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Genetics or Lifestyle: What's the Cause of Being Overweight?

Fitday Editor

Many people realize and understand that their family history and genetics plays a role in their health and life when it comes to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, alcoholism and other diseases. No doubt, these problems tend to run in families. However lifestyle, nutrition and environmental factors play a role as well. Genetics affects the chemical functions in our bodies including hormones, body fat composition and metabolism that affect our weight.

However, the effect our genes have on whether we gain weight easily or not is difficult to determine and a finger can't be pointed at one specific thing. For example, the lifestyle choices we make every day, including exercise and healthy food choices, definitely affects our weight and general health. If a child is raised by two overweight parents, the chances of this child being overweight in adulthood is often due more to their eating habits and lifestyle than solely their genes.

We have to ask ourselves to what extent genetics predisposes us to weight gain for a future of being overweight? The good news is we don't have to be a slave to our genes. Living a sedentary lifestyle is something that puts all of us at risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, health problems and weight gain, no matter what our genetic background. A physically active lifestyle can reduce these risk factors significantly for a healthy future.

In other words, a predisposition for weight gain or obesity does not mean a life sentence of poor health. It simply means we have to be vigilant in making healthy food choices and scheduling exercise every single day that can improve and maintain our health. We should not assume that our genetic make-up dictates whether we are slim or healthy. We may not be born with a perfect body, but we can find ways to improve our daily behaviors and make adjustments that really do make a difference in our health and weight loss efforts.

Think about all the things we do to change how we look. Getting our hair colored, wearing contact lenses with different colors, buying the right clothes that make us look slim. An exercise or weight loss plan that worked for our best friend may not work for us but we can find something that does work.

Don't give up! If you were dealt a genetically bad hand that you think is impossible to overcome, do not give up. There is a program for weight loss that fits your specific needs that will help you lose and maintain your weight. Journaling through is the first step to learning where and when you need to make changes or adjustments. Creating a smart strategy for winning the weight-loss game can be accomplished, regardless of whether or not your results look the same as your best friend or spouse. Understanding the cards we are holding can ease the frustration for us by setting some realistic expectations and making some healthy decisions that make a difference.

Here are some tips that really make a difference:

1. Take the time to journal what you eat per day - to quote Dr. Phil, "You can't change what you don't acknowledge." The littlest changes really do make the biggest difference when it comes to weight loss.

2. Schedule exercise - find something you enjoy doing every single day whether it is a simple activity like taking a walk, heading to the gym for a P90X class, or trying Power Yoga or Pilates.

3. Think protein and fiber at every meal every 3-4 hours. This will keep you full and stabilize blood sugar levels, eliminating cravings in the process.

Sherry L. Granader is a Sports Nutritionist, National Speaker and Spokesperson, Author of 2 healthy cookbooks, Writer, Ghost Writer, Nationally Certified Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. She has shared the stage with such celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg, Suze Orman and the late Governor Ann Richards and served as the On-Air Nutritionist for QVC television in the United States and the UK. She has cooked for her favorite bodybuilder, Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and his family, shared her nutrition expertise with Chuck Norris on the set of his movie "Sidekicks" and appeared on 8-time Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney's Championship Workouts on ESPN. Sherry hosted her own "Healthy Living" show on PBS for several years. For more information on Sherry, visit or write to Sherry at

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