Why Your Weight Rebounds Back Up after You Lose It.

Tired of slimming down only to rebound swiftly to your previous body fat level?

If so, don’t throw in the towel!

You’re not genetically doomed, nor did you damage your metabolic rate with your previous fat loss efforts.

Instead, it is your body fat set point that is playing tricks on your figure.

So, in this article, you’ll learn exactly what a body fat set point is. Plus, you’ll discover how to “hack” your body fat set point so you can finally lose the weight and keep it off. Let’s do this!

What is a Body Fat Set Point?

This is the percentage at which your body fat levels tend to stabilise.

You can compare it to a thermostat. Let’s say you set it to keep your room at 18 °C. When the temperature goes above that, the air conditioning starts working. But when the temperature goes below 18 °C, the heat switches on.

Your body functions in a similar way. When your body fat drops below your set point, your metabolic rate lowers, activity levels decrease, and hunger increases. 

On the other hand, if your body fat percentage increases, your metabolic rate rises, you become more active and feel less hungry.

Both mechanisms function to keep your body fat percentage at a stable level.

This set point is why most people revert to their previous weight after slimming down [1].

Why Do We Have a Body Fat Set Point?

In our modern societies, getting your next meal requires as little as driving to the local fast-food restaurant. However, this was not the case during our hunter-gatherer times. 

Over the course of our evolution, food was readily available at one moment and then, all of a sudden, access to food was scarce, sometimes for a long period.

As a result, our bodies have developed a robust feedback control system. It was created with one purpose in mind: to keep us alive.

After all, if body fat levels dropped too low during those hunter-gatherer days, people were likely to die during a famine.

On the other hand, if they became too heavy, they grew slower and less agile, thus turning into an easy prey for sharp-toothed predators.

Basically, this body fat regulation system has been beneficial during our evolution.

But Here’s The Problem

We don’t live as hunter-gatherers anymore.

Instead, our world has an abundance of high-calorie food and sedentary, stressful lifestyles.

And while your body can balance a temporary increase in food consumption, an overload of calories on a regular basis will lead to fat gain.

This is because the regulation of our body weight is asymmetric [1] 

While our bodies work hard to prevent fat levels from dropping, they don’t defend themselves nearly as well against weight gain.

That’s why most people have a hard time dropping even a slight amount of weight while gaining it requires no effort at all.

It’s also why more than 63% of Australian adults are either overweight or obese [2]. And similar percentages are found in nearly every other developed country. 

What Determines Your Body Fat Set Point?

If you carry extra weight, then you’re in for some good news.

Your body fat set point doesn’t mean you’re cursed to spend the rest of your life in a chubby body.

In a minute you’ll learn how to fool your body fat set point, but before we get there, let’s look at the four factors that determine your body fat set point. 

The first one is genetics. Some people are less prone to gaining weight while others have to work harder to maintain a lean body.

You have to play with the cards you’re dealt. 

Fortunately, the genetic factor isn’t that influential [1]. This means you can’t use your genes as an excuse!

Secondly, your hormones influence your body set point. 

While there are numerous hormones involved, the most important one is leptin.

Leptin – often called the “obesity hormone” or the “fat hormone” – has a significant influence on hunger and body fat levels [3].

Leptin works by signalling to your brain how much body fat is available and informing it about changes in fat mass.

When your body fat levels decrease, leptin drops too. This, in turn, tells your brain to increase food consumption.

That’s why the more fat you lose, the more likely you are to experience cravings.

Other hormones of importance include cortisol, testosterone, human growth hormone, and IGF-1.

Your diet is the third factor – what you eat on a day-to-day basis is the primary influencer of your body fat set point.

After all, changes to the number on your scale eventually come down to one thing: energy balance [4-6].

You will gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn. You will lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn.

Fourth is exercising. The amount of physical activity you do has an enormous influence on your body weight set point [7].

Those who are physically active burn more calories and thus generally have a lower body fat set point [8].

How to Change Your Body Fat Set Point

By now, you know why we evolved to have a body fat set point and what factors influence it.

Great. But now you’re probably wondering, “How can I change my body fat set point and maintain a lean figure all year round?”

Well, there are three crucial steps to shape and maintain a lean body that gives you confidence wherever you go.

Step 1. Lose the Fat

Your first step to changing your body fat set point is getting rid of the excess kilos. 

This means you should track your calorie intake and maintain a negative energy balance.

A deficit of around 300 to 500 calories per day will get you losing fat fast while minimising muscle loss.

There are various apps that make it easier to track your energy intake. Two good ones are MyFitnessPal and Cronometer.

Important point: you might have to adjust your calorie intake over the course of your weight loss journey.

The reason is that, as discussed before, your metabolic rate might alter if you’ve been dieting for a while [9]. 

That’s why it is crucial to tweak your calorie intake based on your progress. So here’s what to do:

Every morning, step on the scale and write down the number. Do this before breakfast but after you’ve been to the toilet (if you have to).

At the end of the week, add the numbers up and divide the total by seven. This gives you a weekly average. 

If there is no decrease in body weight for three weeks in a row, or if it’s below a meaningful ideal rate, drop your daily energy intake by 200 calories.

A meaningful ideal rate we consider a 0.5%-1.0% loss of body weight per week [9]. 

So, if you weigh 70 kilos, you should lose between 0.35 and 0.7 kilos per week.

Step 2. Maintain the Weight

Once you’ve lost the fat, it is crucial that you don’t rebound. 

The longer you maintain your new body fat levels, the more your body gets used to your new weight.

Basically, this new body fat level slowly but surely become your new standard body fat set point.

To maintain your newly obtained body fat levels, eat at calorie maintenance. 

This means you consume the same number of calories as you burn each day.

Step 3. Gain Muscle

One of the best ways to improve your body fat set point is by gaining muscle.


Because muscle mass is a major determinant of your metabolic rate [10]. If you carry more muscle mass, you burn more calories.

This means it is easier to stay within your daily calorie target and thus to maintain a lean body.

So, if you aren’t already, follow a proper strength training plan. 

Focus mainly on compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, presses, rows, and weighted carries. And do most of your sets in a moderate rep range (6-12 reps) with moderate rest intervals (60-180 seconds). 

The Bottom Line on Your Body Fat Set Point

Evolution has created a robust system to prevent our fat stores from getting too low or too high.

However, this system doesn’t fit our modern lifestyle – one with unlimited access to high-calorie foods and lack of physical activity.

Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you’re stuck with a round figure for the rest of your life.

You absolutely can obtain and maintain a body that makes you proud when you look in the mirror.

And by now, you know exactly what it takes to lose the fat and keep it off. Good luck on your fat loss journey!


1. Muller, M. J., Bosy-Westphal, A., & Heymsfield, S. B. (2010). Is there evidence for a set point that regulates human body weight? F1000 Medicine Reports, 9(2), 59.

2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2016. Australia’s health 2016. Australia’s health series no. 15. Cat. no. AUS 199. Canberra: AIHW

3. Klok, M. D., Jakobsdottir, S., & Drent, M. L. (2007). The role of leptin and ghrelin in the regulation of food intake and body weight in humans: a review. Obesity Reviews, 8(1), 21-34.

4. Golay, A., Allaz, A. F., Morel, Y., Tonnac, N. D., Tankova, S., & Reaven, G. (1996). Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 63(2), 174-8.

5. Leibel, R. L., Hirsch, J., Appel, B. E., & Checani, G. C. (1992). Energy intake required to maintain body weight is not affected by wide variation in diet composition. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 55(2), 350-5.

6. Strasser, B., Spreitzer, A., & Haber, P. (2007). Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Annals of Nutritional Metabolism, 51(5), 428-32.

7. Westerterp, K. R. (2010). Physical activity, food intake, and body weight regulation: insights from doubly labeled water studies. Nutrition Reviews, 68(3), 148-54.

8. Tappy, L., Binnert, C., & Schneiter, P. (2003). Energy expenditure, physical activity and body-weight control. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 62(3), 663-6.

9. Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Flitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12, 11-20.

10. Zurlo, F., Larson, K., Bogardus, C., & Ravussin, E. (1990). Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 86(5), 1423-7.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *