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Our Body's "Set Point" - can it be changed?

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Okay, so we've all heard about the body's "set point" - the weight that our body will tend to make us gravitate towards.


In my case, as an adult, I've been as thin as 170 lbs, and once hit an all-time high of 275 lbs, (It was during a long depression where I ate and drank more than normal)

But I suspect that if there is such a thing, my "set point" is at about 235 to 240, which is quite a bit heavier than I ever want to be again.


So I'm wondering, after reaching our ideal weight and maintaining for say, 3-5 years, will our "set point" eventually adjust downward, or is it simply something we eill have to work against for the rest of our lives? 

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I was just contemplating starting a thread like this myself...

I don't know for sure, but intuitively I feel like no matter how healthy our lifestyle, the natural process of aging will pull our "set point" higher and higher, making it so a healthy (or ideal) weight takes more and more effort to maintain. Unfortunately, whereas your set-point is now around 235, after 5 years it might jump to 245. (Just curious, how much do you weigh now and how long ago was it that you weighed 170, if you don't mind me asking?)

About 5 years ago my set point was around 110 (I'm 5'2"), and ever since then I have not for the life of me been able to get below 120. On a good day I'll be 119.5 (and that's usually the result of a week-long restrictive diet of 1000 calories), and when I'm less careful the scale sneaks up to 125, which I'm assuming is my body's "set point." My goal is 115, but I'm starting to think that no matter how hard I work at it, 119.5 will be the closest my body will ever let me get (and who knows...by the time I'm 30, 125 might be a "good day.")

You know, for several years I thought my set point was 150 -- I'd gain 10-25 pounds from there occasionally, always found it pretty easy to get back down to it, but once I got there found it very difficult to dip any lower.  When CC suggested I aim for 144, I thought "well, they just don't know my body like I do, but I'll give it a shot."

But for the last three weeks, I've been below 150 -- for the first time in six years.  I know that I've been here for a relatively short period of time, and I know that I haven't lost a massive amount of weight but ...

I think it just goes to show that set points can be largely a state of mind.

I know if I stopped exercising and paying attention to what I put in my mouth, then I would gain at a steady rate until I decided to reverse the trend.  With this in mind, I would like to introduce the idea that perhaps a person's set weight is merely the weight at which the amount of calories they are accustomed to eating is equal to the amount of calories they are accustomed to burning?

I was 170 in 1990, when I was about 21.

I maintained between 190 and 200 with a lot of exercise and no dieting through the rest of my 20s. went above 200 after my first son was born, then around 235 by 2001, and steadily gained to a high of 275 in late 2005.

I'm at 204 now, working towards 170-175, but am not in any hurry this time.


When I was so thin the first time, it was just a starvation diet and lots of cigarettes.

Now I eat adequate calories and high-nutrient foods, and have been exercising, so I feel better than I ever have.

my set points at you called them have changed as i worked harder and harder. once there was no going below 175, then 162, 150, 142, and now its 125. my highest was 210, and i've been working past my plateaus for 6 years. i of course get lazy every so often, and eventually back at it again. i've also had two more kids in that time so thats another reason it takes me so long, but i've noticed that upping my calories to maintence level for a while and then going back down really helps.
I just took a physiology class in university and our professor  taught the class that a weight set point exists and can be changed, it just takes a long time. She said the main reason most people fail with their diets is that it takes years for the set point to adjust itself and people usually gain some back before it has a chance to happen.

Similarly, people who lose a significant amount of weight often feel cold all the time because the weight loss happens faster than the body can readjust its "thermostat" set point. My doctor told me this one too. Again, it takes years. I've experienced this one, I'm not as cold after several years keeping weight off.

So who knows if they actually exist or not, just figured I'd share what I was taught.

Well, I'm glad to see that everyone else's outlook is a lot more positive!

Every day when I'm trecking to the gym or staring longingly at the dessert cart I wonder "is it really worth all this trouble if my weight will never actually go down any more?" You guys have definitely given me some motivation to keep trying (which is important during this time of year, as we all know...) It's especially comforting to know that this stuff is being taught in science classes!

Silvrayne, the same for me!!!!  my set points have also changed the more I worked harder, once it was 156, then 147, then 148, then 130 and now its 121.

I think set points can change, you just also have to change the way you do things (diet/exercise) as the body quickly adapts so it?s nice to give it a shock every now and again. It may take a while and you will have to be patient but the weight will go down!!!

My concept of set point is something like this.  A couple of decades ago my weight was stuck at 192.  It didn't seem to matter what I did my weight settled back to 192.  I would diet occasionally and get my weight down to 185 but then I would be so hungry that I ate everything in sight until poof, I was back at 192.  I would overeat during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays and climb into the 2nd century.  Then my weight would settle back 192 as my life and eating returned to normal.  So for about 20 years that was my weight.

Six or seven years ago, I got a little worried when I hit 210 and started looking into ways that I could bring my weight down.  I succeeded by a rather drastic calorie restriction.  I dropped to 187 and stayed there for a couple of months then bounced back to 196 over the holidays.  My weight gradually declined to 185 over the next 5 years and seemed to be settling there until I got into serious biking.  A little over a year ago, I went on a diet and exercise program that resulted in a drop of 14 pounds to 168.  Since then I have been as high as 176 but seem to settling into something in the range of 170 to 172.

I don't believe that is a new set point -- at least not yet.  In the past my weight has been stable for years on end until some big change in my life pushed it to a higher number.  Right now, I can maintain this lower weight without undue effort.  I eat regularly.  My workouts vary.  I was riding up to 160 miles a week this summer.  Right now it's less than 100.  But I have established a comfortable lifestyle.

Now I believe, actually I hope, that I can establish, or re-establish, my weight set point at around 165.
Just wanted to say, very interesting topic!

As Sarahrnorton said, I think part of it may be a state of mind.

I think that's fascinating, kingje... it makes sense to me.

I've read the same explanation that kingje shared.

So when you reach goal weight, you're not really done.  You've got to actively maintain that weight for several years before your body and brain fully reset themselves to the new set point.


great topic.  i don't think i will ever know my set point again.  i am not of the opinion that it's easily changed.  my weight has been up, down and all around and yet the only thing that seems consistent is that i want to eat more and wish i could exercise less (meaning i'd "set"tle at a higher weight if i let myself).

i believe your set point is what you weigh when you're eating enough of the right foods and relatively active; when you're not all up in your own nutrition's face, what's your weight?  mine was 165.  and since i never want to see that weight again, i must say that i see this "healthy calorie counting" as a lifelong resistance to my body's natural set point.  165 isn't very unhealthy, so my friends often ask me why i work so hard to avoid it.  and it's the vanity part; i just don't want to weigh that much.

I don't believe we have only one set point.  When I hit a plateau and bounce above and below a given weight, I consider that a set point.  To me it is when my body is "happy" to stay in one place.  As others have said, I hit one fairly often and it is really hard to get past, but once I do, I resume a fairly good rate of loss.

Then I wonder if there might be a general time frame that it takes your body to get down to this new "set point"? Probably different for everyone I'm sure, and state of mind along with consistent healthy eating habits and working out probably play an important role too. I've heard from more than one source that with each new decade a person reaches (ie: 20's, 30's, 40's etc..) their metabolic rate steadily slows down. So that probably also plays some role in said "set point" as well.   So if I started losing weight last March, and for almost 8 months I ate out and was terrible about trying to lose weight btw January and sept, I only gained 4-5 lbs during that time. I wonder if that's any indicator to my own personal set point? Hmmmm...definitely an interesting topic!

im not sure about that, though because all my set points happened between age 19 and 26.
i used to think my "set point" was around 15 pound heavier than i am now.  i gradually lost weight without meaning to when i switched to pescatarian, and then again when i switched to veggie.  a few years ago i would never thought i would be my current weight without being severely ill.  i don't know what that means my body wants to be a certain weight or not.  i've been trying simply to eat healthy for the last 4-5 years without a goal on the scale.  it makes me skeptical about the whole "set point" thing.

Reading all this information about set point has really freaked me out! I'm at a healthy weight (142 at 5'5") but would love to forever be 125 lbs. Is it not possible? I've been within 5 lbs of 142 for the past four years; has my body permanently set itself at that number? The whole thing makes me so nervous ... :[

I consider my "set point" to be that weight that my body just seems to settle at when I'm not going extreme either way (healthy vs. unhealthy lifestyle, I mean). From junior high up until I got pregnant with my son at 21, I weighed within 5 lbs of the same weight (180), whether I was eating everything in sight or not eating a bite for a week.

After my son was born, it took about a year, but my body seemed to settle itself back down to that 180. I'll admit that it looked a little different than it did before though! I got divorced about a year and a half ago, and after that I started gaining...and gaining...and gaining. Now my "set point" seems to be around 215. I'm not getting any bigger no matter what I do. I don't know about getting smaller, as I haven't been at it for that long this time around. But hopefully you can change your set point just like anything else. The human body is amazingly adaptable, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

I listened to an interesting story this morning on NPR about overeating...

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php? storyId=99074990  ..about how

it affects the body. Also an article about partial fasts.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php? storyId=16513299  Our bodies

have natural "set points" and signals that tell us we are full..but so often..(and

especially around the holidays,) we ignore them..and they malfunction.  I also

believe that weight training can significantly improve your metabolism.

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