Trust Your Body’s Natural Set Point.

Our bodies tend to beat to their own drum. They know what works best for them, and so they create their own personalised optimum body weight. No matter what we do our bodies will fight to stay within their preferred range and there comes a time when we just have to accept it.

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What is set point weight and why do we need to accept our bodies as they are, no matter their natural range?

Weight regain is usually the number one priority in the early stages of recovery from anorexia nervosa. Simple in theory but terrifying to the patient.

One of the first appointments with a treatment team is usually centered around setting goals, one of which is your target weight and is often determined by BMI (Body Mass Index). The target is usually set towards a minimum BMI of about 19-20 in the early stages of recovery. Although flawed, BMI is currently the simplest indication of health for treatment teams and medical professionals.

However, our bodies tend to beat to their own drum. They know what works best for them, and so they create their own personalised optimum body weight. No matter what we do our bodies will fight to stay within their preferred range and there comes a time when we just have to accept it.

*It’s important to note that BMI doesn’t take into account bone structure, genetics, body composition, and exact age. Do not use BMI alone to determine your health.
Want to know more about how you can feel at ease in your own skin? Check out this post.

What is Set Point Theory?

“Set point is the weight range in which your body is programmed to function optimally. Set point theory holds that one’s body will fight to maintain that weight range.”

Mirror-Mirror.org.

Many of us, even those without active eating disorders, have problems accepting our set point range. Much like optimum body temperature, our bodies have an optimum weight or a weight that they function best at. Unlike our temperature, however, everyone’s set point is different. For example, woman ‘A’ may have a height of 5’6 with a set point of 125lbs. However, woman ‘B’ with the exact same height may have a set point of 135lbs. Nothing else is different other than their set points which have been pre-determined by a number of factors.

  • Genetics.
  • Environment.
  • Life Changes.

Although set point is still technically a theory, many experts agree on its existence in some shape or form.

“While your genetics never change, your physical makeup and your environment will over time. Therefore, it’s important to understand that your set point range won’t always remain the same.”
Video by Ethicon.
Viewer discretion advised as some content may trigger. This is not the purpose, but we all know our own limits, so please be aware there is a discussion of weight & calories within this video.

How do I know my set point?

One of the biggest fears for those of us in recovery from anorexia nervosa, is the loss of control. Some may argue but anorexia nervosa is largely a control based illness. We feel like we lack control in our lives, therefore we turn to the one thing we think that we have complete control over; What we eat.

After years of unhealthy eating habits, it’s unlikely that you’re aware of your body’s set point range. It can take time to find where your body is most comfortable, however, this leaves plenty of room for discomfort.

Recovery and weight gain, in general, may seem like nothing but discomfort. You wouldn’t be wrong in that respect, especially if you’ve dealt with anorexia nervosa for a long period of time.

“I’ve fallen into the trap of assuming that once I reach the bottom tear of a healthy BMI, that I’d be finished. However, my treatment team soon put a stop to that.”

For the majority of us, our set point range (and our target weight) isn’t a BMI of 19 or even 20. Nor is it the dangerously low weight we’ve managed to starve ourselves into. Often it’s up in what could be deemed as the uncomfortable mid-’20s. Once you reach your set point range, your body tends to hover in and around that weight as you continue to eat normally (i.e without restriction, binging, etc).

It’s often misunderstood that set point is a specific number. The truth is that it’s a range, and can vary up to 5lbs each way. Once established, your body will fight to stay within that weight range in a variety of ways.

For example, if you eat more than needed to maintain, your body may raise its temperature in order to speed up your metabolism to burn off the extra energy. If you’ve been actively dieting or restricting, then the metabolic rate slows down in order to cling onto as much energy as it can.

“Your body will fight for a place that it feels most comfortable and able to function.”

Accepting your body.

>> Forget about the scales.

If my fourteen year battle with anorexia has proven anything, it’s that the scale holds a power I simply can’t understand or avoid. Every time I relapse it has something to do with the number displayed on the scale. Whether it’s in the doctor’s office, my home or in the gym, those numbers will always make me horrible.

I want to touch on this subject a little later when I finally manage to divorce myself completely from the scale. For now, however, I can only dream of the day that I finally allow my body to be what she wants to be, weight included.

>> Speak to yourself positively.

Stop being self-deprecating! We all do it, especially those of us with Irish and English blood. It’s almost ingrained into us from birth; “Don’t ever let anyone know that you like yourself. They’ll think you’re self-centered.”

I once had a therapist tell me a story about her own struggles with self-deprecating behaviour. She was living abroad and had been traveling with a friend who was from somewhere else far from Ireland. One evening her friend turned to her and told her that she (the therapist) puts herself down too much. For each time she was self-deprecating, her foreign friend gave her a firm, but gentle, slap.

I’m not saying you should have a friend slap you each time you put yourself down. After years of practicing such behaviour, it can become like second nature. Therefore it’s good to have others on board to help remind you what you should and shouldn’t be saying to yourself. How we speak to ourselves matters because it subconsciously tells us how we should be seen by others.

If you’re putting yourself down all the time, then how can you expect to start loving yourself? We wouldn’t love, or even like, someone who’s constantly belittling us. So why do it to yourself!?

>> Focus on what your body has done for you.

Your body is magical. We’re a wonderful species and our bodies are constantly changing and finding ways to support us. It’s time that we stopped trying to fit our bodies into the same box as someone else’s. We’re all made up differently, we’re all unique and we can’t all be the same.

Try to appreciate what your body can do for you instead of how it should look. Practicing body acceptance and learning to love ourselves is an ongoing process. It won’t happen overnight and things are never as simple as they are on paper.

>> Remember: BMI is only a number.

This one doesn’t need much explaining. BMI is a set of numbers used for medical purposes to determine a person’s health. Do I agree with them? No, not really. But they are what they are, and two digits shouldn’t determine whether you eat or skip lunch.


Your body knows what it’s doing.

As hard as it is to accept, our bodies know what they’re doing. They know what they need, and they know exactly where they should been in regards to optimum weight. We may strive for the ‘smaller’, ‘thinner’ physique, that isn’t necessarily a healthy place for our bodies to be.

What’s your opinion on BMI and set point theory? Have you ever experienced a set-point in your life?

81 comments

  1. Beautiful post! I concur wholeheartedly. Our body is wonderfully designed and we need to listen to it more. Also the self deprecating has to stop. It’s a poor imitation of humility that is ingrained in some of us. Maybe something to do with a Catholic view of things…

  2. Great post! I’ve got to focus more on taking care of me and this is a great reset on my brain and a new one to look at it.

  3. Well, I do accept my body but I also want to improve my body. These are great tips! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Quite informative post. I was not much aware of set weight. And I agree every individual has different body and metabolism.

  5. I struggled with accepting my body and my flaws for a long time. I’ve had unhealthy eating habits but when we start treating our bodies nicely, we also start to accept it completely. Start with positive affirmations and complimenting yourself freely.

  6. This is a great read. I never knew about set point. I guess it is time to listen to what my body tells me about my weight problem.

  7. This is such a good reminder! My body always finds a way to get back to it’s natural set point. It has changed a bit over the years, but it’s so nice to know what feels ‘right’ for my body.

  8. Couldn’t agree more with this – we are all individuals and need to listen to our bodies and give them what they need. It’s so important to be in tune and honour them.

  9. I e never heard of set point until now. Very interesting information. I’ll be looking into more info and learning more.

  10. This is so interesting! I have never actually even heard of this so I find it all so great. I’ll have to find out what my set point is!

  11. Hhhhmmmm….it’s my first time hearing of the set-point theory. It kind of made perfect sense when you inter-twinned it with the BMI. I will surely read up more on it.

  12. What an informative article. BMI is something I have always kept in mind but the set point theory is really interesting.

  13. Your articles speak to so MANY people, whether it’s body image or mental issues. Thanks for sharing all your life lessons.

  14. I do keep an eye on my BMI because I’ve learned I feel better if I keep it in the “normal” range, but this is a great perspective on the numbers.

  15. I’ve not heard of set point before, it was very interesting to read about it, and it certainly makes a lot of sense. I’ve always thought BMI and the so called ideal weight ranges were a load of rubbish. Everybody’s different.

  16. Thank you so, so much! I really appreciate you taking the time to read and leave a wee comment. What a wonderful one to read after a hard day at work!
    Sending you so much love.

  17. Thank you for reading. I personally try to avoid looking at BMI whenever possible. It does nothing but scare and infuriate me.
    Take care!

  18. Nyxie, this is a fantastic article! I know from personal experience, the ‘set point’ is real and valid. Just this week, while going through a medical exam, my doctor said, “Don’t look at the BMI. According to that, you’re overweight. You have a ton of muscle, are not overweight. That number lies.” Your timing in posting this is perfect. 🙂 Numbers do lie when it comes to our health. BMI and what the scale says have very little to do with our actual health in many cases.

    I love what you said about speaking positively to ourselves as well. You’re absolutely right. If we wouldn’t say to our best friends what we’re saying to ourselves – what are we doing? Our inner-critics can be so nasty!

    Thank you for sharing this great post, Nixie. I believe you’re helping a lot of people! ♥

  19. This blog post is really helpful and very informative..trusting own body is really damn important part of ours..glad you shared this with us…great work though…

  20. I have never heard of natural set point either and this is totally new to me. This is a super informative post for sure and I too am bit over my BMI but love how I look so I am cool with it. Thanks for sharing!

  21. Really appreciate this. I’ve come to a point where my BMI says I am overweight but personally, I think my body is okay. I have big bones, enough fats that shape my body. It’s actually funny how many people are basing someone’s health using a generic measurement.

  22. Thank you for educating me! I had never heard of set point theory before now, and it certainly makes sense now that I think about it. Such great tips, although I cannot add any since it’s not something I suffer with

  23. I’m so glad to hear about your recovery. I was in that same boat myself fourteen years ago and then two years ago during a relapse. It’s a horrible place to be but so glad we’ve both pulled through! Keep fighting!

  24. This is fabulous information. Having struggled with diets most of my adult life, I am finally figuring it out at age 54. I do not agree with BMI, too much variation and as you say, it does not take bone structure into consideration. I weigh once a month now and being healthy so I can live a long life is my motivation, not the number on the scale. Thanks so much for such a great article!

  25. Thank you for reading and commenting. To hear that your friend was treated like that is appalling but the sad thing is it often comes from ‘medical professionals’ who use an outdated system (BMI) to determine your health. It’s silly and so dangerous!

  26. BMI is the bane of my life. I don’t agree with it at all and honestly can’t understand why it’s still being used as an ‘accurate’ form of measurement for ones health.

  27. I never know about natural set point, yes I always think that our body beheaves some time differently than what we think.

  28. Genetics definitely play into why we look the way we do, gain/lose fat etc. I dont use BMI b/c it doesn’t seem to be for my body type.

  29. This was really interesting and I’ve never heard of a set point before but it obviously makes total sense. I think I’m probably at the higher end of mine because I’m not totally happy at the moment and feel like I’d feel healthier if I was a bit lighter. But maybe I’m wrong! I don’t personally use BMI as a measurement of health though x

  30. Thank you so much for writing this. Too many people strive for an unnatural number on the scale. Our bodies are amazing. They will do what is right for our health if we just listen to them.

  31. This was a difficult read but an important one, as I’m someone who only recovered from a BMI of 15 last year. The body wants what the body wants and we have to look after it!

  32. This is so important! It can be scary for so many people letting go of diets, the scale, and just be happy with how their body is. It’s great showing awareness about our bodies set-point!

  33. Brilliant article.

    “Our bodies tend to beat to their own drum”. The theory applies to so many areas of our life. Through cultural conditioning, main stream media, and other outlets, we are told how thick your eyebrows should be. The bag you should carry. The criteria for success etc… ” So many ‘standards’ are placed upon us right from the moment we enter the classroom – we are told the uniform you should wear and how you should sit and then there’s the bell that tells you when you should be hungry and eat. Individual needs and expression are not normally encouraged.

    Thank you for discussing this topic in relation to body weight.

  34. I’ve never heard of a natural set point… it’s so great to learn something new. I think trusting your set point is a really good idea. Thank you so much for sharing!

  35. I’m fine with being healthy and active. I’ve given up on trying to be my pre-baby weight.

  36. I’ve never heard of set point, but I think it makes a lot of sense. There was definitely a point like a year and a half ago where I felt really great about myself!

  37. This is such a great article. We all have different body shapes and sizes. I think trusting your set point makes so much sense.

  38. I have never heard of the natural set point, but I love it! There is always a point at which I feel my best. We have many different forms in my family and consider each one unique. 🙂

  39. It’s so important to trust your body’s natural set point.I used to know someone who went through this because she was told she needs to look a specific way, and it was terrible to watch her go through that.

  40. I try to always do this. I used to be real mean about my body, but not anymore. It is what it is. I like to eat, end of story, and I’ll never be a size 0. And that’s perfectly ok.

  41. I think as long as we do our best to make healthy choices and moderate our diets, our bodies will definitely do what they need to do.

  42. I am not a big believer in this set point theory but I have leveled off myself and have a lot of trouble losing more weight than my current. I do think there is a way to change any set point in weight,

  43. Yes, I have experienced this! People always compared my weight to my mom’s who was super skinny. I have a different body shape. It is frustrating and unhelpful!

  44. I agree, weighing oneself too often is not ideal. And I believe in set points, too. I’m not sold on BMI, too many variables for accuracy. Thought-provoking article. Thanks!

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