So you’ve been working out hard, for months. And you haven’t let one “bad” food past your lips. But you aren’t shedding the weight. Not as fast as you’d hoped. And now you’re watching your dad gardening. And he’s a little pudgy. And it occurs to you, your weight – and the way you just can’t seem to shift it – is written into your genes… Is your genetics sabotaging your weight loss? Do your genes control your cravings on a cellular level?
Yes – your genes may be responsible for your weight…
Scientists have discovered that there are mutations in genetics and also specific genes that play a role in our weight gain and could be responsible for obesity in families. For example, there’s a genetic mutation that runs in families that prevents fat loss. When members of these families are paired against members of other families that lack this mutation in an environment where their diet and exercise is controlled, the family with the mutation don’t burn fat at the same rate as the other family.
There are also specific genes that have been found to increase fatty food cravings, like one called Ghrelin (which is prevalent in people who are sleep deprived, by the way).
And then there’s Leptin, which is produced by your body’s fat cells. When your Leptin level falls below a specific and individual level, your body programmes you to want more food. If you’re healthy, then you stop craving food (or crave less food) when your Leptin levels reach a certain threshold. But if you’re leptin resistant, you’ll keep eating high-calorie foods, even when your Leptin levels have exceeded that threshold.
But you’re responsible for your weight too
But in spite of these findings, scientists insist that individuals can change their behaviour to take control of their weight.
You could come from a family that has one of the genetic mutations we talked about earlier. But you could be strict about eating the right foods, in the right quantities, and getting sufficient exercise to control weight gain. And in so doing, you won’t fall victim to your genetics.
Don’t get overweight in the first place
There’s also new research emerging, which points to the fact that once you’ve gained too much weight, losing it gets tougher and tougher. Scientists are finding that once you have to lose a lot of weight, keeping that weight off means you have to eat even less and exercise even more to maintain the lower weight, than someone who didn’t gain as much weight as you (but is the same height and age and gender as you).
These scientists have found that your body (your metabolism, and the hunger mechanisms of your body) want to return to that heavier physique, which means you have to work harder at your diet and exercise routine, to avoid that boomerang.
Essentially, if you want to look good in your favourite pair of jeans or that bikini, then you can’t simply hope to lose 5kg a few weeks before beach season. You have to pursue a healthy lifestyle. And you know what that means: Avoiding high-calorie foods, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, etc. You have to motivate yourself constantly to avoid weight gain.
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