What is set point weight?
by Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP
It’s true that we inherit eye color, hair, skin, body-type and more from our parents,
and for the most part, we can’t change these traits. But what about our weight?
For many years, scientist believed that set point — our body-to-fat ratio within
a 10- to 15-pound weight range that optimizes our chances of survival — was something
inherited that we couldn’t influence.
But in the past few decades it has become clear that the set point isn’t entirely
predestined and unchanging. In fact, your set point is also governed by your environment,
even from the time you are growing in utero. In a 2010 article on the set point
theory, German scientists wrote: “Searching for the genetic background of excess
weight gain in a world of abundance is misleading since the possible biological
control is widely overshadowed by the effect of the environment. ” And our environment
includes our lifestyle choices and eating habits.
Good news! Your food talks to your genes
Today there’s an entire field of research called nutrigenomics, or “nutritional
genomics,” investigating the effects nutrients have upon genes in both disease and
The information our genes receive from our food can be a powerful way to “convince”
them to respond in ways that are healthy — and it’s not so much about how much we
eat (although obviously, overeating isn’t going to help anyone) than about what
The reason it may feel like we can’t change our set point weight is that our bodies
like stability — and our metabolism defends the set point by slowing down or speeding
up when our weight approaches the outer limits of our set point’s range.
So how can you change your environment to reprogram your weight? Follow
our tips for optimizing metabolic rate and consider one more factor: your emotional
We’ve always known intuitively that laughter is the best medicine, but before now
we haven’t really grasped why. Studies of laughter therapy in type 2 diabetics showed
that as many as 23 different genes were altered as a byproduct of laughter. Not
only that, but the activity of several blood enzymes and their precursors changed
as well, in ways that were beneficial toward preventing a range of metabolic imbalances.
So one of the ways that we can send positive signals to our genes, cells, and proteins
is by cultivating positive emotions. At the same time, addressing sources of negative
emotions — particularly trauma from our past that is a continual source of sadness,
guilt, shame, or anger — can reduce the flow of negative messages to our genes and
cells. (For further guidance, I suggest reading Dr. Candace Pert’s Molecules of Emotions.)
You can influence your set point
It’s so important that women realize that we can communicate with our genes
and get at least some of them to change their behavior. Our genes receive messages
all the time through our nutritional choices and the patterns of our emotions, whether
we realize it or not. Our Personal
Program for Weight Loss Resistance helps you take care of your nutrition,
your emotions, exercise, and stress, to help influence your set point and make lasting
changes in your body. But keep in mind that influencing set point doesn’t happen
all at once. If you are trying to lose a large amount of weight, we suggest doing
this in increments and letting the body have time to stabilize in between periods
of losing the weight. To make lasting changes, our set point needs time to rebalance.
We’re always here to help.
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References & further reading on the set point
Last Modified Date: 11/29/2011
Principal Author: Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP