top of page
  • Writer's pictureDoug Joachim

Move Your Set Point and Lose Weight

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

set point diet

Remember: Set Point weight is still a theory.  It is not a proven scientific law.  Most scientists believe 75% of our set point weight is influenced by genetics; the rest is what we do.  Set point deniers bring up the obesity rate, arguing that if obese people had a set point they wouldn’t get so big.  However, it’s possible that obese people have essentially ‘broken’ their set point by overwhelming their hormones with bad eating habits, stress and lack of sleep.  My question to the deniers is what stops most overweight people from getting so big they literally explode (1000 lbs and more)?  Every extra 3500 calories ingested is supposed to translate into 1lb of fat…so where does it all go? 

When you under-feed (diet) your body will self regulate and decrease its metabolic rate and burn less energy.  As the diet continues your body will strive to conserve more energy in an effort to maintain its current weight.  Sadly, it will not preferentially burn off your fat stores. It will look to burn off the most metabolically demanding tissue available, lean muscle mass. It is easy to maintain fat stores because they don’t cost your body energy.  Muscle, on the other hand, requires lots of energy to maintain.  You can think of it this way:  If you wanted to slow down a sinking ship would your throw off the styrofoam cups first or the iron anchors?  Your muscles are the iron anchors of the body.  When we go on low calorie diets our bodies will increase the set point range, believing it has experienced starvation and must protect against such danger again.

Most diets are like mini starvation periods. Our ancestors, in true Darwinian fashion, were the individuals that were best able to deal with and live through times of starvation.  They passed along these effective fat storing genes to their kids and eventually we got them (thanks, great-great-grandpa!).  Our bodies can’t tell the difference between starvation and dieting….it just does what it knows and holds on to its fat.  The more starved our body is, the higher it rises the set point. Got to get ready for that next looming famine! Don’t diet.

best trainer nyc

Factors that Influence The Set Point:

  1. Dieting – frequent dieting and yo-yo weight fluctuations can cause a higher set point

  2. Disease (Diabetes, Thyroid dysfunction, cancer, Cushing’s Disease)

  3. Stress

  4. Medications

  5. High sugar diet

  6. Depression

  7. Exercise habits

  8. Environmental toxins

How to Lower the Set Point:

  1. Eat wholesome foods with a focus on organically grown non-starchy vegetables, nuts, legumes and salad every day.  Beware of low-fat or no-fat foods which usually chock full of sugar.

  2. Actively use de-stressing techniques like meditation, naps, exercise, etc.  Stress raises cortisol levels (and other hormones) and forces the body to store more fat.  Learn to relax.

  3. Limit exposure to environmental toxins – this is a hard one because they are all around us.  Besides the smog we breathe in and the chemicals in our food – there is the off-gassing of our furniture, paint and floors; absorption of chemical dyes in our soaps, creams and clothing; unknown fillers in our supplements; chemicals in our cookware, etc. etc. The data on how environmental toxins directly affect our weight is inconclusive, however, it stands to reason the less exposure we have to these toxins the better off we will be.

  4. Limit all processed sugar/carbohydrate based foods from Twinkies to Campbell’s Noodle Soup.  Steer clear of most desserts especially the ones you did not make from scratch.

  5. Eat a few servings of healthy fat every day including olive & coconut oil, avocado, seeds, nuts, oily fish and/or organic grass fed yogurt, butter and/or beef.

  6. Stay hydrated and avoid all diet drinks and soda.

Increasing the quality of wholesome foods you eat and minimizing the processed junk (and sugar) will do wonders for your satiety. The reason 95% of all dieters fail long-term is that they do not permanently change their habits.  At the end of the day, the best diet for you is the one you can stay on – which also happens to leave you healthier happier, and less hungry


  1. Blackburn GL, Wilson GT, Kanders BS, Stein LJ, Lavin PT, Adler J, Brownell KD. Weight cycling: the experience of human dieters. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989 May;49(5 Suppl):1105-9. PubMed PMID: 2718940.

  2. Blair SN, Shaten J, Brownell K, Collins G, Lissner L. Body weight change, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality in the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Ann Intern Med. 1993 Oct 1;119(7 Pt 2):749-57. PubMed PMID: 8363210.

  3. Bray GA. Obesity-a state of reduced sympathetic activity and normal or high adrenal activity (the autonomic and adrenal hypothesis revisited). Int J Obes. 1990;14 Suppl 3:77-91; discussion 91-2. Review. PubMed PMID: 2086518.

  4. Brownell KD, Rodin J. Medical, metabolic, and psychological effects of weight cycling. Arch Intern Med. 1994 Jun 27;154(12):1325-30. Review. PubMed PMID: 8002684.

  5. Green MW, Rogers PJ. Impaired cognitive functioning during spontaneous dieting. Psychol Med. 1995 Sep;25(5):1003-10. PubMed PMID: 8587997.

  6. Greene P, Willett W, et al. Pilot 12-week feeding weight loss comparison: low-fat vs. low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets [abstract]. Obes Res. 2003;11:A23.

  7. Hamm P, Shekelle RB, Stamler J. Large fluctuations in body weight during young adulthood and twenty-five-year risk of coronary death in men. Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Feb;129(2):312-8. PubMed PMID: 2912043.

  8. Higgins M, D’Agostino R, Kannel W, Cobb J, Pinsky J. Benefits and adverse effects of weight loss. Observations from the Framingham Study. Ann Intern Med. 1993 Oct 1;119(7 Pt 2):758-63. Erratum in: Ann Intern Med 1993 Nov 15;119(10):1055. PubMed PMID: 8363211.

  9. Hill AJ. Does dieting make you fat? Br J Nutr. 2004 Aug;92 Suppl 1:S15-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 15384316.

  10. Jeffery R. Prevention of Obesity. In: Bray GA, Couchard d, James WP, eds. Handbook of Obesity. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1997: 819-829.

  11. Keen H, Thomas BJ, Jarrett RJ, Fuller JH. Nutrient intake, adiposity, and diabetes. Br Med J. 1979 Mar 10;1(6164):655-8. PubMed PMID: 435710; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1598272.

  12. Levine JA, Eberhardt NL, Jensen MD. Role of nonexercise activity thermogenesis in resistance to fat gain in humans. Science. 1999 Jan 8;283(5399):212-4. PubMed PMID: 9880251.

  13. Lissner L, Odell PM, D’Agostino RB, Stokes J 3rd, Kreger BE, Belanger AJ,Brownell KD. Variability of body weight and health outcomes in the Framingham population. N Engl J Med. 1991 Jun 27;324(26):1839-44. PubMed PMID: 2041550.

  14. Mann T, Tomiyama AJ, Westling E, Lew AM, Samuels B, Chatman J. Medicare’s search for effective obesity treatments: diets are not the answer. Am Psychol. 2007 Apr;62(3):220-33. Review. PubMed PMID: 17469900.

  15. McCullough ML, Feskanich D, Rimm EB, Giovannucci EL, Ascherio A, Variyam JN, Spiegelman D, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC. Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and risk of major chronic disease in men. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;72(5):1223-31. PubMed PMID: 11063453.

  16. McCullough ML, Feskanich D, Stampfer MJ, Rosner BA, Hu FB, Hunter DJ, Variyam JN, Colditz GA, Willett WC. Adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and risk of major chronic disease in women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 Nov;72(5):1214-22. PubMed PMID: 11063452.

  17. Phinney SD. Weight cycling and cardiovascular risk in obese men and women. Am J Clin Nutr. 1992 Oct;56(4):781-2. PubMed PMID: 1414977.

  18. Rolland-Cachera MF, Bellisle F. No correlation between adiposity and food intake: why are working class children fatter? Am J Clin Nutr. 1986 Dec;44(6):779-87. PubMed PMID: 3788830.

  19. Samaha FF, Iqbal N, Seshadri P, Chicano KL, Daily DA, McGrory J, Williams T, Williams M, Gracely EJ, Stern L. A low-carbohydrate as compared with a low-fat diet in severe obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003 May 22;348(21):2074-81. PubMed PMID: 12761364.

  20. Sondike, S., et al. “The Ketogenic Diet Increases Weight Loss But Not Cardiovascular Risk: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Adolescent Health 26: 91, 2000

  21. Volek J, Sharman M, Gómez A, Judelson D, Rubin M, Watson G, Sokmen B, Silvestre R, French D, Kraemer W. Comparison of energy-restricted very low-carbohydrate and low-fat diets on weight loss and body composition in overweight men and women. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Nov 8;1(1):13. PubMed PMID:15533250; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC538279.

  22. Weigle DS. Human obesity. Exploding the myths. West J Med. 1990 Oct;153(4):421-8. Review. PubMed PMID: 2244378; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1002573.

26 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page