The Ideal Weight
It’s all in your jeans genes
Let me invite you into my world for a minute. I can’t tell you how many people ask me about weight loss, hormones, optimizing performance, injuries, etc. You might be surprised if you heard some of the things people ask about, but in the spirit of confidentiality, I won’t share them! Not surprisingly, the most common questions and concerns are about weight and weight loss. “How can I lose 50 pounds?” “What’s the best weight loss diet?” “If I follow the [insert diet name here], will I lose weight?” I’ve heard them all. But when you’re talking about weight loss, it’s important to understand what’s possible, what’s healthy, and, importantly, what genetics really allows.
Typically, when I counsel someone who wants to lose weight, regardless of the reason for their desire, there are two questions I always ask: (1) I ask their age. (2) I ask how long ago they weighed their goal weight. Many times, the person tells me the last time they weighed their goal weight was middle school or high school. Well, in addition to their lifestyle, there’s usually a reason why they haven’t hit that weight (or body fat percentage) in so many years -- genetics!
I’m going to go off on little rant before I continue: we have been brainwashed by magazines, TV, and movies, to believe that a thin body is the best-looking body; that a thin body is what we should strive for; that a thin body makes you happy. But what is “thin”? Can everyone be thin? Should everyone be thin? Is “thin” attainable and sustainable for everyone…for you? Well, that depends on the definition of thin. If it means being a certain weight or body fat percentage, or waist and hip size based solely on your height, then the answer is “no”. It isn’t attainable for everyone and maybe not for you. And guess what – that’s ok!
Genetics don’t lie. Genetics determine your body type and play a large role in whether you can (or should) achieve a certain body weight or size. In general, there are three body types:
Ectomorph. Ectomorphs are often below the average weight for their height and may have a skinny appearance. Ectomorphs often have very high metabolisms and sometimes complain of relentless eating with little to no weight gain. Chris Rock and Giselle Bunchen are notable ectomorphs.
Endomorph. The endomorphic body type is the opposite of an ectomorph. Endomorphs are usually larger in appearance with heavier fat accumulation and little muscle definition. They find it hard to drop the weight no matter what, or how hard, they try. Jack Black and Oprah Winfrey are notable endomorphs.
Mesomorph. Mesomorphs are generally in between the ectomorph and the endomorph, and as such, display qualities from both. Mesomorphs have a larger frame (bone structure) similar to the endomorph, but they have a low body fat percentage like the ectomorph. Mark Wahlberg and Halle Berry are notable mesomorphs.
Oprah Winfrey can’t be Giselle Bunchen, physiologically. It’s not possible, and it’s not necessary! I’m not saying not to pursue your ideal; I’m just saying you should manage your expectations and work with what you’ve been given. There are, however, tips and tricks I can share with you to help you get as close as possible to your “goal body”.
Here are a few things you should know about your body and its genetic predispositions to give you a better understanding of how to approach your journey toward the physique you want:
The microbiomes in your gut determine how you process glucose in reaction to food. Medical News Today reported in November 2014 that our genetic makeup shapes what type of bacteria reside in our gut. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’re born with certain microbiomes, or gut bacteria, and that has a significant affect on your overall health and how your body processes certain foods and how high your blood sugar (glucose) spikes.
A study done by some Israeli scientists (http://www.timesofisrael.com/computer-algorithm-may-help-with-weight-loss/) sheds light on what I think will be the next wave of prescribed nutrition for weight loss. This study, like Medical News Today, concludes that we all have different types of macrobiotics in our gut based entirely on our genetic code, and gut microbiomes can have a huge impact on how we respond to different foods. In the Israeli study, some people had very little increase in their level of glucose in response to eating chocolate, while others’ glucose levels went through the roof. Depending on your genetics, you can eat lots of chocolate without gaining weight…then again…the opposite could happen.
The AMY1 gene. The amylase, alpha 1A (AMY1) gene, clusters of which are found in our salivary glands and pancreas, basically determine how we break down starch into sugar. Some of us can have 50% more AMY1 enzymes in our saliva than others. Some people have virtually undetectable amounts of AMY1 enzymes. The more you have, the better your starch-metabolizing abilities are, and the less chance you have of breaking that starch down into sugar in such a way that it turns into fat.
Interestingly, people from traditional cultures where starch is a big part of the nutritional intake have passed down a higher concentration of the AMY1 gene. The Japanese have very high AMY1 gene concentrations, as opposed to the more “hunter-oriented” culture from the Congo, who have very low levels of AMY1. Where are your ancestors from, and are starches the best thing for you to be eating?
It really is all in your genes. The research related to our ancestors and our genetic make-up goes on and on. Did you know that for some of us, a plant-based diet is more than a desire based on our beliefs about animal rights or other cultural choices? Our desire for a plant-based diet can be the result of a genetic predisposition in our ability to process Vitamin A. Conversely, some of us have a genetic mutation that blunts our ability to convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A. If your body is unable to efficiently convert beta-carotene into Vitamin A, you may not be able to survive at all on a plant-based diet, thus forcing you to get nutrients from animal sources.
Even our blood type has been shown to drive nutritional needs (You’ve heard of The Blood Type Diet by Dr. Peter D’Adamo?) People with different blood types have been shown to be susceptible to different diseases and definitely respond to foods differently. Studies show that people with Type B blood should avoid corn, wheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts and even chicken. All these foods can cause gut irritation and block the uptake of essential nutrients and slow the metabolism. Attention people with Type AB blood! Watch out for seafood, dairy, tofu, and many green vegetables. People with Type O blood should make sure their diet is higher in protein from animal sources and avoid grains and dairy foods. People with Type A blood have proven to be healthiest when they eat a vegetarian diet.
***Please note: I do not subscribe to any one diet or eating plan, but I know what works for me because I’ve tried everything. I am my own laboratory. I thoroughly research findings on health and nutrition to determine what makes sense from a scientific standpoint. I also familiarize myself with various popular (and unpopular) diets, some of which adopt principles of good nutrition but vary in method and application. It should be obvious by now that the same diet or lifestyle won’t work for everyone because we’re genetically different. That said, certain principles still apply: processed sugar isn’t good for anyone. Organic food is better than processed food full of chemicals. Certain foods are inflammatory. Etc.***
Science shows how we can be most effective in our approach to nutrition and the most beneficial way to get to what we call our “set weight”. Set weight refers to the ideal weight range for your body type, age, and genetic make-up. Never give up on your dreams on having the perfect body. Just make sure your perfect body fits your genes, and then you’ll fit into your jeans!