pressure to get into shape but the so-called ‘ideal body’ isn’t sustainable or even attainable for every one. Diet culture is selling you fake news. Genetics play a predominant role in how much your body weighs. This biological explanation is called set point theory and today, I’m telling you everything you need to know.

Click here to read why diet culture is the problem, not you.

What is set point theory?

Set point theory is the scientific explanation behind why diets do not work. Your body weight is predetermined at an optimum number that is most beneficial for keeping you alive. This is known as the set point. Everyone’s set point is different which is why having a weight goal is utterly pointless.

The set point is usually a range between two weights. Let’s say, hypothetically, your body’s set point is between 10 stone and 10 stone 5 lbs. Your weight is constantly fluctuating. This is another reason why regular weighing is not good. We put so much value on the number on the scales. Particularly, if you are a woman, your weight will fluctuate depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle. If you’re on your period, you’re likely to be at the heavier end of your set point.

everything you need to know about set point theory

Why diets do not work

Even if you diet as hard as possible and lose 14 lbs to get to 9 stone, your body is going to be fighting against you. For most people to achieve the ‘ideal body’, they have to put in hours and hours of exercise and only eat certain foods. That’s no way to live. What you will probably find, after over-exercising and under-eating, is that as soon as you relax from your diet regime, your body is going to hang onto the extra food in order to regain some weight. Which will no doubt have negative effects on your well-being.

Your body knows which weight it wants to be and it will push to get there. The best thing that you can do is listen to your body and allow it to take the shape that you are naturally gifted with.

There will be people who are genetically programmed to achieve the ‘ideal body’ with little to no effort. Their set point will naturally be low. But why does this even matter? We only care about our weight and our body shape because diet culture has made us believe that they signify our worth.

Your body does not define your worth

Ask yourself this – do you know people in large bodies who you admire? Are there successful people who spend more time focusing on their character and how they can help others, rather than how they can make themselves smaller?

Your energy and your time becomes so much more accessible and valuable when you let go of your obsession with attaining the ‘ideal body’. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that there’s no need to exercise or eat your vegetables. What I’m saying is that you should be able to choose when, how and why you exercise. Your food choices should be based on what tastes good and how it makes you feel.

To summarise, your set point is your natural weight that your body is pre-programmed to. Forcing your body to be smaller goes against the set point. Your body will do everything it can to get back there. A smaller body will not make you a better person. Putting your efforts into learning a new skill, volunteering or building a side hustle will give you a stronger character reference than the number on the scales.

So there’s everything you need to know about set point theory.

Do you have any more questions about set point theory? Be sure to leave them in the comments!

Always remember to take a paws.

Charlotte x

If you’re struggling with your relationship with food, contact BEAT Eating Disorders service for support.


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14 Comments

  1. OOOOoo this is really interesting! I’ve heard of something like this before but didn’t know it had a name. I think this is sosososoo important to understand and defo something I’ve come to terms with over the years. Thanks for sharing Charlotte and I am LOVING the graphics!! 🙂

    1. Author

      Thanks for reading Millie! I’m so glad you found it useful. And thank you! I’m trying hard to up my graphics game

  2. This was such an interesting read! I don’t know anything about set point theory but I’m on a fitness journey right now, so this came at the perfect time. I definitely see the value in letter go of the “ideal body” too, it’s a really unhealthy mindset when it’s unattainable. Lovely post and graphics!

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

    1. Author

      Thank you so much! I find now that our journey is best when we release control and allow ourselves to enjoy exercising in ways that our bodies enjoy x Thank you for your kind words, the graphics are new to my blog so I’m pleased you liked them!

  3. Super interesting about set point theory. And so true that depending on what’s going on in your life weight fluctuates. I’ve been weighing myself once a week at the same time and still find that sometimes the measurements are ridiculous. So I give it a day and try again and find that things have changed drastically once more in ways that can’t be possible because of water retention, what I’ve eaten etc.

  4. Love this! So many people don’t realise this exists or that weight fluctuation is perfectly normal. So important to find that personal balance point!

    1. Author

      Thank you, I agree. It’s definitely something that needs to be taught!

  5. This is so interesting to read! I never knew anything about set point theory. I’m glad I read this, it has helped me understand – I feel ready to start on a fitness journey.

  6. This was such an interesting read, I’ve never heard of the set point theory before. While I know I’m overweight (thank you lockdown and working from home) I feel better now that I don’t need to beat myself up so hard on maintaining my proper weight once I get back to it again – thank you! Lisa

  7. This is really interesting to know, I’ve heard of it but never really read into it before. It just makes so much sense and if definitely something I need to keep in the back of my mind. Thanks for sharing! X

    1. Author

      Yes, this definitely helped me to stop caring about the number on the scales!

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