My father was one of those people that could eat whatever he wanted but never seemed to gain weight. On the opposite end of the scale I also have a friend who literally just has to look at food and the weight is somehow magically transferred to her hips!

So why does this happen? What literally makes one person constantly struggle with their weight while the other appears to stay thin with minimal effort?

In the most simple terms possible your weight depends on the calories you take in, the calories you store, and how many calories you burn. These factors are then influenced by your genetics and your environment. Add this to the types of food you consume and this will decide how fast you actually burn those calories.

Calories

Contrary to popular belief, calories are not “tiny creatures that live in your closet and sew your clothes a little bit tighter every night!!!!” 

The calories you store and burn are affected by your genetic makeup, your level of physical activity, and your resting energy expenditure. You resting energy expenditure is in fact the number of calories you literally burn at rest.

So it’s a simple equation, burn all of the calories you consume during the day and maintain your weight or consume more calories than you expend in energy and you will gain weight.

Genetic influences

Obviously the subject of weight gain has been researched significantly over the years. It tells us that, whilst there are many genes that are associated with weight, only a few really affect our overall weight gain. 

Genes contribute to obesity by affecting appetite, metabolism, cravings, body-fat distribution, and as a way to cope with stress. Obviously everyone is different and research shows that the predisposition to be overweight can be anywhere from 25 to 80 percent. 

The following are a few characteristics that may influence your genes for weight gain:-

  • You have been overweight most of your life.
  • One or both of your parents or several other blood relatives are significantly overweight. 
  • If both of your parents are obese, your likelihood of becoming obese is as high as 80 percent.
  • You can’t lose weight even when you increase your physical activity and stick to a lower calorie, whole foods based diet.

The following factors listed below would probably indicate that your genes are a lower contributing factor for weight gain:

  • You eat more because food is available.
  • You are moderately overweight, but you can lose weight when you follow a reasonable nutrition and exercise regimen.
  • Your weight fluctuates during the holiday season, after changing your eating or exercise habits, or at times when you experience emotional stress.

Environmental influences 

Even before you are born there are factors that could put you at risk of struggling with your weight such as exposure to smoking and/or diabetes. 

After birth, babies who are breast-fed for more than three months are less likely to be obese as adolescents. On the other hand, an infant who is breast-fed for less than three months has a higher risk.

If as a child you drank sugary drinks regularly and ate high-calorie processed foods then you are more likely to continue these habits as an adult. Similarly children who watched a lot of tv or played an excessive amount of video games will have began to program themselves for a fairly inactive and sedentary lifestyle in the future.

Exercise

I am sure I don’t need to labor the point of taking part in regular exercise as a child, adolescent and adult. However, ridiculous as it may seem, with all the research and data readily available proving it’s worth fewer than 25 percent of Americans meet the required exercise goal. 

Stress and Sleep

Stress hormones, cortisol in particular, heighten inflammation in the body. Constant stress can create chronic elevation of cortisol levels which will make your nervous system hyperactive.This will lead to adrenal burnout, however, long-term overproduction of cortisol can disrupt your sleep and contribute to fat accumulation in your abdomen.

Many studies also suggest that the less you sleep, the more likely you are to gain weight. Lack of sufficient sleep disturbs the hormones, leptin, and ghrelin, which control hunger and appetite. Researchers found that people who slept less than eight hours a night had higher levels of body fat than those who slept more, and the people who slept the fewest hours weighed the most.