Set Point Theory May Be to Blame If You Can’t Lose Weight

By Nicole German (RD, LD)

set point weightThe set point theory is the idea that the body tends to maintain a certain weight without much difficulty.

Many suggest that the metabolism may adjust so that the body will stay at the set point weight.

Recently, I read some research by the Journal of Clinical Investigation that suggested if we don’t reverse our weight gain quickly enough, we may be doomed to live an overweight life.

This is a depressing thought!

Let’s read on to figure out how to move beyond the set point weight once and for all.

How Set Point Weight Works

  1. Hunger– When you deprive the body of the calories it is used to, you may begin to feel hungry. If you are not used to feeling hungry, this may take some getting used to. Allow yourself to feel hungry for 20 minutes to listen to your body. Practice feeling what the real hunger signals are. Then, have a sensible snack containing at least one fruit or vegetable.
  2. Metabolism Slows– When we lower our calories to try to lose fat, the body signals that it needs to become more efficient and may slow the metabolism. The process is still not clearly cycle
  3. Plateau– In the beginning, many dieters lose a satisfying amount of weight due to strict lifestyle changes, a newfound motivation, and water weight changes. After this, the weight loss slows to a more normal level (0.5 to 2 pounds per week). Many become frustrated because they aren’t seeing results like before. The body may be fighting to stay at your set point weight, or you may need to become more realistic about your goals.
  4. Cravings– With continued dieting, research has shown people begin to obsess over food, day-dream about high calorie food items, become more interesting in cooking, and be more likely to binge eat. This is due to the body’s urge to regain its set point weight.

Set Point Weight Explained Further

Am I Really Doomed to Be Overweight?

weight loss

No! You should never think this. Losing weight is always a lifestyle change.

So, you must learn how to live happily with the healthy choices. Think more about the foods you can eat instead of the foods you shouldn’t eat as much of. Learn to get used to new vegetables, and learn to embrace new behaviors and habits.

Go at it with full force, and attack the weight loss with a support group, keep a food log, be a label reading pro, and never never give up on yourself.

Do you have any recommendations to getting past your set point weight?


  1. Emilia

    I’ve been on the South Beach diet for 9 months, 1950 calories or less daily. Got rid of 7 pounds so far. I’m not sure if I’m on a plateau or is this harsh winter that makes me eat more fat to cope with frost.
    Anyhow, it seams the idea of some days richer in calories now and then is working. But only if a day richer in calories is followed by a couple of days very low in sugars and starchy food (similar to South Beach Phase 1 but with 1-2 fruits added daily).
    It worked, at least for me, a couple of times.
    Also increasing the physical activity, moderate one. I’m trying now interval exercise (that is intense effort for a minute or two, alternating with relaxing movements).

    One other idea is from this research
    “Greater Weight Loss and Hormonal Changes After 6 Months Diet With Carbohydrates Eaten Mostly at Dinner”
    I’ll try for a couple of months to move most of the carbo after 4’o clock PM and see what happens.

  2. Ali

    I calorie counted to lose weight. When I was at my set point I practiced calorie staggering, which means to have some higher calorie days and some lower ones so that presumably your body is confused into shedding weight. It worked fairly well for me. I have maintained my 100+ pound weight loss by becoming an extreme athlete, having a stand up job (SO IMPORTANT) and eating healthy now rather than focusing on calories. It’s been working for 5 years now!

  3. Khevie Lhin

    Thank you for this information! I’m having a hard time to loss weights so I’ve decided to go to gym but I’m still on my plan cause I have no one with me to go to gym. I have this feeling of anxiety go in and enroll myself to gym…all by myself.
    But I really want to loss weights cause I really gain a lot.
    I’ll be checking out your other post to know more about how to lose weights.

  4. Dan

    I guess I am a bit lucky. I can consume about 3400 calories a day and maintain a 95-100 pound weight loss for now over two years. However, I figured out that I exercise by bicycling about 16 hours a week and walk about another 2.5-3.5 hours a week. I also have a stand up job. I tend to think that cutting calories a bit too much can lead to plateaus, as well as binges. Before, when I was unsuccessful at losing weight, I would drastically cut my calories and only lose so much weight and then easily regain it. This last successful time, I mainly exercised a lot more and moderated my intake of calories, and I have not gained back an ounce, but rather lost a little bit more after two years. Just like Spectra, I feel full eating fruits and vegetables, even though they don’t have that many calories. I do think eating a plant rich diet also helps with weight loss and maintenance. Fewer calories are absorbed when a person eat a naturally high fiber diet. Nuts, even though they have a lot of calories, don’t seem to make me gain weight, even though I eat a lot of them. Fast food, however, is an example of high calorie fare that has caused me to gain weight in the past. ALSO, I think what Dr. Fuhrman says about a nutrient dense diet is important. When a person eats a nutrient dense diet, toxic hunger is reduced and thus the tendency to regain weight. Binges could possibly be caused by the body being starved by a low calorie, low nutrient dense diet.

  5. Spectra

    Yeah, I did it. The trick is to reduce your daily calories very gradually. You can’t go from eating like a 200 lb person to eating like a 120 lb person right away even though it’ll make you lose weight rapidly at first. I was almost 200 lbs and eating around 3800 calories a day (I was probably still gaining slowly eating that much) and I was sedentary. I cut a few things and went down to eating around 3000 a day, then 2500, then 2000, and then 1500. That way, my body got used to each drop in calories. Also, if you are very overweight and want to maintain your body at a smaller weight, I really do think exercise is almost crucial. I could never eat 1700-1900 calories a day like I do and maintain the weight I’m at unless I work out around an hour a day and incorporate a lot of activity into my daily life. I’ve also found that eating “whole” foods like veggies and fruits let me feel full without filling me with a lot of extra calories.

  6. Jim

    Which shows that for some, altering body weight is one of the most difficult challenges they may face. I know of some people who are stuck on huge amounts of exercise just to maintain the weight subsequent to a dramatic weight loss.