Were you chubby by age 10? Are your parents, brothers and sisters overweight? Are you a woman with a tendency to gain weight in the hips buttocks and thighs, or after pregnancy?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, and if you’ve tried and failed to lose weight even on a starvation diet, you may indeed have a genetic tendency to be heavier than what our culture accepts as ideal. Here are some reasons why researchers think some people just tend to be heavier than others, and what you can do about it.
When It’s in Your Genes
People whose parents are heavy probably started out life with more fat cells than the norm. And the body just likes to keep those fat cells filled up. These people are the best equipped to survive famine when food is scarce. Another inherited fat-producing tendency is a low resting metabolic rate. People in this group burn fewer calories just sitting around than others do.
If you fall into either of these categories, try this strategy:
- Concentrate on eating low-fat foods, rather than cutting calories. To satisfy your body’s craving for food, fill up on complex carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas. Hold the mayo and the cream sauce.
- Reduce calories gradually rather than suddenly. Your body may respond to drastic diets by lowering its resting metabolic rate even further.
- Incorporate exercise into your weight-loss program. Exercise boosts your resting metabolic rate so you burn more calories even when you’re not exercising.
When Hormones Play a Role
Some women have heavy hips, thighs and buttocks or a tendency to gain weight after pregnancy. They also gain on birth control pills or estrogen therapy. If your body responds to estrogen by putting on weight, use the same weight-loss strategy as for people who are genetically fat, but expect to take longer to lose extra pounds than someone without this tendency. If you’re on birth control pills or estrogen therapy, discuss alternatives with your doctor. The good news is that your excess weight is not as harmful to your health as weight in other parts of the body. Maybe it’s time to revise your self-image to include fuller hips and buttocks.
The majority of people are not overweight because of genetic problems, however. Most people who diet think they are eating far less and exercising far more than they really are. Work with a dietitian to realistically assess your calorie intake and exercise program, and to set a healthy target weight for your body type and genetic background. Before beginning any weight-loss program, get a thorough physical exam to make sure that there’s no medical problem that would be made worse by dieting.