Understanding the Set Point Theory

setpointheory Oct 23, 2020

What is the Set Point Theory?

In the world of weight loss, the set point theory is a common discussion point. The set point theory describes a specific weight that our body wants to be. Our body weight can fluctuate up or down slightly, but it generally returns to its regular set point. This set point weight is usually determined at the end of puberty, hence why it’s so important to pursue a healthy weight pre-adulthood.


Where did the set point theory come from? 

As humans, we have been designed to maintain our weight. In centuries gone by, our bodies were required to store fat to get us through the winter. Maintaining weight has been ingrained into our genetics as a protective mechanism. The problem is, we don’t need this mechanism anymore. We’ve got heaters and blankets now.


If we lose too much weight, our body starts to put up a fight. Our metabolism slows down, hunger hormones increase, and our appetite-suppressing hormones become less effective. The good news is we can override these mechanisms. It can just be challenging to do so.


Stomach expansion 

One mechanism we have to control our intake involves stomach expansion. When we add bulk to our meals (like fruits and vegetables), the stretch receptors in the stomach wall activate. A message is sent, telling the brain we’ve had something to eat or drink. When satisfied, our body turns off the hunger signals, which contributes to appetite regulation.

Our stomach is roughly the size of our fist, however, it’s wall is very elastic and can expand significantly. If we consistently overeat processed foods, we can permanently stretch our stomach wall, which makes it even more challenging to manage hunger and achieve a healthy weight.


Overriding this mechanism

To override this mechanism, we need to be smart about how we eat. The goal is still to reduce kilojoule content, however, we’re not looking to reduce the volume of food we consume. You might be thinking, how is this possible? By making better dietary choices, that’s how! We want to fill up on low-energy foods that add weight to our stomach. Think colourful fruits and vegetables.


Supporting optimal health

At the end of the day, it’s about creating long-term lifestyle habits for improved nutrition. This involves learning about how to put a nutritionally packed meal together to be both satisfying and satiating. It’s a good idea to ask yourself “can I make this dietary change for the rest of my life?”. If the answer is no, then it’s not a long-term solution. However, If the answer is yes, then go for it! We want to make it as easy as possible to sustain weight loss in the long-term. Exercise will also play a significant role in supporting weight loss, so utilise this tool! If we’re able to hold our new bodyweight for 1-2 years, our set point weight will likely adjust itself.


If you would like expert support with readjusting your set point weight or have any further questions, contact us at CQ Nutrition. The experienced dietitians will be able to tailor personalised suggestions to your individual situation, to assist you with health improvement.

Here is a link to book in with one of our expert dietitians at any of our locations https://www.cqnutrition.com.au/booking/ 

Want an online consultation? Book in on my calendar and in comments write online: https://bit.ly/AnnieROK 

Written by Annabel Johnston, BAppSc&MDietPrac


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