Studies indicate that genetics may be responsible for at least 50 percent of your weight gain, with environment and lifestyle factors accounting for the other half. Much of the scientific evidence is based on studies of both the resemblance and differences among family members, twins and adoptees, leading scientists to believe that genetics may be responsible for your metabolic rate, calorie requirements, fat storage and fat distribution. Take a look at your family members, both close and extended, and you will likely get a good picture of your own genetic predispositions. You are not completely absolved of all responsibility for your weight, however, even if genetics are a factor.
While our genes regulate how our bodies capture, store and release energy from food, this may not be a recent origin. When food was plentiful, our ancestors were blessed with the genetic tendency to store fat efficiently, allowing them to call on those fat stores in less plentiful times and enable them to survive. This is known as the “thrifty gene theory.” We still have those thrifty genes today, even though the likelihood of our enduring starvation is minimal at best. A more specific gene, known as the “fat mass and obesity gene,” has been definitively linked to obesity in at least one out of five overweight people. This gene has a direct bearing on both your metabolism and how your body controls what you eat. Additionally, your genetics may be responsible for your increased tendency to store body fat, and your tendency to be inactive. You may also suffer from abnormal amounts of fat in your liver.
Don’t forget that you are still in control of factors such as diet and exercise. It is vitally important that you make every effort to incorporate fresh, wholesome foods into your daily diet. While fast food and huge quantities of sugar have become the norm in American diets, the effect on our bodies go far beyond obesity.
Our world provides us with an astonishing array of available foods, practically every direction we look. It also lends itself to a sedentary lifestyle, giving a pretty solid case for environmental factors leading to obesity. The changes in our environment include the increased availability of great-tasting energy dense food, and a reduced requirement for physical exercise, both at work and at home. Most of our ancestors were required to do physical work, just to be able to eat. This is just not the case today for the majority of us. Even so, not all people who live in an industrial nation such as ours will become obese, leading us back to genetics.
The bottom line is that while you can’t change your genes, you can change your behavior, and should not immediately assume that you are destined to be overweight your entire life. A loss of as little as 10 percent of your total body weight can result in significant, positive effects to your health, even if you are still far from your “ideal” weight. Adding regular physical activity to your life can also lower your blood pressure and increase your fitness level and feelings of well-being.