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Intuitive Eating: What Is Your Bodyweight Set Point?

Set point theory for weight loss: Intuitive eating and your brain’s role in fat loss

On today’s episode, I’m covering intuitive eating, and a topic called the set point theory, in particular, what is your bodyweight set point.

I first heard about the set point theory while watching a Ted Talk called, “Why dieting doesn’t usually work” from neuroscientist, Sandra Aamodt.

After watching the presentation, it really hit home as a lot of this relates to the principles of Living Lean, including intuitive eating.

So in this episode, I want to summarize the content from the Ted Talk, and speak to how it relates to you on your Live Lean journey.

But first, tell me in the comments below if this sounds familiar to you:

  • You go on a diet.
  • You lose weight.
  • Then you gain the weight back, and in many cases, more weight.
  • You then blame yourself, you give up, and your relationship with food worsens.

If you answered yes, to any of those points, this video is for you.

Secondly, if you’ve recently gained 10-20 pounds of fat, this video is especially important for you.

Let’s get into it.

What is the set point theory?

The brain controls many bodily functions and actions.

Researchers are finding your brain can keep you within a certain weight range, based on what it thinks you should weigh.

This is based on the set point theory.

The set point theory states that a part of the brain, called the hypothalamus, regulates your body to maintain a specific weight range based on what it thinks you should weigh.

This set point weight range is usually within 10-15 pounds.

So the lifestyle choices you make, including your nutrition and activity level, can help you lose or gain weight, within that set point range.

However, it’s very difficult to maintain a weight, outside of that set point range.

Your brain is acts like a thermostat

In the Ted Talk, the presenter compared your brain to a thermostat in your house.

The thermostat works to maintain the same temperature in your house, even when the temperature outside goes up or down.

So when you open a window in the summer, the thermostat regulates the temperature, by turning the air conditioning higher, to bring the temperature back to the set point.

Your brain does the same thing to adjust your activity, hunger, and metabolism, to keep your weight within the set point range.

Why losing weight fast will fail you

Attempting to lose weight fast will surely set you up to gain all the weight back again.

This is why so many dieters who have lost a lot of weight, gain it all back, and in many cases gain more weight.

When you excessively restrict calories and over exercise your body, your brain receives signals that you’re starving.

Going back to our ancestors, our bodies were designed to store fat for survival during times of famine.

This is why excessive calorie restriction and over training your body is never the best approach to sustainable weight loss.

When you’re body goes into starvation mode, your hunger increases, while your body burns less calories, due to a slower metabolism.

So not only is your hunger elevated, but to maintain your lower weight, due to a slower metabolism, you’d need to eat less food than someone who is the same weight as you.

According to the Ted Talk, even when you keep the weight off for 7 years, you brain keeps trying to put it back on.

This is because set points go up, but it’s rare for them to go down.

How you can increase your bodyweight set point weight range

Even though you may not be obese, if you recently gained 10-20 pounds of fat, it’s very important to take action now to lose weight, and prevent further weight gain.

This short-term 10-20 pound weight gain can be enough for your brain to create a new and higher set point.

When you maintain this “short-term weight gain” for a few years, your brain can make the decision that this your new normal set point.

Also, if you are already lean, due to this potential increase in your bodyweight set point, it’s super important for you to sustain your healthy lifestyle to prevent weight gain.

If more people focused on preventing weight gain versus reacting by losing weight, the set point theory wouldn’t be as big of an issue.

Here’s how the set point theory relates to Living Lean

Even though it may seem like we’re talking to people who need to lose weight, I take a lot of pride in spreading my message to the people who are in maintenance mode.

If this is you, it’s just as important for you to continue to follow the Live Lean lifestyle habits, so that you don’t have to worry about battling with the risk of increasing your set point weight range.


Most people sum up weight loss according to two factors:

  1. How much energy your consume via food
  2. How much energy you burn via activity

If this is out of balance, you either gain weight or lose weight.

I always argue that if it was just that simple, the world would be a much leaner place.

Your brain, metabolism, and hormones have a bigger role in weight loss, and more importantly, sustainable weight loss, than most people give it credit for.

Your metabolism and hormones like leptin, ghrelin, insulin, and cortisol, all control how hungry you are, how much energy you burn, and how likely you’ll regain weight after losing it.

So with all this said, here are your key takeaways.

Key points:

  • Change your mindset towards food by giving up “dieting”.
  • Stop obsessing over food and your weight on the scale.
  • Learn the value of food and how to work with your appetite, not against it.
  • Understand, it’s ok to eat when you’re hungry, but realize most people overeat.
  • Learn to eat mindfully by becoming more aware of when you’re truly hungry and when you’re full.
  • Don’t measure your health based on the wrong scale. Your weight is not the best overall indicator of how healthy you are. A person that weighs more than a skinny person can still be healthier based on their lifestyle choices.

What is intuitive eating?

Intuitive eating, or mindful eating, is when you eat when your body is hungry and you stop eating when your body is satisfied.

Simply eat as much as you need to satisfy your body’s needs, then stop when those needs have been satisfied.

Intuitive eating vs. dieting

In the Ted Talk, the presenter mentioned intuitive eaters are less likely to be overweight, are more relaxed, and spend less time thinking about food when compared to dieters.

Also dieters are more susceptible to binges and eating disorders, as they can allow a small cheat meal to turn into a food binge.

This is because dieting can quickly drain the limited amount of willpower most people have.

In a sense, Living Lean is more about intuitive eating rather than dieting.

But this intuitive eating approach is not going to work overnight.

It can take years to figure it out.

Intuitive eating tips:

  • Sit down at the kitchen table when you’re eating and be mindful as you eat.
  • Eat until you’re full, then get up from the table, and stop eating (store the rest of the food as leftovers).
  • No TV or cell phones. Focus on chewing and enjoying the food.

As I mentioned, Jessica and I don’t count calories anymore as we now understand the nutritional content of food, and are more mindful to what our body’s need to recover, repair, and grow.

But we did count calories in the beginning as it gave us a practical, real life education in the nutritional breakdown of food.

So if you need to lose weight, it’s I found it immensely important to be aware of calories and macronutrients, but realize counting calories is meant as a short term education, not a life long application.

Once you get a good understanding of these basic nutrition concepts, you will lose the excess weight and then the intuitive eating becomes so much easier for you to maintain a healthy set point weight range.

Although I’m not aware of a scientific way to calculate your set point weight range.

A good indicator that you’ve arrived at your set point weight range is when you feel energetic, vibrant, and alive based on the food you’re eating and your activity level.

That’s when you know you’re Living Lean.

Live Lean Way: 28 day video nutrition course

These are all the nutrition mindset strategies that you’ll learn in Jessica’s 28 Day Live Lean Way video nutrition course.

Open enrollment for the course closes on June 5 and we don’t know when we’ll open it up again.

So if you’re ready to change your mindset towards your nutrition and Live Lean with other students just like you, click the link in the video description below and enroll today!

Thanks for watching and keep Living Lean.

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