Modified on

How genetics can affect your weight

Take the quiz

Most Americans live where convenient and ready-to-eat foods—high in saturated fat and simple carbohydrates linked to weight gain—are easily accessible. (We can spot 5 places right now out our office window.) And many people don’t have the opportunity to be regularly active. These two factors are often pointed to as the reason obesity is on the rise. 

Can they play a role? Sure. But not everyone who regularly hits the drive-thru or lives a sedentary lifestyle gains weight or becomes obese. Why is that? Well, science says genes may play a role in body weight regulation. How someone’s body responds in a specific environment may be influenced by their DNA, and the genes you inherit mixed with your environment could modify your physiology. 

Scientists have identified several genetic loci—a specific location of a gene on a chromosome—associated with obesity. However, whether these loci actually cause obesity is still unclear. It’s hard to pinpoint genes as the cause of obesity because people with the same diagnosis (in this case, obesity) don’t always have the same disease development. Meaning: Not everyone with obesity will go on to develop other complications often related to a higher BMI—high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, diabetes, or heart disease. However, this does give us hope for the future when trying to figure out how our genes play a role in our ability to lose weight. 

Can I beat my genes? 

In this case, science says you just might be able to! While genes play a role in how our body stores fat mass, research has shown that our genes don’t have to be our destiny. We can manage our weight by being mindful of our environment and shifting our habits to healthier ones. But it’s challenging. We live in environments that promote overeating and rarely support regular physical activity.

Developing more sustainable habits that target your environment throughout a weight care journey can help you lose weight and keep it off. 

Five things you can do to create a healthier environment 

Opt for more whole foods and balanced meals and snacks 

Think lean protein through a variety of meat and plant-based options, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. We know fast food is extremely convenient when you have limited time and can make for a delicious meal! However, those who regularly visited fast food chains were shown to have a higher prevalence of obesity. While there may be healthier options at some fast food chains, many admit to not choosing their meal based on nutritional considerations. Need your meals to be quick? Talk to your coach about healthier options that can be prepped ahead of time to get you out the door in a flash! 

Prioritize movement 

A sedentary lifestyle is associated with an increased risk of obesity. Try to avoid sitting for more than two hours. Instead, set a reminder to get up and go for a brisk 10-15 minute walk every couple of hours. While decreasing sedentary time is important, it is also important to get regular exercise throughout the week that raises the heart rate and strengthens muscles. Think cardio in the form of HIIT or steady-state for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, and strength training two times per week.

Don’t skimp on the zzzs 

Research has shown that those who get insufficient sleep on a regular basis may be at a higher risk of obesity. Tired individuals are more likely to have increased hunger and caloric intake and more cravings for higher carbohydrate and fatty foods. (And those who lack sleep are also more prone to nighttime snacking.) Establish a good bedtime routine to prepare your body for rest, such as meditation, hot tea, reading, or stretching. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep every night to ensure your body is adequately rested and ready for the day ahead. 

Create boundaries to protect your mental health 

Managing stress is not only important for your mental health, but it’s also important for your weight care goals. Studies reveal a relationship between chronic stress—as shown by elevated cortisol—and a higher risk of obesity. We get that life presents many challenges—work, the kids, household chores, you name it. However, Found, will help you start prioritizing yourself. Taking time for self-care is not selfish; it’s necessary. So the next time you feel stressed, take time to head out for a walk, attend a yoga class, call a friend, or soak in a hot bath! 

Drink up—H20, that is! 

You hear that drinking enough water is essential for your health—it’s not only important for our cells and organs to function, but research also shows a relationship between inadequate hydration, an elevated BMI, and obesity in adults. Staying hydrated may help with better weight control. Monitoring your uring is an easy way to see if you’re drinking enough water. If your urine is colorless or pale yellow, you’re probably well-hydrated. 

While we cannot always control what is handed to us gene-wise, there are many things we can do to keep ourselves healthy. Have you logged your meals, sleep, and movement today? Head over to the app and work on identifying areas of opportunity that will help you be your best and healthiest self. 

About Found

Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.

  • Anderson B, Rafferty AP, Lyon-Callo S, Fussman C, Imes G. (2011, June 15). Fast-food consumption and obesity among Michigan adults. Prev Chronic Dis, 8(4):A71. PMID: 21672395; PMCID: PMC3136980.
  • Chang, T., Ravi, N., Plegue, M. A., Sonneville, K. R., & Davis, M. M. (2016, July 1). Inadequate Hydration, BMI, and Obesity Among US Adults: NHANES 2009-2012. The Annals of Family Medicine, 14(4), 320–324.
  • Jackson, S. E., Kirschbaum, C., & Steptoe, A. (2017, February 23). Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years. Obesity, 25(3), 539–544.
  • Koren D, Dumin M, Gozal D. Role of sleep quality in the metabolic syndrome. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity: targets and therapy. 2016;9:281.
  • Park, J., Moon, J., Kim, H., Kong, M., & Oh, Y. (2020, November 19). Sedentary Lifestyle: Overview of Updated Evidence of Potential Health Risks. Korean J Fam Med, 41(6), 365–373.
  • Pillon, N. J., Loos, R. J., Marshall, S. M., & Zierath, J. R. (2021, March). Metabolic consequences of obesity and type 2 diabetes: Balancing genes and environment for personalized care. Cell, 184(6), 1530–1544.
  • St-Onge MP, McReynolds A, Trivedi ZB, Roberts AL, Sy M, Hirsch J. Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2012 Apr 1;95(4):818-24.

Find out what path is right for you