Set Weight Range

Some scientists say we all have a set weight range, a range of body mass (and more precisely, fat amount) we are most comfortable having. The number 10% keeps coming up when I read about it. So if you gain or lose more than 10% of your set point weight, your metabolism will fight back, making it harder and harder to progress in that direction. Here are some studies about this:

1.Genetic factors apprear to account for about 40 to 70 per cent of the variation in BMI among women and among men:

Maes, H. H. M., Neale, M. C., & Eaves, L. J. (1997). Genetic and environmental factors in relative body weight and human adiposity. Behavior Genetics, 27, 325-351.

2.The set point is a biologically determines standard around which fat mass is regulated:

Powley, T. L., & Keesey, R. E. (1970). Relationship of body weight to the lateral hypothalamic feeding syndrome. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 70, 25-36.

However, there is also evidence that this set weight range is not destiny. It’s very hard to believe in that, in light of the fact that modern Americans are really fat compared to their grandparents, whose genes aren’t significantly different. If they had a fixed weight range, wouldn’t they have a hard time staying so fat? I think their set weight range must have shifted upwards because of their long-term commitment to weight gaining. There are also comparisons between genetically similar people who live in different countries:

3.Prevalence of both obesity and type 2 diabetes is a result of environmental factors and are therefore largely preventable:

Esparsa, J., Fox, C., Harper I. T., et al. (2000). Daily expenditure in Mexican and USA Pima Indians: Low physical activity as a possible cause of obesity. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 69-80.

Schulz, L. O., Bennett, P. H., Ravussin, E., et al. (2006). Effects of traditional and Western environments on prevalence of type 2 diabetes in Pima Indians in Mexico and the U.S. Diabetes Care, 29, 1866-1871.


My experience partially fits both the set weight range view of things. There was a time when I gained weight, only to feel a decrease in appetite and lose it all again. It happened because I was too lazy and undisciplined about eating enough. Will this time be the same? I think not, because:
1.I gained a lot more self-discipline through training self-discipline.

2.I’m less tolerant of the feeling of hunger now. Not sure how this is explained, but I feel compelled to eat something when my stomach feels empty now. It’s an unpleasant feeling.

What do you think of set weight range? Have it defeated your attempts to change your weight? Have you defeated it?

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One Response to Set Weight Range

  1. Liz says:

    Hm. My experiences pretty much confirm that 10 percent weight range theory.

    The weirdest thing was pregnancy. I didn’t really eat that much more, but gained weight pretty steadily, and when I reached the 33 pound mark I stayed there. Also, I lost the first 25 or so pounds like, overnight but that last 7-8 pounds I couldn’t lose until I stopped breastfeeding. And then, again, the loss was basically overnight.

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