How to Differentiate Between Set Points & Settling Points in Weight Control

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Your body regulates its weight via the set/settling point.
Your body regulates its weight via the set/settling point. (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Weight control depends on a variety of factors, including the often-misunderstood set point and settling point, which are based on two opposing theories. Understanding the difference can help you be more successful at losing or maintaining your body weight with diet and exercise. On a larger scale, this insight might help turn the tide of the current obesity epidemic which affected more than one third of adults and 17 percent of children in the United States in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Set your weight loss goals with the purpose of counteracting the set point or settling point, which both function as the body's thermostat for fat cell maintenance. Hunger and metabolism serve as controls to maintain either point. According to Massachusetts General Hospital, the major difference between the two is that the set point is genetically predetermined and constant, while the settling point fluctuates based on environmental factors.

Increase your physical activity and reduce your food intake to lose weight. While this approach certainly lowers the body's settling point, weight loss and fitness expert Lyle McDonald believes that this formula works for everyone no matter how high or low his set point is.

Avoid hitting a plateau during your weight loss efforts by focusing on lowering your settling point even further rather than surrendering to a fixed set point. "Going on a weight-loss diet is an attempt to overpower the set point, and the set point is a seemingly tireless opponent to the dieter," states the Center for Health Promotion and Wellness at MIT Medical.

Keep the weight off by maintaining a low settling point. Even if your biological set point is high, you can manipulate it with consistent exercise and a healthy diet. "It’s becoming abundantly clear that, regardless of set points or settling points or whatever you want to call it, the prevailing environment and individual behaviors can overcome either," concludes McDonald.

Tips & Warnings

  • The most important aspects of any weight management program are always healthy nutrition paired with physical exercise, no matter which theory you choose to believe in.
  • Always consult with your doctor before starting a new diet or exercise program to rule out any underlying health issues.

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