Weight Loss - Can a Good Lifestyle Overcome Bad Genetics?
If you take a look at anyone's baby pictures, you'll see they inherited more than just facial features, hair color, and height. In many families, gaining weight and your body shape seem to be handed down just as easily.
"My whole family is big, so I am too."
If you're in a family where everyone seems to be gaining weight or encountering issues from being overweight, that doesn't mean you can't do anything about it.
Our genes play a part in terms of our weight and obesity, especially abdominal fat. But it isn't the only factor that comes into play in order to gain or lose weight.
Related - How to Lose Belly Fat
A common saying in the medical field is “genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger,” according to Dr. Scott Kahan, co-director of the George Washington University Weight Management Program.
Scott mentions, "just because we have genes that may make us more susceptible to weight gain, that doesn't mean we just gain the weight. But he also notes that it could mean you may have to work a little harder than someone who doesn't have those genetic markers."
So there are things we can control, and things we cannot control.
Here's What You Can't Control
According to studies, genes can often determine where you store fat. For example, you may put on fat in your belly instead of your thighs.
Along with where your body stores fat, things like fat-cell development, glucose control, appetite regulation, and insulin resistance are all genes that may have been passed on to you. Other studies suggest that your exercise endurance may also be influenced genetically. So if you just don't like long-distance runs, your DNA could be part of the reason.
When it comes to things you can't control, like our overall body shape, we should still make peace with carrying these genes. If you see you have a strong genetic disposition to weight gain, it doesn't mean you can't build muscle and reduce overall body fat.
Going Beyond Genetics
If your whole family is out of shape and have a predisposition to weight gain, that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do.
It's a popular saying in the medical industry that "genes load the gun, the environment pulls the trigger." Meaning that you may have genes to predisposition you to gain weight, but your nutrition and lifestyle decisions are what "pull the trigger" on your genes.
Dr. Elizabeth Speliotes, MPH, and a specialist in gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital notes that about half of our predisposition to weight gain is genetic. That means the other half is not — calorie intake and physical activity throughout the day can make a huge difference.
While you may be more genetically susceptible to storing fat, true obesity could be running in your family for non-genetic reasons. Things like inadequate physical exercise, poor eating habits, or emotional trauma that may contribute to overeating.
Genetics can seem like a major contributor to your body composition, especially if you have multiple family members who are. Instead, take a look at the shared environment and similar habits they all posses.
Do they exercise at all? Do they eat highly-processed foods?
A little effort can go a long way.
Wrapping It Up
Research on obesity and genes are still emerging, and there are hopes that they can give us more insight about tailoring a weight-loss program based on your genetics.
That would be amazing.
But the main thing you need to keep in mind is that your family history and DNA won't determine your outcome. Your overall shape and how easily you gain weight come from your genes, but you have to make the choice to eat nutritious foods and get up to move a little.
Four Weight-Loss Tips to Start Today
Journal Your Food - Writing down what you have eaten gives you accountability and an ability to track your intake. It gives you something to look back on and see what foods help you, and what foods hurt you.
Go for a Walk - It doesn't have to be long or far, but getting up and moving throughout the day increases blood flow and burns a few calories while you're at it. Walking, coupled with a diet full of nutritious foods, will help you lose weight and keep it off.
Lift Weights - Going to the gym to get your sweat on is fun. Taking the time for some resistance training increases your metabolism, improves your strength, and will help you shed excess fat.
Shop the Perimeter - Most grocery stores place their produce and other fresh foods along the perimeter of the store. I'd invite you to spend most of your money in this section instead of processed foods.
You can't change your genes, but you can change your habits, and that makes a huge difference.
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