“My entire family is overweight, so I can’t help it if I can’t lose weight.”
These kinds of sentences have been voiced by countless people in the past, but new studies are suggesting that genetics simply cannot be blamed for one’s inability to lose weight.
A study led by John Mathers at Newcastle University and published in the BMJ looked at nearly 100 genes that are connected to obesity. While they did find that genes play an important role in how our bodies use calories and store fat, the role of DNA and weight loss is not as large as once believed.
It turns out that obesity-related genes explain nearly 3% of the differences in an individual’s body mass index (BMI). BMI is a measure of weight and height. Among these genes, one in particular appears to have the strongest connection to weight in European-Americans and African-Americans.
The FTO gene, which assists in regulating whether our bodies burn calories for heat or turns them into fat, has been associated with being heavier. But, do those individuals with this gene have a harder time losing weight than those people without the gene?
The surprising answer is no.
Roughly 9,000 individuals with varying genetic makeups were randomly assigned a variety of weight loss methods, including diet, exercise or drug-based therapies. While previous studies found those individuals with the FTO gene were, on average, six to seven pounds heavier, this study found that, when it came to losing weight, the gene had no effect.
“We found no evidence at all that FTO genotype affected weight loss,” says Mathers. “It didn’t affect weight loss when we simply looked at kilograms of weight lost, or BMI or waist circumference; however we looked, the FTO genotype did not seem to matter. We think this is good news — carrying the high risk [form of the gene] makes you more likely to be a bit heavier but it shouldn’t prevent you from losing weight. That should encourage people.”
While the study still doesn’t answer exactly how the FTO gene causes some people to carry around more weight than others, scientists suspect it may have something to do with appetite and a person’s ability to feel full.
But these recent finding should empower people to take control and make the necessary lifestyle changes needed to shed excess weight and get healthy.
Is Patience the Key to Weight Loss?
If there is a patience gene, I don’t think may people are born with it. We live in an instant-gratification society and want what we want NOW.
Many people start eating right and working out, but when after a month they don’t look like something from the cover of a magazine, they quit, and then generally blame their lack of luck in the genetics department.
You’ve heard it said before but it bears repeating: It (most likely) took you more than a month to put on that 10, 20, or 30+ extra pounds, and it’s going to take some time to get it off. Patience, not genetics, is the key to a successful weight loss program.
With that said, there are some things you can do to ensure your weight loss efforts pay off:
Focus on Your Health
Too many people want to lose weight so they can look good in jeans and a tank top – or no top. But making health your primary focus can really help you achieve permanent weight loss.
Getting slim for bathing suit season often results in eating right and exercising for a few months, then going right back to the old way of doing things, primarily eating junk food and sitting down all day.
When you focus on health, you focus on how you feel not look, and this is really important. When, after a month of eating right and exercising, you notice you no longer get out of breath climbing a single flight of stairs, your knee doesn’t hurt, and you sleep better, your much more likely to stick with your new healthy lifestyle.
And when you have your checkup and your doctor tells you your blood pressure has come down and you no longer need to take your medication… yeah, that’s incentive as well.
Learn as Much as You Can About Nutrition
To be healthy, really healthy, you’ve got to arm yourself with solid information about nutrition. This means doing your own research to determine the truth.
The food industry has spent years and millions of dollars on advertising to sell us their version of the truth. But now you need to do some investigation for yourself. Start by reading as many posts on this blog as you can. We are fans of debunking nutrition myths, like eggs are bad for you and trans fats are the same as saturated fats. (Both of these are false.)
Also, start reading labels! Never EVER trust what the front of the box or can tells you. They manufacturers will say anything to get you to buy their products.
Just because something claims to be healthy and all-natural means absolutely nothing. Look at those labels. If high fructose corn syrup is listed, not to mention if it’s the first or second ingredient, put the item back on the shelf and walk away quickly!
Change How You Cope with Stress
When we’re stressed, we tend to make poor lifestyle choices. Suddenly we stop having salads for lunch and head quickly to that fast food restaurant down the street. The glass of water at dinner turns into one or two beers, and the fruit salad turns into a fruit cobbler.
While it’s generally not possible to alleviate all of the stress in your life, you do have control over how you deal with it. You have the option of eating the donut or the hard-boiled eggs for breakfast. You have the choice of whether to take that walk after dinner, or lie down immediately on the sofa. You can meditate or start smoking again. The choice is always ours.
One powerful way to alleviate the effects of stress on the body is through a science-backed mediation technique that has been touted by health experts at Johns Hopkins University, The American Heart Association, and The Harvard Medical School. Not only can this technique help you lose weight, it can also help you lower your blood pressure for good!