Weight Loss Support - Set Point Theory and Plateauing

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07-08-2013, 02:12 PM
Does anybody know anything about the set-point theory? I think it means that your body gets used to being a certain size, and if you try to lose or gain you keep balancing back to a particular weight.

I've lost just shy of 100 pounds, and I have been plateauing at 228 for about 8 months. I am comfortable at how I look and feel, but I am still 50 pounds heavier than what my doctor says is my ideal weight. I've varied how much I exercise, but the weight doesn't change even though my shape changes. My weight varies monthly up to about 230 (during the obvious time), but always shifts back to 228. I sometimes drop as low as 224, but usually end up balancing back to 228.

I'm really feeling like my "set point" changed to 228, from whatever it was before. I've tried googling a bit, but it usually results in pages selling a diet product. Is there any good science behind this, or is anyone familiar with a doctor that supports this? What else is known about it?

Otherwise, what do you do when you are stuck in a plateau? I basically think, well, I'm happy I am learning to keep the weight off (instead of putting it back on), and I'd rather be 50 pounds overweight than 150.

Have you broken through a plateau? How long did you plateau? What do you think triggered the weight loss again?


07-08-2013, 02:25 PM
There is a podcast that you might want to check out called "Cut the Fat." They do a whole episode on set point theory.

While I can't speak about plateaus (I've been stuck at a certain weight before but I think it had more to do with not sticking to my diet plan) I think our body does get to a certain point where the only thing you can do is maintain for a while. Again I'm no expert and I'm sure someone else has more experience with this issue.

07-08-2013, 02:28 PM
There are a few older threads in this topic that I have visited on this forum. Lots of good theories. I am not sure if it is so much that our bodies get used to a set point, but I think our minds do. We get accustomed to eating a certain way and doing a habitual gym routine and are unable to easily change habits long term to accommodate a lower set point in weight.

If it is worth anything I have managed to avoid any long term plateaus by cycling down calories gradually. Slow changes downward in calories and slow increase upward in activity.

07-08-2013, 02:43 PM
I remember hearing something about "set Point" while watching The Weight of the Nation on HBO (can be found http://theweightofthenation.hbo.com/ for free, if anyone is interested in watching the documentary, 4 parts that are a little over an hour each). If I recall correctly, the second part is the one that talks about Set Point more in depth.

I can't speak to long-term plateaus (I plateau for a couple days here and there), but from what I've read some people have shown success with changing their calories for a few days by going almost completely off-plan, then going back down and sticking to it hardcore with additional exercise.

:hug: I hope you can break through your plateau soon!!!!! 100lbs lost is FANTASTIC!!! Maybe your body just needs a break from the weight loss, and I hope you start seeing that scale go down again!!!!

07-08-2013, 03:26 PM
I am not sure if it is so much that our bodies get used to a set point, but I think our minds do. We get accustomed to eating a certain way and doing a habitual gym routine and are unable to easily change habits long term to accommodate a lower set point in weight.

I agree with this. Look up settling point (mind) vs. set point (body).


07-08-2013, 03:57 PM
Wow! I've been reading quite a bit about weight set point since I read the OP earlier today. Talk about a timely thread. I have lost right around 27% of my starting body weight. Last September, I started having a lot of trouble with staying on my diet. I attributed this mostly to the fact that I was in a new job that required me to travel about 50% of my time. Every time I traveled, I would land face first in beer and unhealthy food. It was frustrating for me to not be able to control myself on those trips. Towards the end of my time on that job, at about the 6 month point, I actually started doing better and with the exception of the final HOORAH feeding frenzy I engaged in when I got a different job in May that no longer required travel, I was actually losing weight again. Then, in May, even though I was freakin' OP, I just hovered right around the same weight for the entire month. To make it worse, I was hungry. In June, I started eating more. Not a whole lot more, just a little more. Like around 100 - 200 calories a day more. I stayed within 2 pounds of the same weight for the entire month. In fact, in early July, I started a thread here about hitting the wall and vented some of my frustrations. The very next week, I started losing again although I hadn't changed either my eating or exercise habits since that past June.

I wonder if I've been bumping up against new set points...

07-08-2013, 04:38 PM
I've had a very similar experience - I've lost about 10% of my starting weight and all of a sudden have stalled out, even staying on plan with eating/exercising. I have now been going up/down within 2 pounds for almost 6 weeks. I have tried cycling calories and exercise but my body seems to be in maintenance mode. I will say I am not suffering from extreme hunger, but my mental motivation is being sorely taxed with this extended lack of progress.
I read an interesting article a few months back about set point theory and whether you can reset your set point, I think it was in the NY Times. Basically the idea was that losing 10% of your body weight in a short time can cause your body to rebel because you are getting too far from your (adjusted) set point. The recommendation was to maintain the new weight for 6 months or so before actively trying to start losing again, and expect another plateau with the next 10% loss.
I'm frustrated with my stall, but at the same time, I know I am getting healthier even if I am maintaining right now. I am making better choices on a more consistent basis. The key is remembering that when I don't see progress on the scale.

07-08-2013, 04:50 PM
I'm trying to find reliable, factual sources. As with anything weight loss, there's so my hype that it's difficult to find science. Well, I did find this article in the NCBI (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2990627/) but it is quite technical and I had trouble parsing it.

I found this article (http://www.nedic.ca/knowthefacts/documents/setpointwhatyourbodyistryingtotellyou.pdf) at the National Eating Disorder Institute but I can't vouch for it's veracity.

Here's an article from the Journal of Nutrition (http://jn.nutrition.org/content/127/9/1875S.full).

Regardless, there is some interesting stuff here.

Keep Moving Forward
07-08-2013, 05:59 PM
I haven't read anything official, I suppose, about set point theory but I remember a professor I had in undergrad talking about it. She said that when our bodies spend at least a year at a certain weight, they become accustomed to it & will be resistant to falling significantly lower than that. I have had a lot of trouble getting below 270 in the last several years, & I think that this theory is at least somewhat relevant to that struggle. Part of it is my mentality, sure, but I think the body's biological need for homeostasis plays a big part in it. If I could spend any significant amount of time below 270, rather than the few months I've achieved once or twice, I'm sure my body would give up the idea that it should hang onto 270 and higher numbers. I hope....

Btw, Hyacinth, you're amazing! 100lbs is an incredible loss!

07-08-2013, 07:00 PM
Just from my non scientific point of view:

I've been plateaued pretty much since the end of February. I'm still on plan, and I haven't really cheated more than I ever did. Just based on my own body, I hypothesize two causes working together:

Physical: Fitness wise, I know without a doubt that I am the best I have been in my entire adult life. I'm also extremely similar to my father and some of the men in my mom's family, in that I can carry a great deal of extra weight and still be in peak condition. (I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but it is what it is). I make sure I sleep, I eat well, I exercise, I see the sun. I'm strong and I have a good deal more stamina than ever. I'm operating at a pretty good standard, and I really think my body is just enjoying the break from the havoc my early losses through it into and getting used to being used.

Mental: I think it's a combination of fear and complacency. I've done REALLY well. I can buy a few tops and dresses in regular stores. My loss is noticeable to other people. I've worked hard for 11 months. In the back of my mind, I'm probably not pushing as hard or counting as stringently as I did in the beginning. I'm also afraid because I'm nowhere near success. I am still MORBIDLY OBESE. Still 200 pounds heavier than most healthy sized women. What if this work isn't worth it at all?

But I'm ignorant and I don't listen to my body or my mind. I just keep on keeping on.

07-08-2013, 07:08 PM
Set point theory has nothing to do wtih a stall in weight loss. It simply (in theory) means a weight that your body will "naturally" gravitate to if you're eating intuitively.

If you're actively monitoring caloric intake accurately, and you haven't lost a single lb in 8 weeks, than you need to figure out what is going on. It could be you're not in a caloric deficit.

If it hasn't been 8 weeks, and you believe you in a deficit, you just need patience.

Hyacinth, at eight months with no losses, you're maintaining. If you're trying to lose additional lbs you should examine exactly what you're doing. Plenty of people here can help trouble shoot.

07-08-2013, 08:22 PM
Wow, thank you all for the resources and suggestions!

I also tend to agree it's a mind thing. It feels like my mind learned a new momentum for "calories in, calories out" ... my absolutely non-scientific theory, anyway.

I do not monitor or record my daily caloric intake. I'm more active than I've been my entire adult life, and I eat very intuitively. Just quite a bit less of what I used to eat.

07-08-2013, 10:19 PM
Also, most doctors are only going by BMI and have very little knowledge on the subject of diet, exercise and "ideal weight".

If you used to weigh 100 lbs more and activity has been a big part of your weight loss it is very possible that your ideal weight is not 50 lbs less than your current weight due to bone density and a higher than average amount of LBM for 5'11" female.

I strongly suspect your doctor is only using BMI which is also why I am "overweight" unless I weigh 231 or less. Rediculous. BMI is not designed to help an individual measure anything it is a tool to measure populations of people.

07-08-2013, 10:34 PM
How about this... I was on a low calorie supervised medical plan and after 4 weeks... yes, four weeks.. I stalled for two. I freaked but then tried something I used successfully the rest of the time. Zig Zagging or calorie cycling. Two days per week going high on the calories and making it up the rest of the week so that the average was about what it would be if I was eating the same thing every day.

It can be hard and you just be sure you don't eat too much on the low days but I think it is something about eating high that does something .. like shake your body up or release certain hormones...

You can shake the days up that you do this...

08-04-2013, 07:47 AM
Sorry for posting in this thread, since it's getting a little old now. For the OP:

I can't tell about reliable sources regarding the set point theory. I read a few things about it, but I never kept the links. From my personal experience, though, I think said set point CAN change. Mine used to be about 73 kgs, then switched a few years later to around 64-65, and now is closer to 55 kgs. I don't really know why, only that I went through a sort of inverted yo-yo dieting (lose 10 lbs, gain back 5, lose 10 again, gain back 2, etc—instead of lose 10, gain back 15, and so on). Exercising probably increased my metabolism a little over the years, too, although I don't know to which point it is offset by my getting older (I turn 34 in 2 weeks).

Perhaps it's indeed a matter of letting some time to your body to get used to a new weight, for a few months, and then it'll "remember" that last "save point" instead of the previous one?