Are some people just hungrier?
The driving factor for weight gain tends to be oversimplified as the result of laziness, gluttony, big bones, or bad genes. While some genes do play a role in how we store fat and access energy, the more important genes might impact something far simpler – our appetite and desire to eat. Essentially, our baseline level of hunger.
Researchers have identified clear differences in the way babies respond to milk and how soon they will begin feeding again once they are full. And no surprise, these feeding tendencies extend into adulthood. Even small differences in appetite on a regular basis start to add up. Researchers believe that eating behavior has a massive impact on body weight and obesity. It’s not those overweight children or adults are eating fattier or more sugary foods, it’s that they eat a bit more at each meal or snack. It’s not what you eat but how you eat it.
With calorie rich foods now easily available in most stores and fast-food restaurants, people whose genes put them at risk of overeating can consume foods in excess in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in earlier times. The impact of overeating compounds based on food availability and types of food available.
Does this mean that people with genes that predispose them to overeat are doomed to live with larger waistbands? Not necessarily, it just means the playing field is not level and that some people will have to work harder to not gain weight.
The big question – what can be done about it?
Pay attention to how you respond to food. Do you always go back for seconds or are you more likely to leave food on your plate when full? Identify trigger foods and limit the availability of those foods in the house (ahem, tortilla chips Meredith). Start keeping foods in the house that are higher in volume and water content, like melon, squash, potatoes, berries, oats, and beans and going for those instead of things like cereal and candy that are less filling for the same amount of calories.
Last thing, exercise is important but not for burning calories. Most people can’t exercise enough to offset a calorie surplus. Instead, use exercise to reinforce good habits and build a supportive social network.