Some set point weight theory reflections.
I’m a little late getting this post up! My plan was to get up early to finish it, but the kids had other ideas on how this morning would go haha. First things first, I was on the Look Ma’, No Hands podcast. It’s the first podcast I’ve done in about 2 years! If you listen, I hope you enjoy it.
Today I wanted to share some thoughts I’ve had on set point weight over the last few years. If you’re unfamiliar, set point weight theory proposes that our body has a size range (not one specific number) it wants to be at and it will fight to keep us there.
Some use body size as a way to achieve inner stability.
For an individual struggling with an eating disorder, the mechanism for how you achieve inner stability and peace is through food, exercise and body size manipulation. Many who end up developing EDs have a good deal of free floating anxiety that feels like it can be contained if it’s channeled towards food, exercise and body size preoccupation. The issue here is the harm that happens to one’s self when inner stability is achieved via something rooted in deprivation, self-loathing, and pain. Attempting to find your set point without addressing the root reasons why striving for thinness is, at the present time, necessary for you to be okay, can be an extremely terrifying thing.
Having our body be a certain size or being in pursuit of a certain size offers up some level of order and approval to one’s life, but it’s a false refuge. Finding your set point is hard because it’s frustrating that a craving for certainty around what size your body will end up can’t be satisfied. Ultimately, I believe there is a size our bodies want to be and it will fight to keep us their, but throughout life bodies change, if not in weight then for sure in body composition when aging.
Which brings me to a questions I get asked a lot, does one’s set point increase after pregnancy/menopause?
In my experience, after pregnancy my set point increased. I haven’t weighed myself in a bit and don’t need to to be well, but the clothes that fit a year after I had Jo have been donated or poshmark-ed because I outgrew them. A dive into the research didn’t really seem to reveal a yes or a no on this. The research here is tricky because most studies aren’t limited to just women who are intuitive eaters, but all women of which I imagine many are weight cycling. Weight cycling alone is something that likely increases one’s set point (Robyn’s course discusses this). As for menopause, the menopausal transition leads to “changes in body fat distribution and body composition” possibly due to the change in the hormonal milieu that occurs at this time period.
Another thing I often hear, “I’m not okay with my set point.”
On a recent Cup of Jo post, Anjali Pinto discussed beauty and body acceptance since losing her husband and she put it so beautifully with, “it ebbs and flows, but having the reality check that health is not a guarantee and to be grateful for what your body is capable of — that has allowed me to view my own fat as a gift. I get to enjoy food and enjoy life. I’ve been chubby since I hit puberty and if I don’t accept it I’m going to die hating my body, and I don’t want to be in that position.” Finding ways to be respectful of and grateful for your body is important.
Finding art or bodies with fat on them that you find beautiful and can help you work towards finding beauty in your own body size is important (the below print from etsy is one I’ve been eyeing for the girl’s bathroom). I recommend this because it’s hard to take care of something you don’t appreciate. This isn’t easy, but if the body size you end up at when you are pursuing health promoting behaviors doesn’t match your view of health, a deeper dive into why when you are doing healthy things the body size you end up at is one you don’t approve of can be useful in finding peace with what your body is made to be.
What’s the point of finding your set point?
I enjoyed reading your comments on your experience with set point weight theory in this post. For me, since finding my set point weight, my body image concerns are lowered significantly. I don’t feel distressed about being in my body most days, because I like and am proud of the way I care for myself and the body size I end up when I do that is what it is. The reality of it is sometimes it’s hard to be in a body that has fat on it. Sometimes I don’t like everything about it, but I would still choose the weight gain that has come with intuitive eating every single day. To be fully free around food and exercise. To get to step away from how complicated, preoccupying, and effortful food and exercise was before. To have my view of health expanded from simply the food I eat or how I move to things that are so much more significant and in line with my values. To have more grace and acceptance of myself as I was created to be. All worth it.