Genetic makeup—what you inherit—plays the biggest role
When we say "genetic makeup," we're talking about everything you inherited from your ancestors, from the color of your eyes or the shape of your toes to the way your brain works and the way your body stores fat.
Your genetic makeup has a very big effect on your weight. It affects:
basal metabolic ratebasal metabolic rate. That's
the rate at which your body uses energy (calories) at rest. Some people are
born with higher basic metabolic rates than others. These people naturally burn
more calories than the rest of us.
- Regular physical activity can raise your metabolic rate.
- Very low-calorie diets will lower your metabolic rate. A lower metabolic rate makes it easier to gain weight, because you don't burn calories as fast.
- Your body signalsbody signals, such as your appetite and feeling hungry or full.
Your fat distribution.
- Some people have slim legs, some have heavy legs. You can't change where your body stores fat.
- Typically, men store fat in the abdomen while women store more in the hips and thighs. As women age, more fat is stored in the abdomen.
Nutrition—what and how you eat—also affects your weight
The average American meal contains too many calories. It also contains too much saturated fat, cholesterol, animal protein, salt, alcohol, and sugar.
It can be hard to make healthy food choices:
- Emotions and easy access to fast foods and snacks are among the many things that influence our food choices today.
- Lack of time leads many people to eat on an irregular schedule or skip meals. People who do that have more trouble staying at a healthy weight than people who eat regular meals.
- Sometimes a food that seems like a healthier choice may not be. A low-fat cookie may have less fat, but usually it is high in sugar and has the same number of calories as a regular cookie. Potato chips that are "cholesterol-free" may still be high in fat and calories.
For more information, see the topic Quick Tips: Cutting Calories.