Do Our Bodies Have Weight 'Set Points' They Always Revert To?

There's some evidence of set points, but they don't determine your fate.

By Alex OrlandoDec 26, 2019 6:00 PM
Set Points
(Credit: Monthira/Shutterstock)


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We’ve all been there. You’re prepping your meals, counting calories and hitting the gym with gusto. Then, you step on the scale to see that your weight has boomeranged back to the same old number. What happened? 

There’s actually a scientific explanation for why the human body always seems to revert to its previous weight. Say hello to the set point theory. You can think of your set point as your ‘natural’ body weight — or the number that it usually hovers around on the scale. Both genetics and environmental factors contribute to a person’s set point. 

Basically, the theory holds the body uses different regulatory mechanisms to defend a default weight range. When you take in less calories, for example, the body fights the deficit by slowing your metabolism and boosting your appetite. Though set point theory hasn’t been fully validated yet, it may make dieting difficult —not just in terms of losing weight, but actively keeping it off.

There are some ways to outsmart this pesky biological tendency, though. Some studies suggest losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight at a time. By losing weight gradually, you can potentially lower your body’s set point.

Read more:

When Dieting, Should We Be Fasting or Grazing?

The Biggest Factor Behind Obesity May Be One We Don't Want to Hear

Breakfast Might Not Be So Essential After All

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