Is there a weight at which your body is content to stay at despite your best efforts to lose more?
In this post, I discuss the body weight set point theory and the evidence to support its existence, as well as some strategies that might help you coax your body down to a lower weight.
Set Point Summary
- A set point is a weight that your body prefers. To maintain that preferred weight, your body regulates hormones that control your metabolism and hunger level.
- Some people have genetic variations called SNP’s that increase their propensity for obesity.
- You can test for the presence of SNP’s using a DNA Genetic Test Kit from companies like 23andMe
- Strategies to reset a set point include a low-sugar or low-carb diet, varying the intensity of your workouts (i.e. HIIT), and supplements like L-carnitine.
Does Your Body Weight Have a Set Point [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- The definition and causes of a body weight set point.
- How genetics play a role in your weight.
- Ways to reset a set point.
What is a Set Point?
A body weight set point is best described as a theory rather than a fact because its existence is a debated topic.
A set point is a weight that your body prefers. To maintain that preferred weight, your body regulates hormones that control your metabolism and hunger level.
What Causes a Body Weight Set Point?
Hormone regulation is something that is constantly going on in your body. That is because your body is always striving to maintain homeostasis, or balance, so that nothing goes too high or too low.
This desire to maintain homeostasis was very clearly demonstrated by the study done on the participant of The Biggest Loser TV show.
The participants exercised intensely while eating diets that were very low in calories, which resulted in rapid weight loss. Unfortunately, it also caused their metabolisms to drop to a level that was more in line with their calorie intake.
In other words, their bodies adapted to the new low level of incoming calories by burning fewer calories making it very easy to regain the weight that they had lost (1).
Research also points to genetics as a possible explanation for the existence of a body weight set point.
For instance, thanks to work on mapping out the human genome, science has identified gene variations that impact your ability to lose weight.
One, in particular, involves the FTO gene, which is the major obesity gene in humans.
While no one wants to find out that they have a genetic predisposition to obesity, simply having these genetic variations that are referred to as SNPs, does not mean that you are doomed to obesity.
As the understanding of genetics evolves, we see that there are epigenetic factors that turn these genetic SNPs on and off.
SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms) are variations in the DNA sequence at locations. These SNPs can be used to predict a person’s propensity toward a condition, like obesity.
Epigenetics is the study of how genes switch on and off due to the changes in our environments.
While we don’t have control of everything that we are exposed to, one environmental or external factors that we are in control of is the foods that we eat.
Strategies to Reset a Set Point
What, if anything, can you do if you want to coax your body down to a lower body weight set point?
Test Your Genes At-Home
One thing that you can do is request a DNA Genetic Test Kit from 23andMe.
My husband and I both did this. All that is required is a saliva sample, so literally, submitting your test is as simple as spitting into a tube.
For that small effort, you’ll be provided with valuable insights on your genetic health risks. This includes everything from your propensity toward obesity to your risk of heart disease.
If you’d like to learn more about how to order an at-home genetic test, you can write to our customer support team.
Diet and Intermittent Fasting
Is it possible to override the hormonal regulation that determines your set point?
There is much speculation in this arena, but it makes sense to throw your metabolism a curveball. That way it is forced to work in a way that it has not yet adapted to.
For those of you that are not currently dieting, this can be as simple as removing sugar from your diet and adding whole, unprocessed foods like non-starchy vegetables.
If you need a guide, I encourage you to learn my free 0,1,2,3 strategy and download the free daily habit checklist that comes with it.
If you are a seasoned dieter who seems to be stuck at a set point, there are other options.
Your metabolic curveball may come in the form of changing the macronutrient ratio of your diet to lean more toward a low-carb, high-fat diet.
You could also alter the timing of your eating by incorporating a varied intermittent fasting routine.
Exercise and Supplements
Varying your exercise routine and adding supplements that aid the body’s ability to burn fat can also provide an edge that may drop your set point to a new lower level.
Utilizing things like high-intensity interval training and trying supplements like L-carnitine may prove helpful.
(1) Fothergill, Erin, et al. “Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after “The Biggest Loser” competition.” Obesity 24.8 (2016): 1612-1619.
About the Author:
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.