How you can change your DNA to lose weight

“You cannot change your destination overnight, but overnight you can change your destination”
-Jim Rohn


Do you look like your family? Do they have the same health concerns? Well to some extent you can blame mom and/or dad for those cravings, body shape, difficulty in losing weight, etc. At conception, we receive either a X or Y chromosome from the father, and a X from the mother to determine if we are male or female, respectively. Each person donates an additional 22 chromosomes of information. Chromosomes are lined up next to each other in pairs, with a plethora of information on each strand. Through a series of processes, bonds and deletions, we find out throughout or lives the final answer, aka our own genetic blueprint. That’s our genotype. Our phenotype, how we look, is based on genetics and environment. Fun fact: while not quite understood, we have the least amount of genetic variation from each other, but the greatest phenotypic variation. Genetics (our blueprint; foundation of a house) make up about 5-10% of our health destiny-which means it’s up to us to determine how to further structure the house and what to put inside.

In other words, blame only goes so far. Ultimately it’s our body and we can work with the foundation we have in order to achieve a desired outcome. But I didn’t say it will be easy. Genetics helps explain why someone can scarf down a whole tray of food and not gain a pound, and another person has to carefully watch what they eat. Or why you may feel hungry all the time, or never satiated, so that next piece of broccoli feels like punishment? And when food is consumed it goes right to a certain place (and of course never where we want it). FTO was the first obesity risk gene identified, and can literally contribute to increased appetite (due to higher levels of ghrelin, hunger hormone), and desire for sugar/carbs and fat. A mutation may also affect it’s change from fat-burning beige cells into fat-holding white cells.

Other genes include ADRB2, which affects how we respond to carbohydrates and exercise, FABP2, which affects how fat is stored and mobilized throughout the body, MC4R, which is in the hypothalamus (structure in our brain that also controls many other hormones and functions) and impairment means have an increased appetite as we don’t respond to sugar/carbs (decreased insulin response; insulin takes sugar into the cells for energy) too well and therefore think we’re still hungry. There’s many other genes that affect how hormones and other signals involved in eating and how fat is metabolized, but not all will be significant enough to make a difference in reference to spot treating- or we’d be looking at thousands of treatments as we can have over 40,000 different variations where our genes don’t function at 100% capacity. And that’s totally fine!! As mentioned above, it’s a piece of the pie (no pun intended) as to our fate- we get to make those decisions to work either with, or against, our genetics.

Good news- we can narrow down what you can start doing right now, regardless of what your genes may express:

  • Vigorous exercise- Studies have shown that exercises which leave you breathless, and sweating, where exertion is more 8+ on a scale of 1-10 (10= most), and you’re probably burning over 600 calories, your genes will be happy and be ever in your favor! If you’re not used to exercising, consider working with a trainer, or taking time to work up to this pace. Exercise also makes it easier for our cells to take in energy (aka reduced cravings and blood sugar issues), and can make us happy (calms us down-> reduced cortisol-> reduced belly fat).

  • Bed by 10:30/11pm- Many of our hormones involved in weight get regenerated and renewed overnight, including leptin, the hormone that tells our body we are full. Ever notice if you feel hungry when you shouldn’t? Think back to your sleep pattern the prior night, or the past few nights. Leptin is made in the wee hours of the morning and thought to suppress our hunger at night. Aim for about 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Your extra benefit includes optimal production of hormones involved in weight loss like testosterone and thyroid.

  • Drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water- We get the same signal for thirst and hunger, which can be confusing as we inhale meal instead of inhaling half a liter of water. Have a 16 ounce glass of water on your nightstand to have right when you get up, and again after meals, so by the time you’re going to sleep you can minimize intake (and reduce risk of waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. Water helps expand our stomach to tell us we’re full, quieting those signals. Added benefits of water include more energy- now you can start working on incorporating vigorous exercise into your life!

Our foundations of health, including a healthful diet, good sleep, stress management, and healthful lifestyle are paramount to minimizing our not-so-desired genetic destiny. Fortunately, there are ways to test these genes to further hone in on what lifestyle changes may be best for you, and then work to factor it in to your life. It’s also important to use all this information and listen to your body (i.e. why some react to certain foods and others don’t) because at the end of the day no one knows us better than ourself. If you’d like to learn more, or even just have some questions, I’m more than happy to chat HERE!