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Weight Loss: Understanding Our Nutritional Requirements, Our Genetic Makeup and Developing a Mindset
A few quick questions… How much of your life have you spent worrying about your weight or trying to alter it by losing some or gaining some? How many diets have you tried only to fail?
Whatever you answered, you’re not alone. Between 18-19 right after I got married and began college, I gained 40 pounds in one year. I skipped the freshman 15 and kept going. I have always been a little bit of an overachiever. I had always been slim and petite, so this was a shock to my system and my self-esteem in many ways. I tried so many diets only to ultimately fail. Then we decided to try to have a baby, so I said, forget weight loss I can now blame my weight on pregnancy. It took me 3 years to conceive my first child. That was in part of the extra weight I had gained, and the other was my diet of processed foods. I did finally have my first child, but during that pregnancy, I gained another 50 pounds. It took me 2 years to get back to the weight I was before pregnancy. That is also when a lot of my health issues actually began. I was 26 overweight, tired, sick, and miserable. How many of you have found yourself in a similar position?
I am here to tell you there is hope, and there is healing. This was the beginning of my journey back to health and why I am so passionate about the topics of Nutrition and Epigenetics, as well as and just as importantly – mindset. I am going to discuss a few topics that have to do with weight loss and maybe give you some hope and a new approach in your journey.
Weight Loss and Nutrition:
You simply cannot be nutritionally deficient and expect the body to lose weight. The body is here to keep you alive. It does not care if you think your skinny jeans are too tight. We have become a society that eats constantly, but our bodies are still starving. Starving for the vitamins and minerals needed to run biochemical pathways to help us rebuild and repair. Processed and fast foods do not have adequate nutrition, and yes, that includes protein bars. Most people know that muscle building requires the body to first tear the muscle down after exercise only to rebuild it bigger and stronger. Your body does that with every part. We actually build a new body in some capacity – daily. If we are not giving the body the vitamins and minerals needed, it will build back a less adequate body that is open for diseases and pain to set in. A body like that will not lose weight easily. The first step in this battle is getting your food intake right in a way that you are supplying vitamins and minerals which encourage the body to be healthy again. Then and only then will you lose weight and keep it off.
Weight Loss and Epigenetics:
Okay, so how many times have you heard it takes willpower to lose weight? There is some truth to that, but I’m here to tell you – it is not the whole story. There is a gene called the “Cookie Jar Gene” or “The Taster Gene”. This gene hijacks your brain and throws willpower in the trash. This gene is scientifically known as TAS2R38 and is responsible for your perception of sweet and bitter. Essentially, TAS2R38 determines if and how you perceive sweet or bitter flavors in foods. Let’s look at how it works.
You receive one variant from mom and one variant from dad which are represented by the letters A, C, G, T. These letters are called alleles. The combination you receive can look like G, G or C, G. Depending on your special little unique combination will be how you perceive tastes in the context of this gene. If you have a G, G combination then you are called a “taster” that means you have a strong sense of biter when you eat things like grapefruit or Brussels sprouts. As an example, this matters when you go to sweeten foods or beverages like coffee, you may add more sweetener to mask the bitter flavor. You are more likely to add more salt to foods as well. It does not matter that you dislike bitter foods, but that your flavor sensation is stronger than “non-tasters”. The good side is that when you eat sugary foods they taste super sweet, so it is easier to stop eating it and not over consume sweets. The summary for tasters is that you are less likely to choose bitter foods like Kale, Broccoli, Swiss Chard, or even to reach for super sweet foods. Unfortunately, though, you may be more inclined to reach for French Fries or Chips.
The “non-tasters” would have A, A alleles. You do not experience strong bitter when you eat Kale, Broccoli, Swiss Chard, and do not over-salt foods. The problem for the A, A comes in when you eat sweet foods, especially sweet-fat foods like doughnuts. You get that one taste of sweet and your brain tells you more, more, more! Until you’ve eaten the whole bag of cookies or the entire pan of brownies (I have done this a time or two or twenty. This is actually where the nickname “Cookie Jar Gene” comes from. For people with this allele combination, once you taste sweet or sweet-fat, you cannot stop eating. Your brain does not get the signal that you are full, making it easier to overeat. The feedback loop that the brain and stomach have tells your body to stop eating when the stomach is full and gets turned off. This is important to understand and why ultimately, willpower does not work. SO you can stop blaming yourself right now. Remember, Epigenetics is about knowing what your genetics are and how to use your lifestyle to help turn them on or turn them off. If you have this particular combination of alleles, like me, you can actually turn them off so that you can help control the amount you eat. An herbal supplement called Gymnema Sylvestre can help suppress the sweet perception if you take it before you eat something sweet. This is not a way to eat more sweets but instead, a way to help you down-regulate the gene so that you do not overeat sweets. Try it and see!
It took some time, but what helped me was first knowing that it is not my fault. To stop beating myself up and telling myself that I had no resolve. I had to understand that it is how I am built genetically. Secondly, it helped to put whatever I am going to eat onto a plate and put the rest up. I cannot eat out of a bag or eat out of the pan of sweets because I WILL overeat every time. This is a second layer of protection for me. When I do this, I do not overeat sweets. First, it really helped to understand I was overeating. What was happening on a genetic level, and then I had to learn a little self-control when it comes to certain foods. I’ll cover that in the next section called “Mindset”.
Now, I would never lie to you, so know, this one is going to be a little harder and will require some training (which just happens to be one of my specialties). I have had a love-hate relationship with food for most of my life. Because I am a “non-taster,” I have eaten way more sugar than I should. Early in my childhood I was introduced to it and has been my go-to food choice until I learned what sugar does to my body and that I have a higher than normal risk for diabetes and Alzheimer’s (which is now called type III diabetes). That definitely changed my mindset on how much sugar I eat. It is important to understand that as with anything in life, too much of something is harmful and balance is the key. Drinking too much water can kill you as well, but you cannot live without it for more than 3-5 days.
In life, you have to have healthy relationships. You would not keep a friendship if the person harmed you every day would you? Well, overeating sugar daily does the same thing. Sugar hardens the arterial walls and causes inflammation that can lead to diabetes and/or cardiovascular diseases. Learning how to have healthy relationships and set boundaries will not only help you be happier and more successful but will lift you up emotionally and thus create a healthier YOU! This looks different for everyone, so it is hard to be super specific in this particular blog. You see, some of us grew up with a family member loving them with food, some grew up with food as a scarcity, and even some had food secrets with Bulimia and Anorexia. Because of the individuality of mindset around food, this is one part that can I cater specifically to you as a Nutritional and Epigenetic Coach.
If you think that your genes may be partly responsible for your current situation, reach out and let me know, or find a coach that can help you. There is light at the end of the tunnel and sometimes we all just need a little push, a little support, and a little understanding. Your mindset around food comes from what you were subconsciously taught as you grew up. It can be re-written so you can have a healthy relationship with food again. You are not a garbage can – do not treat yourself as one. You do not need to finish your plate. Put it up and enjoy again it later.
For more information regarding Weight Loss, Nutrition or Epigenetics Coaching, feel free to reach out to me. I would love to hear your story and would love to help you gain a better understanding of yourself. Let’s get you on the road to being a Rock Star!