Can You Be Genetically Fat?

Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021
Being overweight is caused by many factors. It has been proven that not just one type of gene but many different genes are linked with being overweight and even with being obese.
Being overweight is caused by many factors. It has been proven that not just one type of gene but many different genes are linked with being overweight and even with being obese.

Are you fated to be fat? Being overweight is caused by many factors. These factors include how much food you eat, environmental factors, how active you are, and your genes. It has been proven that not just one type of gene but many different genes are linked with being overweight and even with being obese. However, that just means that you may be predisposed to be overweight, not that you necessarily will be.

How much of one's weight is caused by genetics?

There are over 400 genes that have been identified as playing a role in weight gain and loss. These genes are pretty common and are found in around 85% of the population. These genes play a role in weight gain or loss by affecting:

  • Appetite
  • Metabolism
  • Cravings
  • Fat distribution

Often, the genes that result in weight gain are called "thrifty genes." This is because they can be traced back to our ancestors. It was important in times past that people survive off of stored body fat for periods. This is why these specific genes are so common. 

However, in more recent times, the population of obese people in the United States has been rising. Genetic reasons alone do not explain people who are overweight or obese. While knowing whether or not your genes play a role in your weight loss, it is also essential to learn about external forces that may be promoting weight gain. 

How to lose genetic fat

The treatment for being overweight or obese is the same regardless of whether or not you have genes associated with obesity. However, knowing that you have certain predispositions can be helpful to you as you attempt to lose weight or treat obesity. These predispositions are:

  • Larger hunger urges
  • Greater ability to intake calories
  • Lessened ability to feel full or satisfied after eating
  • Greater likelihood that you will feel out of control while eating
  • More significant chance you will be sedentary
  • Greater likelihood you will store food energy as fat

To lose weight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you start by:

  • Making the decision. While it can seem daunting and difficult at first, specifically if you know you are predisposed to be overweight, the first step in weight loss is committing to lose weight. Promise to yourself that you can do it and stick to it. You may even want to create a written contract for yourself that you can refer to in your more challenging moments.
  • Understand your current status. Talk to your doctor and let them know you want to start losing weight. Together, you can evaluate your current weight and any risk factors you may have to contend with. On your own, you can also think about your life and what may prevent you from losing weight. Think about your daily schedule, travel plans, and identify any time you regularly feel out of control with your eating habits.
  • Set specific and pragmatic goals. It is best to break down the results that you want from your weight loss. If you are trying to lose weight to help reduce your blood pressure, make your goal to lose a certain amount of weight and to get your blood pressure down to a certain level. Know that everyday, small efforts can do wonders. Set your goals to be easy to attain, specific, and adjustable if you do not reach them.
  • Take stock of the support systems you have access to. Connect with family, friends, or support groups near you to help you on your journey. Connecting with others who may be on a similar quest or whom you can exercise with can be critical as you try to shift your life.
  • Monitor your progress. Identify markers of your progress and continuously keep checking in with them. If you have achieved the goal you started with earlier than expected, you may want to add a new goal.

People with genes predisposing them to sustained weight gain can look into different treatments while identifying specific lifestyle changes, goals, and markers on their goals. For example, treatments could involve taking a weight loss medication or undergoing certain weight-loss surgeries. These medications and surgeries should always be performed under the advisement of your healthcare provider and in combination with healthy lifestyle choices.

Medically Reviewed on 11/17/2021

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity."

Harvard Medical Publishing: "Why people become overweight."

Mayo Clinic News Network: "Mayo Clinic Q and A: Genetics and weight."

Obesity Medicine Association: "Obesity and Genetics: Nature and Nurture."