What Is The Set Point Theory?

Set point theory, or the idea that every person has a certain weight and body composition that their body will default to, isn't a reason to believe that you can never change your body weight or composition. But your body's set point — a rough weight range that's defined by your genetic makeup in the same way that your genes dictate your height — is important to understand, especially in a time when we're constantly bombarded by images of different body types that may not be attainable. 

The Centre for Clinical Interventions in Australia explains that weight is dependent on a myriad of factors outside of controllable things like diet and exercise. General build, bone structure, metabolism, and how naturally muscular you are can all feed into your set point. And while eating certain foods or sticking to a certain diet may help you control your weight, there's a reason your friend may be able to eat two times what you eat and never gain weight. 

Each person has a different metabolism, and the set point theory explains that even if you do restrict calories in order to lose weight, there's a chance that your body will slow your metabolism down and burn less calories in order to maintain your current weight instead of shedding pounds. You can think of your metabolism as your body's self-regulating thermostat (via Verywell Fit).

Can you ever get away from your set point?

While your genetics may determine a rough weight range that your body tends to stay in, your exercise and diet choices certainly can play into where you fall within that range, and what your body composition looks like (via the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center). For some people, packing on a lot of muscle might be easy, while others find that they lose weight easily when they're sick. Each person will respond differently to lifestyle factors from sleep to snacks, so don't feel that you're stuck where you are.

Don't let set point theory keep you from adopting healthier habits around food and exercise: Your set point is only based on weight, but ignores all of the other health benefits that come from eating right and moving your body more. As the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center points out, it's possible to slowly lower your set point over time as you embrace a healthy lifestyle.