Have you been wondering:
✦ How to find your body's natural weight set point?
✦ What determines weight set point?
✦ Does your body weight have a set point?
✦ Can your weight set point change?
✦ Can you reset your weight set point?
Then you're in the right place!
In this post I talk about:
👉 the definition of and what the set point weight theory is,
👉 overshooting your weight set point,
👉 weight distribution in ed/diet recovery,
👉 weight set point and intermittent fasting, intuitive eating, anorexia, extreme hunger, healthy eating, eating disorders, dieting, exercise, keto and as it relates to all else,
👉 according to weight set point theory the consequences of dieting
👉 how to go about recovery when you may not know where your set point weight will end up being?
👉 can you permanently raise your set weight point from dieting?
Also, I've been hearing a lot of people talking about how they don't necessarily know their set point weight, and they're wondering if that has an effect on if they can get back to their set weight point.
Let's get into it!
Now, for people that have dieted maybe their whole life since they were a kid, since they were a teenager, or they started dieting or restricting or over-exercising at a point at which they probably weren't at their adult set point weight yet, and so they don't even know what that may be.
They don't know what their frame is, they don't know where their body is supposed to be, where it's gonna end up, and this can cause a lot of fear and anxiety of the unknown.
The body's set point is the weight range that your body is programmed to function optimally at and this is the weight at which your body will fight to maintain.
We often try to fight this with forced weight loss via dieting, purging, over-exercising or any of these behaviors that often leave us obsessed around food and our weight.
So whether you've been suppressing your weight or you've been trying to suppress your weight, being in the yo-yo dieting for years and years, or you've had an eating disorder, it doesn't mean that you're going to change your set weight point permanently.
This is a losing battle.
And so everyone has a set point, and just as you have no control over your height, your skin color, your eye color, your hair color, you also don't have control over what your set point will be either.
Your body is biologically and genetically designed to have a pre-determined set weight and a certain weight range that's the most healthiest for you.
And the set points vary from person to person, it's relative to the individual and their genetics.
That is why you don't want to go off of a BMI chart or anything similar to tell you what's healthiest for your body because it doesn't know.
~ A person with a smaller frame may naturally have a set point range of 130 to 140 pounds,
~ Whereas another person with the same height may have a set point range between 140 to 150 pounds.
So their set points may be different, even at the same height, but that weight range is what their bodies will fight to maintain.
The body will fight us when we try to manipulate it by restricting, exercising, eating less, exercising more, this whole cycle.
And know that this is more of a set weight "range," not just a set weight "point."
Not just one number - 132 pounds, period.
It could be within a range of 127-142.
And this range is a range that you can fluctuate in through different stages and seasons of your life, and that's okay, and that's normal.
I personally fluctuated within my range since diet recovery, on the high and low end, several times.
Studies even estimate that the average person has a set point range of about 10 to 20 pounds on average, meaning at any given time, your body can fluctuate between that range.
And this 10 to 20 pound range that your body feels comfortable with, it can change within that.
Know that you cannot lower your set weight point permanently, and you cannot raise your set weight point permanently.
It may take a while after years and years of restricting yourself, weight cycling and weight suppression, forced weight-loss, etc, and you may have to gain weight to a weight you've never been in your life.
But if you give your body a complete metabolism recovery process for long enough, *long enough*, (that's the key), your body will get back to it's natural, healthy set weight point too, your body WANTS this, just as you do.
The body just wants to first conserve to make sure that it won't be starved again and that it's not being threatened anymore.
So that's the brief definition.
You could read more about it.
Now what I want to talk about is this: there are a lot of people I've worked with that have been dieting or restricting or trying to manipulate their body weight in some way since they were children, teenagers, even early 20s, 21ish.
So of course, if this is the case, you probably won't know what your mature adult set weight range when you go into recovery.
Our body's set point range can change as we grow older - for example our set point range when we're a toddler changes compared to when we're in our teens, and once we're in our mid-late 20's our set point can change again, and once we're 50 it may change again, and once we're 80 it can change again and so forth!
And you learn about this and you know you need to gain weight, but if you don't know, and if this is you, that's okay, because you don't have to know what your set weight point is to get back there.
And although the unknown can be very scary, your body does know what your set weight range is because the body is pre-programmed within our DNA to know what our set weight point is, and this is where we're healthiest at.
But the body will only go there again once its survival is not being threatened anymore.
You may need to gain weight, both fat and often water retention during a diet recovery process to rehabilitate your metabolism to return to your weight set point once the metabolism and mind heals..
but this, the fat and the water is your survival, it's your lifeline, and recovery.
It's more of a re-learning to trust your body to guide you back rather than trying to help the body figure out how to function again or trying to figure out for the body how to get back there.
Because the body is trying to tell you what it needs to get there, to heal, to recover and to gain weight and to eat, and how to eat.
And sometimes our biggest obstacle is getting out of our own way and just surrendering to our body finally because the body is so freaking intelligent and you haven't heard me talk about this enough, it is so underestimated, because as you know, the body keeps the heart beating all day long without our control or help, or us figuring out how to do it, when to do it, how much.
Our body digests food, delivers energy into each cell in the body, converts energy into ATP and so forth.
So if you can just trust that the body has this part covered too, it's just that the body needs a chance to show you that it does have it figured out and you don't have to control it to get there.
It's definitely a relearning process, a surrendering process and the learning how to trust the body again... it's a process.
And we re-learn how to eat again by listening to our body's hunger and satiety cues, and your extreme mental hunger and extreme physical hunger is trying to guide you there.
If you're still gaining weight in your recovery, then that means that your body still needs to gain weight, but it won't keep gaining and gaining forever, I promise.
I have yet to see that happen.
The people that keep gaining are the people that keep restricting, keep falling into an energy deficit, not really committing to the process, and just allowing themselves to fall in quasi-recovery.
And so every time they lose a little bit of weight, they're gonna gain even more weight back because their body is trying to fight back.
Like we've talked about in other posts, your body may need to overshoot your set weight point for a time...
A temporary time, or what you think is overshoot may be your set weight point.
So there's a lot more to it, but I wanna stay focused in this video talking about how most people don't even know what their set weight point is because they started dieting at such a young age,
(whether because they were put on weight watchers, they were told they needed to lose weight, they were told they were fat, whatever it was.)
And so of course, as they get older, then maybe as a teenager, or even early 20s, that most likely won't be their adult set weight point.
If this is the case though, looking at it optimistically, this could be a good thing because you don't have a number that you're holding onto, hoping and wishing and perseverating on it, on this number in your recovery.
Like those who started dieting later in life did, and so they think, "Okay, because I started dieting at later in my 20s or 30s, then that must be my set point weight."
It could be, but it also could not be, they could have still been dieting in different ways, and so their view of that time in their life may be skewed.
Regardless, it can just be scary, right?
Because it's a fear of the unknown that you don't know what your set weight point is.
And it's what holds a lot of people back.
They don't want to accept a higher set weight range that they may need to be at or that their set weight point may be, and so they don't even wanna try recovery out, and they'd rather stay miserable than even attempt to find the freedom that they could have.
So their resistance of trying to control the situation or being in denial of what's to come or what may not come from even...
..fFrom ever letting go fully.
But I say, really, if this is your fear, what do you have to lose?
You're probably already gaining weight on less than optimal amounts, you're still restricting, or only eating unsafe foods..
..so you might as well just give in completely, face all your fear foods, eat the foods that you actually are craving, eat the amounts that you're actually wanting, rest if you're exhausted, and enjoy the process as much as you can, of the inevitable.
Let go of that control, that's toxic - let go of whatever you think your set point weight should be, and just try to allow your body to be where it needs to be..
..whether for the time being, or where it needs to be indefinitely, where the body sees it as being healthy, not you and your conditioned nutrition and dietetic beliefs, believes must be the healthiest for you.
(This may not be for everyone, but it's just a thought)
from what I've seen, if it is indeed overshoot, and you're not just retaining water, (if it's just water retention, then the water's gonna go away, and you're still gonna weigh the same, so it's not "overshoot weight" technically.
If this isn't the case, if it is indeed overshoot weight (a mix of fat and water), then your body's natural weight may settle and reside somewhere in between:
- where you were when you were dieting and overexercising and restricting, or in the eating disorder to maintain that lower weight, or where you started out being younger
- and then where your body weight plateaued in your weight gain process (where you feel super-uncomfortable in your recovery),
So maybe somewhere in between there, if that makes sense.
But don't hold on to that either, right?
I'm just trying to explain, a totally unique and differing phenomena.
Because honestly, who knows?
I don't know, nobody else is gonna know, only your body's gonna know.
And I think that the overanalyzing this part and trying to figure it out will only drive you freaking nuts and prevent you from just living and focusing on what truly matters and just recovering.
And while time passes you by, as it was in the disordered eating and eating disorder, now time is passing you by in recovery while you still perseverate on your body changing and going back, and when this is gonna be over, and when your body is gonna go back, and whether the extreme hunger's gonna die down.
But I get it, I know that it's uncomfortable, so you wanna know, but when it's your main driving focus, how are you ever supposed to see the other gifts and lessons within recovery?
I've heard this a lot, and I experienced it too, we think,
"Wow, I've been eating unrestricted now for a few months or for a year now, whatever, so why is my body just not letting go of the weight yet? I don't get it. I'm doing it now, why I'm I still gaining?" or,
"Why is my body not going back down to my set point weight yet?"
So there's that impatience, and you're not holding out long enough.
The process seems like it's taking forever, I know, but you're expecting just because you started to eat more, respond to your hunger, not restrict, not over-exercise..
..that it should just go back, and your body should just trust you immediately or at a year, 'cause a lot of times recovery, for things to even start to taper or balance out could be a year-and-a-half or two years for a lot of people.
So I say, back to that, "well, you've done this to your body for X amount of years, you've yo-yoed,"
so your body thinks,
"Cool, so what? A few months or a year, months or a year of consistency, so what? We may still be starved again. So we'd be stupid to let go of any weight prematurely after what you've put us through. We're not gonna let go until we know for sure that we're safe, even if it takes a year or two years or three years, whatever. And if you yo-yo in between there, then, oh, I don't trust you, I'm gonna start conserving again."
That's what the body says to our impatience, our frustration with the body. lol
The body's like,
"Dude, do you remember what you put me through for 10 years, five years, 20 years, 30 years?"
Key takeaway: Remember where you're coming from.
And so if you're losing hope in recovery, I know that this can happen to most of us.
Even if we're super motivated in the beginning, just know that: your body wants to be at its natural optimal weight set range, just as you do.
Again, the body just wants to make sure that its survival isn't being threatened first before it goes anywhere or lets go of any of its life support lifeline right now.
And also know, like I've said before, that you may have to accept a higher set weight range than what your conditioned mind wants or expects, has an expectation to be at.
Your body's healthy weight set range may be higher for optimal health and freedom, mental freedom as well as physical healing and freedom, true freedom that you think you may not achieve.
Well, if you're still holding onto this belief, maybe that's why you're not finding freedom.
You see what I'm saying?
So it may be higher than you originally attended when you entered into recovery is still super conditioned and disordered.
(Not saying this is for everyone!)
There are naturally people at a, what we'd say, a lower set weight range, that there's body diversity, okay?
So no one's excluded from this, nothing's bad. It's just maybe loosening up the reins of your expectations here and recovery so you're not frustrated and let down the whole time.
So given this is normal as we've all been pursuing or living in a smaller body for a while and so it was unhealthy for us.
That's why it wasn't sustainable.
And our health suffered, we were miserable as a result, so that's not your healthy set range or point weight.
*REMEMBER that all that misery comes with a lower unnatural set weight range whether it's mental chaos and misery or physical chaos and misery.*
And so some people panic and question recovery altogether wondering what did they had done wrong with their recovery or intuitive eating because they're not at a lower set weight point than what they expected.
They might panic and get discouraged altogether.
And maybe it's because they haven't accepted the fact that recovering into a lower weight does not always happen for everyone.
It's not the norm.
It's not the standard of your success in recovery.
If you get to a lean body again and that your body's not doing anything wrong if it has a weight set point that our conditioned mind doesn't agree with.
AND REMEMBER, it's shifting your focus, your perspective to true health, internal health, mental health, true physical health and healing rather than turning recovery into just yet again, another weight loss gimmick solely.
So these mindset shifts will help get you through and persist.
And what comes of it at the end of your recovery, that's what comes of it. It's just not having these expectations.
So why are you really recovering?
I've heard this before. Someone was saying like, "I'm almost two years into recovery and I haven't lost weight. I eat super healthy so I'm a bit worried."
Again, this is all individual. And I'm doing a post here, so it's not as tailored to each individual.
Now, I don't know where you are coming from, where you're at, but just vaguely.
Some things to ask yourself or I would ask you would be:
I don't know how much you weigh, I don't know what your height is or where your body wants to be, but at the same time it could take a few years and only your body will know.
On edinstitute.org I think it was, she was talking about that full remission could take anywhere between three months (which is very rare), and six years, (which is also quite rare).
But just to put it into perspective when you get impatient at like a year or even at approaching two years, like this stuff takes time, true healing takes time. Okay?
It's not another diet gimmick where this is gonna happen in like, five-minute abs or like lose 50 pounds in three months.
Again, only your body can say where the healthiest set weight point is for you.
Some things that you could do or read books like "Health at Every Size", just to accept that this is where your body needs to be. "The Beauty Myth" is a good one, and just like different stuff like that.
Now I wanted to read just a couple little testimonials or some things that people have written in! So I'll read Lily's first:
"Hey Kayla, it's been a while, but I just wanted to say thank you so much for helping me recover. I'm about 19 plus months into recovery. I have kind of stopped counting and had to think to even come up with a number." That's a good sign, right? When people ask me now how long I've been recovering, I'm like, "I don't know." And then they'll ask me like, "How long did this take?" I'm like, "I don't know. Let me think about it." Anyways, that's a good sign. "And you were one of the most helpful resources I had throughout this process. I'm so much more present in my life and relationships now. I feel good in my body, my period has been very regular for the past six months and the acne, nighttime hunger, bloating have all dramatically decreased or entirely gone away."
Lola wrote in to me and said:
"I was a mess when I found your video about HA, Hypothalamic Amenorrhea. I didn't have a period. I was so bloated. I looked like a nine-month pregnant lady." Don't we all? "I was constipated, and when I wasn't, I had diarrhea. I didn't drink water with my meals. Keto, intermittent fasting. Gluten-free no carbs, no this, no that. I was counting and measuring all the time, forcing myself to work out, then fruitarian water fasting in order to detox, food combining, enema, supplements, nothing worked. My gynecologist wanted me on the pill. Then I saw your video. I just got up, it was morning and I made myself a breakfast, a cheese omelette with butter and had some bread and a big piece of chocolate for dessert. I will never forget that moment. I continued to eat everything I craved for which was mostly pasta and potatoes. Oh my gosh. I could eat pasta and potatoes for days and not get tired of them. I guess my body was craving carbs so much. And only two weeks after, I got my period back. It was amazing. I can't tell you how grateful I am. Now I even make cakes. I gained a certain amount of weight," I don't know. I won't say the poundages. Some people like it. Some people get pissed at me for saying it. I'll veer on the cautious side. "I gained weight very fast." So that's normal to gain weight very rapidly. "But without even trying, I then lost five and now my weight is stable and my belly is fine. I made peace with the fact that my body is not comfortable with the weight I wanted. Sometimes I still find myself counting the calories of a meal, but when I realize that, I gently tell myself that I no longer do that."
Alright, let me just reiterate something really quick.
"I made peace with the fact that my body is not comfortable with the weight I wanted."
That is so important! It's part of like the letting go process. And as you let go of that, your body will let go of the stuff too. ;)
ok here's more:
"After reading your book, I decided to go all in and let go of the diets once and for all. After a period of eating a significantly high amount of food, I have noticed how my appetite is way lower now. Now I'm losing weight effortlessly. I'm not weighing myself, but the clothes feel looser and how I eat salads and healthy things regularly just because my body wants them now. I've even picked up some hobbies I had left behind because of my weight obsession. I have so much energy. I don't even have coffee most days anymore. And before starting the process, I could easily have five coffees a day. It has definitely not been a steady ride and I still find myself reading calorie labels every now and then, but I'm having foods without weighing them anymore. Thank you."
So there's lots of stories I receive like this!
You're NOT alone.
I hope this helped along your journey!
And if you'd like further help in your food freedom journey, I have a special complimentary resource that maps out How to Stop Feeling Obsessed With Your Weight, click here to get your copy!