As modern life develops, the percentage of overweight adults in the UK seems to be on the rise. More than 6 out of 10 adults, in fact. Because of the rising numbers, we’re quick to assume that it’s all because of desk jobs and watching too much TV, but is that always the case? Only partly! Many other hidden factors can play a significant role in your weight other than lifestyle. And the most fascinating of them all is how genetics affect your weight.
Whether you are underweight or overweight, there is more to it than meets the eye. It’s always a good idea to learn as much as you can before you kick yourself for your weight and end up trying crash diets and other harmful weight-loss tactics.
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When it comes to weight, weight loss and everything in between, our weight is made up of several factors. These are genetic and external life factors (which we’ll discuss), and consumption.
We eat food, burn and store energy. We need a certain number of calories per day to go about our lives, which is our resting energy expenditure. On top of that, we burn calories in a day doing things, whatever they might be, and we store anything left as fat. That is how it works on a fundamental level.
If you’re trying to gain weight, whether it’s building muscle or gaining fatty tissue (which isn’t always bad), you need to consume more calories than what you will end up using. If you’re trying to lose weight, you need less. Both gaining and losing weight should focus on diet and exercise, as the most important thing is still your health. The recommendation is to exercise for 150 minutes a week for good health. Other than that, you need to train for your goals.
So that is how weight works, but what about the other factors?
Next, we will look at how your genetics and lifestyle come into play.
All humans are made up of DNA, which is made up of genes, which are made up from chromosomes… but we’ll stick with genetics here. The theory of adapting to survive is the first thing to look at. As humans started evolving, they needed to survive on their own, which meant sourcing food however and whenever necessary. This wasn’t always easy.
When food wasn’t available, we needed to get our energy sources from elsewhere. When food was available, there was often more than we needed. The answer to these issues? Eating more and storing fat to use as energy later. The more fat you could store, the more likely you were to survive when food was scarce. That meant that the genes for storing fat made us better at surviving, and as a result, more people have it.
So, does this mean that if you have these genes (storing fat for survival), you are more likely to be overweight? To put it bluntly put, no. Your weight is more complicated than that, but genes still play a part.
One of the easiest ways to apply this to real life, for example, is looking at your immediate family. If your parents are overweight, then you have a massively stronger chance of inheriting these genes and being overweight yourself. If your parents are obese, this is amplified. It doesn’t stop at your parents either. Look at all your blood relatives and take it into account. It’s not always a certainty, but it is a good indicator, and it might be out of your hands to a degree.
People that have these genes seem to have a much easier time turning excess calories into stored fat, and that does play a part in weight. The more you eat, the more it changes things. This goes both ways, though. If you don’t have these genes, then you’re far less likely to put on weight. That means you could have inherited certain genetic factors that make you weigh less. But it is crucial to know that weighing less does not automatically mean you are a healthy individual.
Don’t go ahead and think that your genes are everything in your weight, though. External factors still have the most influence over your overall weight. Some people have it easier than others, don’t get us wrong, but it’s not so black and white!
One of the biggest players in your weight is your overall lifestyle. If you work at a desk for eight hours every day, then come home to processed foods and salty snacks, as well as hours of TV before bed, that is going to take its toll. Sadly, this is modern life for a lot of people too. It’s easy to fall into this routine, but you need to make changes where you can.
More and more things in life are becoming convenient, which means we have to do less and less. This sounds great at first, but it’s not. It’s too easy to find ourselves taking shortcuts and doing less. That’s a huge player in the all-important idea of calorie expenditure versus calorie consumption, and that’s the most significant player in your weight.
So now that we’ve looked at the biggest factors impacting your weight, another matter should spring to your mind. That is the psychological impact of our weight and our efforts to change it. Even if it sounds obvious, hear us out.
Some people have to worry about mental factors going against them as well as genetic ones. Take stress, for example. Many people across the world have automatic responses to stressful situations in life, one of which is to eat indulgent foods to make them feel better. It’s a completely normal thing to do, and it’s not something to feel bad about, but it is something we really need to try and change as much as possible.
On an even more serious note, we need to look at anxiety, depression, motivation and eating, or the relationship between them. More and more people are undertaking fad or crash diets daily to try and lose weight. Losing weight isn’t a bad goal, but you need to do it in the right way. Again, we’ll get onto that soon. As these diets go on though, certain things happen:
- The diet is too hard to keep up and we quit;
This is a common thing to do as people diet to reach certain milestones, like being a certain weight for a wedding or a holiday. Or it so happens that the diet itself is just too hard to keep up or not compatible with your lifestyle. You need to find what’s healthy and the right fit for you, not just a ridiculous crash diet.
- The diet finishes, and we put the weight back on.
Dieting in a way that’s not right for us or that has a goal related more to aesthetics rather than being healthy long-term often leads to the weight just going straight back on. Your body feels deprived of food, and you haven’t acquired any habits you want to keep up.
Both scenarios are awful for your mental health. They are both great examples of the negatives of crash or yo-yo dieting. They often bring up the feeling of failure or hopelessness, and that’s just awful. What happens then? People turn to comfort foods, and they reintroduce old habits, so it’s just a vicious circle with more and more negative effects. It is toxic but so common.
Now that we’ve covered a lot of the factors of weight, we need to look at the result, which is what really makes up your weight. It is a combination of all these things, but overall, it’s down to a more straightforward formula. To be healthy, you need to be healthy. It sounds ridiculous, but that’s what it all comes down to. If we can eat a healthy, balanced diet and get the right amount of exercise, weight should go down or up (depending on your goals) on its own and get you to a healthier place in your life.
Chances are, you’ll feel happier, more motivated and you’ll generally be a healthier person all around, and that’s the most important thing in life. There is so much more to your health than just your weight. Weight is still a factor, but it’s not everything.
Your weight is your own, and there are always steps you can take for a healthier lifestyle without worrying about aesthetics. Instead, be healthy in a way that works for you and try your best to be fit for you.
If you’re really struggling, there’s help out there. Talk to your GP or a nutritionist and see what changes you can make to your life. You don’t have to struggle alone.
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