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Can my genes affect my weight loss?

October 22, 2013 - Medical Advice

DNA 157868226Your ability to achieve healthy weight loss is as much to do with your thoughts, feelings and your environment as it is to do with your genes.

For years, it has been widely assumed who we are is largely down to our genes. Being fat or thin is said to run in families, with people often claiming they’ve been saddled with bodies they have no control over.

There’s a growing body of research that challenges this belief. More and more genetic research shows that environmental triggers can actually switch on and off particular genes – leading to significant changes in our emotional and physical health. Our genes are not set in stone for life as some might suggest – they are influenced by the world around us.

Assumptions of powerlessness
Dr Bruce Lipton, a former medical school professor and stem cell biologist, discusses the research in his book, The Biology of Belief. ‘The notion that our fate is indelibly inscribed in our genes was directly derived from the now outdated scientific concept known as genetic determinism, which would have us believe that we are victims of genetic forces outside of our control,’ says Dr Lipton. ‘Unfortunately, the assumptions of powerlessness are a one-way street to personal irresponsibility. Too many of us have said: “Hey, I can’t do anything about it anyway, so why should I care? Overweight? It runs in my family. Pass me the bonbons.”’

If you’ve long been battling with your weight you may relate to this way of thinking. For instance, if you’ve ever heard yourself say: ‘Even though I don’t eat very much I put on weight – it must be my genes’, ‘I only have to look at a biscuit to put on weight’, or ‘Diets never work for me’, then you may have become a hostage of your own perceptions.

But if you’re prepared to challenge those thoughts then real progress can be made. Although we obviously can’t change our hair colour by thinking, we’re strongly influenced by the environment around us. For instance, poor nutrition in the first trimester is linked to an increased risk of a whole range of health conditions later in life.

Why stress can kill
While how you think can heal a damaged knee or help you lose weight, consider the damage it can also do. Unhelpful thoughts can potentially harm our health beyond measure – a syndrome that doctors call the ‘nocebo’ effect.

Various studies have shown that when patients have been wrongly told they have a terminal illness, some of them die within weeks – even though investigations later revealed there was nothing physically wrong with them.

Similarly, over time, stress can literally kill us. This is because, when stressed, our bodies become flooded with adrenaline and other stress hormones like cortisol – which are only meant to be activated for short periods. Over time, if these hormones are continuously being triggered, they begin to damage our cells and trigger illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

‘Almost every major illness that people acquire has been linked to chronic stress,’ says Dr Lipton. Equally, those of you who have joined LighterLife will know the ethos of our programme involves helping you change the way you think, to change your relationship with food.

Many of us eat to cope with stress and other difficult feelings. In groups, clients are given the opportunity to empower themselves and realise that instead of using food to cope with life’s challenges, they can draw on their own resources, those of the group and some very useful psychological tools.

So, if you want to lose weight and keep it off, it’s worth remembering that you need to change how you think first, and then you can reap the benefits of a much more rewarding life. You can realise your dreams. To find out how LighterLife can help, visit our website.