If you have a family history of obesity, you don't have to sit back and accept that you're destined for weight gain and chronic disease. Sure, in rare cases, genes can predispose people to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. But this does not render you powerless.
In a comprehensive 2013 study on genes and obesity, researchers identified 32 different genes that can contribute to obesity. But even in the incredibly rare case you actually have all 32 genes, the research suggests that it'd likely only account for about 22 pounds of extra weight.
And even in that unlikely scenario, you're not doomed. Familial disposition to certain conditions doesn't mean they're inevitable. The truth is, by eating well and exercising, you can prevent obesity and Type 2 diabetes, or what I collectively call diabesity.
So rather than obsessively worry about genetics, look to your body for the best way to gauge how you should eat. For example, how do you feel after eating certain foods? Are you feeling alert, vibrant, with abundant energy—or are you feeling sluggish, bloated, and in a fog?
Some people do better with more carbohydrates or less fat. Again, your body will let you know by how you feel and what works best for you. Interestingly, once you heal your body and reverse diabesity, you may be able to handle more varieties of foods as your body becomes more resilient.
In other words, what works for you might not work for other people. Everyone is different and has different biochemical needs. And yes, some people have genes predetermined for obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other complications—but there is never any reason to lose hope.
Regardless of your genes or other conditions, everyone can start with these seven strategies for weight loss and optimal health:
1. Focus on eating real, whole foods.
Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables, some lower-sugar fruits, and if you can tolerate them, grass-fed meats, pastured chicken and eggs, and wild-caught fish.
2. Eat plenty of healthy fats.
That includes avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, extra-virgin olive oil, and some grass-fed butter. Eating healthy fats helps burn fat by speeding up your metabolism. Plus, your cells and brain also require fat to function at optimally.
3. Avoid processed sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Limit your grain intake from breads, cereals, pastas, rice, and starches. Steer clear of baked goods and sweets, and watch your intake of alcohol.
4. Take supplements for optimal nutrition.
A good multivitamin-mineral covers the nutrient bases you're probably not getting from food. I also recommend, as "just the basics," a professional-quality fish oil, extra vitamin D and magnesium, a probiotic, and a fiber supplement to help balance blood sugar levels.
5. Manage stress levels.
Being constantly stressed out wreaks havoc on your health, hormones, and weight. Find something that helps you taper down stress, whether that means yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.
6. Get adequate sleep.
Sleep deprivation can contribute to weight gain, and it's also associated with depression, pain and inflammation, heart disease, diabetes, and many other health issues. Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep is vital to optimal health.
Avoid exposure to artificial light from smartphones, television, and other electronics too close to bedtime.
7. Exercise regularly.
Get on a regular routine of exercise and moving your body. You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet—but exercise does make your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin so you don’t need as much. Less insulin means less inflammation and less body fat, especially dangerous belly fat.
If all you're able to do is walk, that's fine. You’ll want to do a minimum of 30 minutes of walking daily. Others may be able to handle more advanced exercise. Studies demonstrate the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which you can do in as little as 20 minutes. It’s much more effective than longer durations of low-intensity cardio workouts.
In a nutshell: Stop worrying about your genes! Your lifestyle and food choices are much better indicators of your health and weight than your genes.
Some of us have to work a bit harder, and for some it is much easier—but it’s very possible for almost everyone.