Man Weighing Himself on ScaleAs obesity rates soar all over the world, there is an increasing focus on the relationship between genes and weight gain. The search for the “obesity genes” has been going on several decades.

Research in genetics appears to confirm that, with a few exceptions, DNA does matter in issues of obesity, but it does not have an insurmountable impact. According to The Obesity Prevention Source of Harvard University’s School of Public Health, genes are not your destiny. A healthy lifestyle, clean eating, and regular exercise can overcome the affect of “fat genes” present in your genetic material.

While there are some exceptions, such as rare mutations that cause obesity, most cases of chronic weight gain are due to environmental reasons and personal choices. Genetic predisposition aside, the rapid changes in our lifestyles such as sedentary work lives, increased consumption of high-fat/high-sugar foods, and decreased physical activity are leading causes of obesity.

What are genetic exceptions that cause obesity?

While most people suffer from environmental reasons for obesity, a paper available at the U.S. National Library of Medicine finds that several unusual forms of obesity occur due to spontaneous mutations in single genes. These mutations impact appetite control, food intake, and energy consumption, which lead to obesity.

Additionally, obesity is also a symptom of genetic abnormalities such as Prader–Willi and Bardet–Biedl syndromes. These syndromes also exhibit problems such as mental retardation and reproductive irregularities, among others.

Diseases such as hypothyroidism or polycystic ovary syndrome also cause obesity. Lack of certain hormones lowers metabolic rates that lead to weight gain and difficulty in losing weight. These diseases can be controlled using medication.

A recent article in Time Magazine put the spotlight on childhood obesity and genes. Citing a British study, they state that findings implicate nine genes are strongly linked to early weight gain in children and manifest themselves differently in adults.

What is the impact of obesity?

In the past few decades, obesity rates in the U.S. have exploded. As individuals put on extra pounds, there are short-term and long-term implications on their lives.

Some of the common everyday problems include breathlessness, snoring, tiredness, joint and back pain, among others. Depending on the level of obesity, people might be unable to walk long distances, perform daily tasks such as cleaning, and have difficulty sleeping.

Obesity can also cause hypertension, high cholesterol, coronary heart problems, stroke, and diabetes, among a host of other problems. Once these symptoms occur, patients need to take medications to control their impacts.

Another major impact of obesity is psychological in nature. As media-generated images shape and set societal expectations of beauty and health, overweight people might experience low self-esteem, isolation, depression, and anger. This can mar relationships with friends and family.

How can I combat obesity?

Losing weight is not an easy process nor will it occur overnight. Even with medication or surgical options, the process takes time.

If you are overweight, you should talk to your doctor before you start on any major lifestyle changes. It is best to get some advice and direction from a medical professional about diet and exercise besides determining if you need to be tested for obesity-related diseases, before you embark on your path to health.

The first thing to tackle is your diet. For any weight-loss program to be effective, you need to lower your calorie intake to a reasonable amount. Limit or eliminate fast foods, processed foods, and high-sugar drinks from your diet.

Instead, eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, fish, lean meats, and some dairy products. Add some healthy fats and a little dessert to avoid feeling deprived. And drink plenty of water.

Healthy eating has to be an everyday choice. It cannot be treated as a fad diet. Like anything new, you have to educate yourself. Learn about portion sizes, good fats, and proper nutrition to achieve sustainable weight loss.

The next element of the weight loss process is regular exercise. Create an exercise plan with your doctor or a certified trainer for maximum impact.

Whether you want to work out at home, walk or run outdoors, or use a gym, make sure your exercise schedule is of moderate to high intensity (after getting approval from your doctor). This means that your exercise routine should increase your heart rate and breathing. While sweating and exerted, you should still be able to carry on a conversation.

Weight loss will require aerobic exercises such as walking, dancing, swimming, or sports. However, health professionals are increasingly suggesting weight training alongside aerobic exercises to strengthen your body and increase metabolic activity.

If you have exhausted all avenues of weight loss through diet and exercise, you might want to seek medical or surgical intervention. But you must talk to your doctor before taking any such step.

An increasing number of overweight individuals are seeking anti-obesity medications and supplements to deal with their extra pounds. You should be careful while taking over-the-counter supplements. In some cases, they are known to cause palpitations, sweating, and high blood pressure issues.

Fat loss surgery such as lap band procedures and liposuction, among others, are also becoming increasingly popular as a quick fix for obesity. But these are major surgeries and can have complications. If you choose to get surgery, make sure you find a well-trained and Board-certified cosmetic surgeon to perform the procedure.

Obesity is a disease and requires the right treatment using the right diet and exercise regimen. While it will take time, losing weight is likely to improve your quality of life, both physically and emotionally.