Set Point Theory Explained
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Written By: Jack Riess NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Author, and Life Long Researcher of Health and Longevity.

In our world today, we talk a lot about weight.

How to lose it, how to gain it, and how to keep it just right.

But did you know our bodies have their own special “thermostat” for weight?

It’s a bit like how your home’s thermostat keeps your house from getting too cold or too hot.

This “weight thermostat” helps our body decide where it likes to keep our weight, even if we sometimes wish it were different.

Now, why is it important to know about this?

Well, if we understand how our body’s “weight thermostat” works, we can make better choices about food and exercise.

Plus, it might make us feel a bit better when we find it tough to change our weight.

This “weight thermostat” has a fancy name: it’s called the set point theory.

Imagine you’re playing with a toy car.

You can push it super fast, or very slow, but once you stop pushing, it rolls to a stop on its own.

Our body’s weight is a bit like that car. We can try to change it, but our body has its favorite spot, or “set point”, where it likes to be.

In this blog, we’re going to learn all about the set point theory, and how we can use this cool knowledge to make smart choices for our health.

Let’s dive in!

What is the Set Point Theory?

Imagine you have a favorite spot to sit in your house.

Maybe it’s a cozy corner of the couch or a sunny spot by the window.

Even if you move around and try different spots, you often find yourself back at that favorite place, right?

Our body has something similar when it comes to weight, and it’s called the set point theory.

It means that our bodies have a certain weight or range they feel most comfortable at, just like your favorite spot on the couch.

Now, let’s take a trip back in time!

A long time ago, our great-great-great grandparents didn’t have grocery stores or refrigerators full of food.

Sometimes, they had a lot to eat, and other times, not so much.

So, their bodies learned to store extra energy (as fat) for days when food was hard to find.

This was super helpful for them.

Today, our bodies still remember this ancient lesson and try to keep some extra energy stored just in case.

So, you might be thinking, how does our body know where this comfortable weight or “set point” should be?

Here comes the fun science part!

Deep inside our brain, there’s a small part called the hypothalamus.

Think of it as the boss of our body’s “weight thermostat”.

It gets messages from different parts of our body about how much energy we have stored and how much we’re using.

Based on these messages, the hypothalamus makes decisions about our hunger and energy.

How does the hypothalamus get these messages?

It’s through special messengers called hormones.

Two big ones we should know about are called leptin and ghrelin.

Leptin is like a messenger that says, “Hey! We’ve got enough energy stored up! No need to eat more right now.”

On the other hand, ghrelin pops up and says, “Uh-oh! Energy is running low. Time to get some food!”

These hormones chat with our hypothalamus, helping it decide when we feel hungry and when we’ve had enough to eat.

In short, the set point theory is our body’s natural way of finding its favorite weight, much like you have a favorite spot to sit.

It’s a team effort between our brain, our stored energy, and our special messengers to keep things balanced. Cool, right?

Factors Influencing Your Set Point

Alright, so now we know our bodies have a favorite weight spot, kind of like that cozy corner of the couch.

But here’s a fun question: Why is your favorite spot different from your friend’s or sibling’s favorite spot?

Just like we all have unique favorite colors or hobbies, our bodies have different “set points” for weight.

Let’s find out why!

1. Genetics: Imagine a big puzzle. This puzzle is you! Each piece of this puzzle is like a tiny message or instruction about how you look or act. These pieces are called genes, and we get them from our parents. Some genes might say, “Tall,” while others say, “Loves chocolate.” There are even genes that help decide our body’s favorite weight. So, part of the reason you have your unique weight spot is thanks to the puzzle pieces (genes) you got from your family.

2. Age: Remember when you were smaller and your shoes kept getting too tight, so you needed new ones? Just like our shoe size changes as we grow, our body’s favorite weight might change too. As we get older, our body might decide on a new “set point” that’s a bit different from when we were kids.

3. Hormonal Changes: Hormones are like our body’s chatterboxes. They’re always talking and giving updates about what’s happening. But sometimes, big events, like having a baby, getting older (like when grandmas stop having periods), or getting really sick, can change the chatter. This can make our body decide on a new favorite weight for a while.

4. Environment and Lifestyle: Our world around us and how we live also play a role. If we’re always munching on veggies and playing outside, it sends a different message to our body than if we’re eating lots of sugary snacks and watching TV all day. Stress is another sneaky factor. Just like how you might feel butterflies in your stomach before a big test, if we’re stressed a lot, our body can feel it too and might adjust our favorite weight.

So, there you have it! Our body’s favorite weight or “set point” isn’t just random; it’s shaped by our puzzle pieces, how old we are, our body’s chatter, and the world around us. Isn’t it amazing how it all comes together?

The Set Point and Weight Loss Plateaus

Have you ever tried pushing a heavy sled up a hill, and no matter how hard you push, it just won’t go any higher?

This can be similar to what some people experience when they try to change their weight.

They’re working super hard, eating right, and moving a lot, but after some time, it’s like their weight just sticks and won’t budge.

This sticky spot is what we call a “plateau.”

Why do plateaus happen? Well, remember our body’s favorite weight spot, the set point?

Our body really likes staying in that comfy zone.

So, when we try to change our weight, the body says, “Wait a minute! I liked it back there!” and it might resist the change.

It’s like that sled on the hill; even if you push hard, sometimes it just doesn’t want to move.

What does this feel like? Imagine you’re playing a game, and no matter what you try, you can’t get to the next level.

It can feel a bit frustrating, right? The same goes for hitting a weight plateau.

Some people might feel a bit down or think, “Why bother?” and their excitement to keep going drops a bit.

It’s natural to feel this way, especially when you’re putting in a lot of effort.

The important thing to remember is that our bodies are pretty smart.

They have their reasons for liking a certain weight. But if we’re patient, keep making healthy choices, and understand it’s just our body being a bit stubborn, we can find ways to move past that sticky spot and continue our journey.

How to Use Set Point Theory to Our Advantage

Alright, now that we’ve chatted about our body’s favorite weight spot and those sticky plateaus, you might be wondering: “How can I use this cool knowledge to help me?”

Great question! Let’s explore some smart moves we can make, using what we know about the set point theory.

1. Understanding vs. Fighting: Picture this: you’re playing tug-of-war with a friend. If you both pull really hard in opposite directions, no one moves, right? Sometimes, trying to change our weight feels like that tug-of-war. Instead of pulling and fighting, what if we tried understanding and working with our body? If we know our body has a weight it likes, we can respect it, just like we’d respect a friend’s favorite toy or game. This doesn’t mean we can’t make changes, but it’s about making those changes kindly and gently.

2. Gradual Changes: Imagine you’re learning a new dance move. If you try to do the entire routine super fast, you might trip! But if you learn one step at a time, it’s smoother, right? The same idea works for adjusting our body’s set point. Instead of big, fast changes, what if we make small, steady ones? Like adding a few more veggies to our plate or taking a short walk after dinner. Over time, these small steps can lead to bigger, happier dances with our body.

3. Hormonal Balance: Think of hormones as tiny mail carriers in our body, delivering important news. Some letters say, “Hungry!” while others say, “Full!” or “Stressed!” To make sure we get the right letters at the right time, we need a balanced “diet” of good food, fun activities, and relaxation. Eating a colorful mix of foods, finding fun ways to move, and taking moments to breathe and relax can help our mail carriers deliver happy news.

4. Importance of Muscle Mass: Have you ever watched superhero movies where they have strong muscles and can do amazing things? Muscles aren’t just for lifting heavy stuff; they also help our body use energy in cool ways. When we have more muscle, our body can use more energy even when we’re just sitting! So, doing activities that help build muscles, like climbing, jumping, or lifting, can give our metabolism (that’s a fancy word for how our body uses energy) a boost. This might even nudge our body’s favorite weight spot a little.

To wrap it up, knowing about the set point theory is like having a secret map of our body.

Instead of wandering around lost, we can make smarter choices, dance with our body’s rhythm, and maybe even find some treasure along the way. Ready to start the adventure?

Practical Steps for Optimizing Weight Loss with Set Point Theory in Mind

Okay, so now we’ve got all this cool info about our body’s weight “GPS”.

You might be thinking, “What’s next? How do I use this in my everyday life?” Great news!

We’ve got some simple steps to guide you.

Think of these as helpful hints on a treasure map.

1. Consistency Over Intensity: Imagine you’re learning to play a musical instrument. Playing it gently every day is better than playing super hard just once a week, right? The same goes for our bodies. Instead of going all out with super tough workouts or super strict diets, it’s smarter to find a comfy pace. Maybe that’s a daily walk, or eating one extra fruit a day. Small, steady steps can lead to big wins!

2. Mindful Eating: Have you ever played the “Hot or Cold” game, where someone tells you if you’re getting closer or farther from a hidden object? Our body plays this game with us when we eat! It sends signals, like “I’m hungry” or “I’m full.” By paying attention and listening, we can find the right amount of food our body needs. No more, no less.

3. Manage Sleep and Stress: Imagine your body as a rechargeable toy. If it doesn’t get enough rest, it might not work so well. Sleep is our charge time! And just like how a toy might go a bit wonky if it’s overused, too much stress can make our body feel out of sorts. Making time for rest and finding fun, calm activities can help keep our body’s batteries charged and ready.

4. Stay Hydrated: Think of water as our body’s special juice. Just like plants need water to grow, our body needs water to work its best. Drinking enough water helps our body send those “mail letters” (hormones) more easily and can even help with using energy. So, keep a water bottle handy and sip throughout the day.

5. Regularly Adjust Goals: Let’s say you’re playing a video game, and you reach a new level. Would you play with the same strategy, or would you adjust to the new challenges? As our body changes and we get closer to its comfy weight spot, we might need to change our game plan. Celebrate the wins, and if things seem tricky, maybe it’s time to try a new approach.

Remember, our body’s weight “GPS” is there to help guide us, not boss us around.

By listening, being kind, and trying out these steps, we can find a journey that’s just right for us.

Potential Critiques of the Set Point Theory

Let’s think about when you hear stories of far-off lands or magical creatures.

Some people might believe them wholeheartedly, while others might raise an eyebrow and ask, “Really?”

Just like those tales, the set point theory has believers, doubters, and everyone in between.

Let’s explore a few “Hmm, I wonder?” moments about the theory.

1. Can We Redefine Set Points? Some folks think that our body’s favorite weight spot is like a favorite song that can never change. Others believe that with the right tune (or actions), we might be able to pick a new favorite song (or weight). It’s a dance of ideas, and the music’s still playing.

2. Role of Gut Microbiota: Have you ever thought of your tummy as a tiny jungle? There are zillions of tiny creatures (good ones!) living there, helping us digest food. Some scientists are scratching their heads and thinking, “Hey, maybe these tiny tummy buddies affect our weight!” So, our gut jungle might have more tales to tell.

3. Nature vs. Nurture: Imagine you’re making a craft. You have some items given to you (like your genes) and some you pick yourself (like your choices). This is the big debate: How much of our weight story is from the items given (genetic) versus the ones we pick (environmental)? The craft’s not done, and there’s more gluing and sticking to figure out.

To wrap up, just like any good story or idea, the set point theory has its share of fans and ponderers.

As we learn more, the story might change, or we might get new chapters.

But for now, isn’t it fun to explore the mysteries of our bodies?

Navigating the Adventure Ahead

Alright, journeyer, as we pull out our compass and look at the map we’ve drawn together, it’s clear we’ve ventured through a lot of cool ideas and discoveries.

The tale of the set point theory, just like many tales, is filled with twists, turns, heroes, and mysteries.

Our Bodies are Magical Maps: From the hidden weight spots to the tiny tummy buddies, our bodies are amazing landscapes waiting to be explored. And the best part? You’re the adventurer, and every choice you make, every step you take, adds to your story.

There’s Always More to Discover: Just like when you finish a book and can’t wait for the sequel, our understanding of the set point theory will grow and change. New characters (like scientists and researchers) might join the journey, and we’ll find new paths and secrets.

Your Journey, Your Choices: Remember, every adventurer has their own path. Whether it’s dancing with your body’s rhythm, sipping that special water juice, or tuning into the songs of your tummy jungle, your journey is unique and special.

As we pack up our compass and roll up our map, always remember: The adventure isn’t just in reaching the destination, but in every discovery, challenge, and joy along the way.

Ready for the next chapter? Your journey awaits!

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