Genetics & Weight: Playing The Hand You’re Dealt

“I eat right and exercise, but I still gain weight!” Does this sound familiar? I talk to many people who struggle with the fact that they eat healthier diets than their friends and work out more too, yet they gain weight while others are able to lose or maintain. They’re right. It just isn’t fair. We’re all dealt a slightly different hand when it comes to our resting metabolic rate and our genetic profile. Many of us carry major or minor genetic changes that make us vulnerable to weight gain when exposed to the right environmental stimuli. We now know that the science of weight loss is far more complex than simply creating a calorie deficit by eating fewer calories than you take in. If 3500 calories = one pound, why does one person gain a pound and another lose a pound when eating and exercising the same amount? Perhaps its the microflora of your gut, perhaps its your exposure to plastics, perhaps its your high stress driving your cortisol levels up, perhaps you don’t get enough sleep, or maybe its your genetic fingerprint that makes you vulnerable to weight gain. All of these things contribute to overweight and obesity.

61% of Americans believe that the obesity epidemic is driven by personal choices we make about our diets and exercise. In other words, overweight people lack willpower. As a society, we harshly judge those who are losing the battle to control their weight. Science tells us that this is wrong.

Genetics may account for 60% of our baseline weight. A study done many years ago looked at the influence of genetics versus environment by studying Danish adoption records. They looked at middle aged adults who were adopted (before one year of age) and compared their BMI (body mass index) to that of both their biological and adoptive parents. If environment (diet, exercise) was the crucial factor, then these middle aged adults would have had a BMI more similar to their adoptive parents, but that wasn’t the case. Instead, these subjects mirrored their biological parents when it came to BMI. In fact, 80% of those with two obese biological parents were obese and only 14% of those with normal weight biological parents were obese. Twin studies confirm the finding that obesity is highly influenced by genetics. The data shows that identical twins typically have the same weight, whether they are raised together or apart.

Here’s the good news. While genetics does impact your weight, it is not your final destiny. You still have the ability to manage your environment to control your weight. True, its easier for some than others, but it is extremely rare to have the type of genetic make up that makes weight loss impossible. Think of your genetics as the lock and the environment as the key that unlocks obesity. You don’t have to turn that key. Through a healthy diet, an active lifestyle, behavioral and environmental changes, you can reach your healthy weight.

Thanks for listening and I wish you the best of health!

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Categories: Exercise, Genetics, Nutrition and Diet, Obesity and Overweight, Weight Management, Diet, Exercise

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