In this episode of Eat the Rules, I’m talking about the weight set point theory, as part of the Body Image Series.
I explore what it is, how dieting impacts it, and why using it as a goal weight can be problematic to healing your relationship to food and your body.
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This is eat the rules, a podcast about body image self worth, anti dieting, and intersectional feminism. I am your host summer Innanen, a professionally trained coach specializing in body image self worth and confidence and the best selling author of body image remix. If you’re ready to break free of societal standards and stop living behind the number on your scale, then you have come to the right place. Welcome to the show.
This is episode 191. And this is another segment of the body image series. I’m talking about the setpoint theory. And I’m going to be talking about what it is how dieting impacts our setpoint why the idea of a setpoint can trigger the diet mentality and what to focus on instead of getting to your setpoint. You can find all the links and resources mentioned in this episode at summer innanen.com. Forward slash 191. I want to give a shout out to Sarah Michael who left this awesome review. Thank you so much summer for your amazing podcast, which has been absolutely invaluable on my journey towards breaking free from diet culture. Each time I listen, I learned something new. And whenever I need support, I come back and listen to my favorite episodes. And find that helps give me the tools to speak back to the lies of diet culture and my inner critic, you’re making such a difference. Thank you so much, Sarah, I really really appreciate that. You can leave a review by going to iTunes searching for eat the roles, click late ratings and reviews and then click to leave a review. And you can also support the show by subscribing. You can subscribe via whatever platform you use, whether that is stitcher or Spotify or Apple podcasts or YouTube. All the episodes are on YouTube case you didn’t know and, and then and that helps the show it helps people to find it, it helps boosted up in the ratings. So that keto diet podcasts aren’t there. Yeah, that would be nice, right. And then lastly, you can get the free brand new body confidence makeover at summer innanen.com. Forward slash freebies with 10 steps to take right now to feel better in your body. This is totally updated, hadn’t updated it in a few years. And so the new version is released. And you can head on over there to get your copy. And so today I wanted to talk about the setpoint theory, because this comes up so much when I’m working with people, and I almost think it’s like can cause more harm than good. I think that, you know, it’s sort of important to understand that everyone has a range of weights, everyone has a different range of weight, where their body tends to be the healthiest for them or where their body just tends to settle. But I find that it often creates a little bit more of a mental battle in people who are really trying to heal their relationship with food in their body. And so that’s what I wanted to talk about today. And so this is another segment of the body image series. And the body image series is a series of solo episodes where I deep dive into topics related to body image and self acceptance, and give you some specific ways to be more accepting of your body and detach your value from your appearance. You can find all the episodes that are in the body image series at summer innanen.com forward slash body image series, they’re all listed there now. So you can go through that because I’ve received so much positive feedback about these episodes. So I will be producing more of them more regularly. And I will continue to kind of migrate them to that central spot as well so that you don’t have to try and remember all the different number of episodes that I’ve talked about these things. And if you ever have any ideas for these episodes, feel free to just message me on Instagram or Facebook and and let me know. So in this episode, I’m going to be talking about what the setpoint theory is how dieting impacts our setpoint why the idea of a setpoint can trigger the diet mentality and what to focus on instead of getting to your setpoint. So for those of you not familiar with the setpoint theory, I’m really not going to get too much into the science here because I really I would rather talk about your relationship to it because that’s where I see it being more problematic. If you
You really want to get into the science on it, you can check out the book body respect by lindo bacon that is talked about in a little bit more in a little bit more depth there, I’m going to talk about it from a broader perspective, and just an overview of what it is, but I’m going to focus more on your relationship to it. So what you know, the reason why this comes up so much is because when we talk about the diet cycle, and we talk about healing our relationship with food and stepping out of the diet cycle, most of us are naturally curious about weight regulation, you know, or that’s kind of like a passive way of putting it, I think most of us are like, I’m freaking out, because I don’t have any control anymore. And I need to know what my body’s gonna do, you know, kind of demand to know about weight rate weight regulation, which is totally normal, right? You’ve been conditioned to feel that way. And it feels kind of very out of control when you first start doing this work. And so it’s normal to want to know about that. And when we’ve been taught that our weight is something that is entirely within our control, it’s really hard to let go of that belief. But what I do want you to take away from this as well is that we don’t, we don’t have as much control over our weight as we’re are, as we’re led to believe our weight is primarily determined by genetics and other things outside of our control, like the environment, and behaviors that we do have much, much less impact on our weight than, than we’ve been led to believe. And I know that that can sometimes be really hard to come to grips with. Because you know, when you’re trying so hard to lose weight, you’re trying so hard to make your body smaller, you can feel like a failure or really disappointed and defeated to to learn that, you know, you don’t really have that much control. And this, this may be your body that can bring up a lot of feelings, which I’m going to talk about later. But I’m just Yeah, so the couple things I just want you to take away up front. One is that, you know, we don’t have as much control over our weight as we’re led to believe. And again, these are all things that are talked about in body respect, there’s no proven forearm long term form of weight loss that works. For the majority of people, the most consistent side effect of weight loss is weight gain. And the main study that kind of gets quoted around this shows that 88% of people regain the weight, and many regain more weight. So the vast majority of people who intentionally try to lose weight will regain their initial weight loss and often more. And so it’s a very, very small percentage of people that that can actually lose weight and keep it off in the long term. And I know sometimes people say 95%, the study that I was looking at was 88%. So anyways, it’s high, right? Like it’s high. And I think that we also have to look at our own personal experience with it. And like diets usually work in the short term. So you might think, Well, I do lose weight, I can lose weight, but then you have to really reflect on like, okay, well what happened, you know, three months later a year later, and we often blame ourselves, but really, like, it wasn’t us, it was the fact that like, we just weren’t supposed to be in that smaller body. And our body fought to get us back up, which is what the setpoint is, right? So the setpoint theory indicates that your body has a weight range. And I think that that’s really important. It’s a range. So it’s not just like one size, it’s a range in which your body functions optimally. And that can be dictated by a lot of different factors, which I mentioned, genetics, the environment, your metabolism, and it can be impacted by things like trauma, or unexpected stress that’s outside of our control, like the pandemic, and things like the social detriments of health and things like oppression, like all of those things impact our body size, and most of those are not really within our control. And so you know, the setpoint range is generally around like 10 to 20 pounds, but that could vary based on the individual and based on your personal experiences and things like that. And it’s often also means like a range of body sizes. And so it doesn’t mean that everyone’s meant to be small, somebody’s setpoint range could be much higher than another individuals, we all just sort of have like a natural body type that we’re meant to be at. Because body diversity is real. We just feel like that shouldn’t be true, because we’re told that we should all just be able to, you know, lose weight and all look like J Lo but that’s not true at all. And so, when we talk about setpoint, you know, the thermostat metaphor gets used quite a bit to just talk about setpoint and metabolism, because your setpoint is kind of like a thermostat like your body wants to keep you in that range. And so if you keep sort of messing around with that, with the thermostat like jiggling the temperature, the mechanism starts
to break down. So just for example, like if your thermostat is set for 70 degrees and you keep lowering the temperature to like 65, then your your thermostat is going to have to go up to 75 to get you back to 70. And conversely, and vice versa. And so what? So, which can get kind of confusing, right? You’re like, why are you talking about a thermostat? The point is that when you go below the weight range where your body feels safe, like homeostasis, where it feels most comfortable, your metabolism eventually slows down, and to try to bring you back up. And so that what happens from a behavioral perspective is, sometimes we have less energy, or we begin to fixate on food. And we want to eat more as your body tries to get you back into homeostasis. And so for a dieter, that often looks like you know, just like intense cravings for food or wanting to cheat on you’re cheating on your diet binging like just, you know, being eating, being able to feel like you’re out of control and not be able to eat anything that’s not like locked up in a cupboard. That’s actually just your body’s natural response to what’s happening as we bring our weight down that outside of that range where it really feels safe. And so that’s why we can’t stick to a diet like your body is literally fighting back to protect you. And when we try to take control from our away from our bodies naturally control mechanism, that it only makes our body fight harder to regain control. You know, we there’s a lot of different mechanisms that our bodies always working on to keep us in homeostasis, like the our blood being pumped through her muscles, the oxygen going through our lungs, like, there’s a lot of stuff that we that we kind of take for granted. But really like that same things kind of happening with our weight, we just always try to fight against it. And that screws things up. And so that can result in weight gain, and sometimes a higher setpoint to really protect against future diets. And so what happens is, is our body’s trying to fight to keep us in that range, which is a good thing, because it does that to protect us from things like starvation. But it’s also why trying to force yourself below that range always kind of ends up in rebound. And so dieting and over exercising often results in a higher setpoint as your body really struggles to normalize after those famine signals. So famine signals come in the form of restricting actual foods, so smaller portions or eliminating certain macronutrients or things or foods, excessive workouts, and even just like perceived restriction. So that’s also sends a famine signal to our brain. And, and so perceived restriction would be like just being, you know, terrified of carbs, even though you are sort of eating them sometimes. So the amazing thing is like we’re born with this natural ability to balance energy in our body, I mean, so if you want to take away a positive, because you might be thinking like hearing this and thinking like, Oh, God, what have I done, all those years of dieting would have identify setpoint. But we don’t I mean, we just don’t know. And it’s really different for everyone. It’s a very individual, I’ll talk about that in a second. But if we can find kind of like the silver lining, or what’s beautiful in this is that we’re all born with this natural ability to balance energy in our body. Meaning like, we can trust our body, we can trust our body when we’re really listening to it signals. And we’re honoring its needs and our hunger and everything like that. Whereas conversely, like if we’re under eating, our body is going to slow down to conserve energy, and make us seek out food and vice versa. And it really happens unconsciously. So we’re not always in control of it similar to our temperature, our body just likes homeostasis. And so what, what that means is, we can really trust our body. And then the other thing I always just like to say to people is like you can’t fuck around with biology, like you can’t mess around with the physiology, the biology in your body can’t outsmart it, your body’s gonna know what’s up. And so that’s that’s really how setpoint works. And I just encourage you to look at your own experience with that too. For me, like I really had to get real about the fact that there wasn’t some missing nutrient or food that I wasn’t eating contributing to my size, I had to really just, you know, get to realize that, like, my body was just not like, my body was bigger than I wanted it to be, my body was meant to be bigger than I wanted it to be. And it was kind of the body that I had when I hit puberty To be honest, and I hated it then. And so it was really ended. So I was fighting against it ever since that time. But all that fighting against it really just kept damaging it and damaging it. And it took a while to really repair that damage and be able to truly you know, trust my body and have my weight settle out the place that is you know, healthiest for me, which is also still changing because I’m in my 40s now and I’m postpartum and so my body has changed versus what it was when I first quit dieting. I don’t know like 8999
years ago now. And so that’s important to recognize, too is that like that setpoint range may not stay the same for your whole life. Because there’s a lot of things that happened to us that specially hormonally especially like when you sort of go cross the threshold of 40. And you go into like perimenopause and menopause, your body really does start to change. And that’s normal and natural. And it’s not something that can be avoided, like you’re not, you know, you can’t maintain your 20 year old body for the rest of your life. But what we can do is, is really, you know, try to take a Health at Every Size approach, where we really focus on our physical and emotional health without weight being a factor. And that’s the best bet, that’s the best thing we can do to really trust our body to heal and, and stay in the present moment, it takes a lot of faith to trust that you can trust your body, especially when that seems so scary and unknown, and contrary to everything that you believed. And it takes a lot of determination to continually challenge the diet mentality, and the beliefs that are being fired at us about weight regulation and health. So I really give major props to everyone who’s listening, who’s who’s doing that work, or who has done who has done that work, or who’s starting to do that work, because it’s really, really hard. And, you know, the other thing I’ll just want to call out is that, you know, I come at this from a privileged perspective, meaning that, you know, although I did gain weight, I’m still in what would be considered a straight size body. And so this becomes even harder, if you’re experiencing discrimination. There’s a lot of weight bias in the medical community. And that’s why I always encourage people who are in a larger body to seek out role models in the fact activism community to really support you on this journey, and just affirm your own experiences as well. So the one other question people often ask me is, can you lower your setpoint? I mean, like, you’re probably asking this because you’re still fighting, internalized fat phobia, I think usually is my kind of answer to that. But scientifically, it’s much harder, it’s much easier for us to increase our setpoint than to reduce it, your weight may change as a side effect of making behavior changes. But most of the people I work with are coming from a place of restriction. So that’s not usually the case. Surrendering to the fact that this may not happen to you is really important to breaking free of the diet mentality. Because if you’re hinging your acceptance on something that’s conditional, like being in a smaller body, you’re never really going to, like inherently feel worthy, and good enough. And so that’s why we want to try and really detach our acceptance from anything that is conditional that it’s outside of our control. So I want to talk about your relationship to the setpoint, why a setpoint can trigger the diet mentality, not the setpoint sorry, the idea of a setpoint. So you know, the setpoint theory, the purpose of that is to really give us insight into why intentional weight loss and dieting don’t work. That’s why that theory gets talked about. But what I see happen is that people start to use it as a goal, they start to really just have it as kind of like a new version of a goal weight, they’re like, well, well, I just want to get to my setpoint. Or once I get to my setpoint, then everything will be fine. And it just becomes a goal weight, right? So the only reason why we want that setpoint theory should be brought up is to just validate why intentional weight loss doesn’t work, and to validate why it is possible for you to trust your body. Okay, as lindo bacon says, and Health at Every Size, unfortunately, there’s no magic formula, or laboratory tests to determine your setpoint. Nor is there any objective way to figure out how tightly yours is regulated. So learning that information can either be a huge relief, because you finally realize that you’re not a failure, our entire culture is the failure or it can bring up a lot of emotions, because you realize that you may never achieve a smaller version of yourself. So what I see is problematic is that we sometimes use that setpoint weight as as like a as like a goal weight, you know, and that makes it harder for us to let go of food rules, it makes it harder for us to eat food effortlessly. And it really stalls our ability to accept our body unconditionally. So we have to disconnect from that, like we have to disconnect from any kind of goal weight, any kind of future weight and just come back to the present moment. Because the reality is, we don’t know what’s going to happen to our body, our weight can go up, it can go down, it can stay the same, it’s really complex. And the stress of trying to control or predict that is really detrimental to our emotional well being. It can also sometimes make it feel like we’re doing things wrong if our body is changing differently than what we would expect. You know, I hear some people say like, well, I’m supposed to like hit my setpoint and everything’s supposed to level out and like it’s very individual. And I think it’s really dependent on so many factors and you can’t compare what’s happening in your body to somebody else’s body. So for example, someone who has dieted since they were a child, this may take longer, someone who was on a more severe restriction plan like keto, this may take longer someone who is also going through menopause concurrently. This may take longer and
may look different, like there’s just so many factors that come into play. And I think that it’s really hard because we just want a crystal ball, we want to know how things are gonna turn out. Because then we can be like, well, if I just know, then I can just calm down and settle. But the problem is the futuristic thinking and the catastrophic thinking, what we want to do is stay present and get back to like, what’s actually going on right now in our body? How do you actually feel right now, what’s going on in your body, what’s going on in your life, what’s going on with you, let’s try to work with that, and get the focus away from like what your body might be, because we don’t know you could walk outside and get hit by a car tomorrow, we just do not know. I mean, I hope you don’t, but we don’t know what is going to happen. We have to really kind of surrender. I will say that, like, if you are concerned, if you are feeling really confused, like get help get support, working with someone is so important, you know, get help through it so that you’re not struggling alone. And I think some people feel like they can just kind of like, you know, do this on their own. And some people can and it works out just fine. And some people need support, and so get get the support. That’s, that’s what, that’s what I’m here for. That’s what other people are here for. And I think that that’s really important. And so what I want you to what I want to talk about next is what to focus on instead of getting to your setpoint. So I encourage clients to really drop any kind of expectation of weight loss in order to truly heal their relationship with their body. That seems really scary. And the reason why I do that is more to just kind of like really try to detach from that and process any of the feelings around that process. And the the feelings around kind of letting go of the thin ideal doesn’t mean you’re not going to want it. But to try and grieve and mourn, you know, the body that you had or the body that you wanted to kind of thin fantasy or whatever you want to call it, and feel those feelings to be able to move through them to really be able to then move forward and make space for those feelings. And so it is it is kind of a mourning process or a grieving process. But that’s essential to really letting go and moving forward. And I think what’s so hard about it is sitting with the unknown, but learning to sit with the unknown is really the best way that we can start to start to come back into ourselves and trust our body and trust ourselves. When we move in relying on like other people’s rules, and other people’s guidelines are so detached from like the messages within our own within our own body. And so coming learning to, you know, be able to check in with ourselves, and it helps to kind of sit with the unknown and come back to the present moment. So we want to avoid using the set point as a goal or a destination to arrive at B and have everything fall into place. Is it easier? Yeah. Like I think once your body has kind of been where it’s at for a few months, I will say it is it is easier. But when I’m working with people, you want to try and get away from your what you’re doing right now like your your happiness and your acceptance being conditional on getting to that point because your body could then just change again for who knows what reason, as someone who’s, you know, gone, who has a two and a half year old now. Like my body has changed. It’s done some like up and down, up and down since I had a kid like it went down quite a bit when I first had Dillon and then went up quite a bit and like it just does different things. And so,
you know, it’s it, I think what what it’s taught me is just, and what I what I really tried to preach to others is that we just can’t have our acceptance be conditional on like one particular size, we really have to work on detaching our worth from our body size, and how we look so that we can just be at peace regardless of what our body is doing. And so rather than focusing on that outcome, like leaning at a set point weight, or your body being a certain size, to really focus on continuing to heal your relationship with food and your body and to focus on behaviors versus outcomes. So really tuning into like what do I you know, what feels good for me? What does it look like to honor my hunger? What do I want to eat right now? How do I want to move my body? What what’s going to be, you know, what does my body need, and focusing on those behaviors because that’s what we have control over. And that’s the best thing that we can do for ourselves. And the doing work around body image is really integral to this. It’s integral because we want to learn to accept ourselves unconditionally and to know that our worth and happiness in life doesn’t rely on the size of our body. And so if you’re curious about doing that, definitely check out my Yuan FIRE program you can go to summer innanen.com forward slash you on fire that’s what that program is. It is a complete amazing program on helping you to get to a place where you feel neutral in your body and you just know that your your worth is not determined by your body size, and you can get to a point where you can trust and appreciate your body. I know that feels can feel really hard it can feel impossible but you can you
can get to that place. And you deserve to get to that place. You deserve to treat yourself with kindness and compassion and to trust yourself and to know that you’re on your own side regardless of your body size. And it is worth it to do that, I promise you that. So I hope that this episode has helped to kind of piece those things together for you, to help you assess your relationship with the setpoint theory. And to hopefully break free of using that as any kind of a goal weight or destination that you need to get out. To finally feel free because you don’t, you can get to a point where you feel free regardless of what your body does. Okay, thank you so much for listening. This one you can find all the links and resources mentioned at summer innanen.com forward slash 191 Thank you so much for being here today. Rock on.
I’m Summer Innanen. And I want to thank you for listening today. You can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at summer Innanen. And if you haven’t yet, go to Apple podcasts search eat the rules and subscribe rate and review this show. I would be so grateful. Until next time, rock on
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