Ever wondered why some people gain weight back easily after losing it, while others keep the weight off? This is a big problem for many trying to lose weight, and it’s not good for your health or happiness.
What makes us gain weight back? Is it just eating too much and not exercising enough? It’s actually a mix of things like lifestyle, environment, metabolism, and yes, your genes.
Research shows that some of us have genes that make us more likely to gain weight back. These genes control things like your hunger, energy usage, fat storage, and how your body reacts to different diets and exercises.
In this article, we’ll explore how genes influence gaining weight back, and what you can do about it.
By the end, you’ll understand how genes and weight loss rebound are related, and how you can use this knowledge to manage your weight better.
Understanding Genes and Weight
Before we dive into how genes make you gain weight back, let’s talk about what genes and weight are.
What are genes?
Genes are parts of your DNA that carry instructions for making proteins. These proteins do different things in your body, like build structures, control processes, move substances, and fight diseases.
You get two copies of each gene from your parents: one from your mom and one from your dad. These copies might be identical or a bit different.
The different versions of the same gene are called alleles. For example, you might have gotten a blue eye allele from your mom and a brown eye allele from your dad. The mix of alleles you have for each gene determines your genotype.
Your genotype influences your physical traits, like your eye color, hair color, height, blood type, etc. These traits are also influenced by environmental factors, like what you eat, sunlight exposure, etc. The visible expression of your genotype reacting to these factors is called your phenotype.
What is weight?
Weight is how much matter your body has. It’s usually measured in kilograms or pounds. Your weight can change depending on a lot of factors, like:
- Your age
- Your gender
- Your height
- Your muscle mass
- Your body fat percentage
- How much water your body is holding onto
- Your hormone levels
- Your health conditions
- Your medications
One of the most important things that influences your weight is your metabolism. Your metabolism is the process by which your body changes food into energy or stores it as fat.
It consists of two main parts:
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR): This is the amount of energy your body needs to do basic functions when you’re resting, like breathing and keeping your body temperature steady.
- Activity level: This is the amount of energy your body needs to do physical activities, like walking, running, or lifting weights.
Your metabolism determines how many calories you burn each day. Calories are units of energy that measure how much food you eat and how much energy you use.
If you eat more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. If you eat the same amount of calories as you burn, you’ll maintain your weight.
How do our genes play a part in weight?
Our genes play a crucial role in determining our body weight.
- They control how our body processes food and transforms it into energy.
- They decide how quickly or slowly we burn energy.
- They can make storing or losing fat easier or more difficult.
- They influence how often we feel hungry or full.
- They can make us more or less responsive to hormones that manage our hunger and energy levels.
There are hundreds of genes related to weight. While some have a large effect, like causing rare genetic disorders, most have a small impact, like causing minor variations in body weight.
Here are a few examples:
- The FTO gene affects our hunger and preference for high-calorie foods. People with a certain variation of this gene often eat more and gain weight back more easily.
- The MC4R gene impacts our sense of fullness and energy use. Those with a particular variant often feel less full and burn fewer calories.
- The ADIPOQ gene influences fat storage and sensitivity to insulin. If you have a certain variant of this gene, you may store more fat and be more prone to developing type 2 diabetes.
- The PPARG gene affects fat distribution and your body’s response to different diets. People with a specific variant may have more belly fat and respond better to low-fat diets.
Though, these genes don’t decide our weight by themselves. They interact with other factors like our environment and behavior.
What’s the science behind gaining the weight back?
Gaining weight back, also called weight loss rebound, is when you regain the weight you’ve lost. This can happen with any weight loss method – dieting, exercise, medication, surgery, etc.
Sadly, this is quite common. About 80% of people who lose weight end up gaining weight back, sometimes even more than they initially lost. This happens over various periods – months or years – and to various degrees.
Gaining weight back after losing it can be disheartening, especially after all the effort to lose it. It also negatively impacts health and well-being.
It increases the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke, etc. It can reduce your quality of life and even affect your mental health, causing depression, anxiety, stress, etc.
So, understanding why we gain weight back and how to prevent it is vital.
Why do we often gain weight back?
Regaining weight involves a mix of lifestyle and behavioral factors, as well as metabolic factors.
Lifestyle and behavioral factors
These factors are about how you live and act around weight management. They include:
- Your diet: What, when, and how much you eat.
- Your physical activity: How often, what kind, and how intense your exercise routine is.
- Your sleep: How much and how well you sleep.
- Your stress: The amount of stress you experience and how you manage it.
- Your motivation: Your commitment to maintaining your weight loss and your confidence in doing so.
- Your social support: The support you receive from family, friends, healthcare providers, etc.
In short, you need to balance your calorie intake and energy use, maintain a healthy diet and exercise routine, manage your emotions, sleep well, stay motivated, and get the right support.
These factors are about how your body manages weight.
- Your metabolic rate: How fast or slow you burn calories at rest and during activity. If your metabolic rate drops, you’ll burn fewer calories.
- Your energy usage: How much energy your body uses when you eat, rest, and exercise. If your body uses less energy than you eat, you’ll store more calories as fat.
- Your energy storage: How much energy your body stores as fat. If your body stores more energy as fat, you’ll gain weight.
- Your hormones: How your hormones affect your hunger, fullness, and metabolism. If your hormones get out of balance, your hunger and metabolism will change, and you’ll gain weight.
In short, you need to keep your metabolism active, use energy effectively, manage your fat storage, and maintain balanced hormones.
So, you’re not just “lacking willpower” if you gain weight back. Your body is actually working against you.
It’s wired to prevent weight loss and promote weight gain, especially in times of perceived “starvation” (i.e., dieting). This is due to evolutionary adaptations for survival.
How are genes and weight loss rebound related?
Just as genes influence weight, they also impact gaining weight back.
When you lose weight, your body fights to regain it. It makes you hungrier, lowers your metabolism, and encourages fat storage. This is called “metabolic adaptation” or “adaptive thermogenesis.”
It’s a survival mechanism that helps your body conserve energy when food is scarce.
Your genes control how strong this survival mechanism is. If it’s stronger, you’re more likely to gain weight back. If it’s weaker, you’re more likely to keep the weight off.
Moreover, certain genes can also influence your behavior, making you more likely to:
- eat more
- exercise less
- sleep poorly
- feel stressed
These behaviors can then lead to gaining weight back.
Scientists have discovered that some people have unique changes in their genes which make them more likely to gain weight back after weight loss. These unique changes can make their bodies react differently to weight loss and weight gain.
- Some people have gene changes that make them lose more muscle and gain more fat when they drop weight. This makes their bodies burn fewer calories when at rest, increasing the chance of gaining the weight back.
- Some people have gene changes that reduce the amount of leptin, a hormone that makes you feel full, and increase the amount of ghrelin, a hormone that makes you feel hungry, when they lose weight. This makes them feel hungrier and less full, which can lead to weight gain after weight loss.
- Some people have gene changes that make them produce more insulin, a hormone that helps store fat, and less glucagon, a hormone that helps release sugar into the blood, when they lose weight. This can lead to storing more fat and releasing less sugar, which can result in gaining weight back after losing it.
- Some people have gene changes that make them produce less thyroid hormones, which help regulate how fast your body uses energy, when they lose weight. This makes their bodies use less energy, increasing the chance of gaining the weight back.
These unique changes in genes can make it harder for some people to keep a negative energy balance, where you burn more calories than you eat, and easier to have a positive energy balance, where you eat more calories than you burn.
This means they will need to eat less and exercise more than others to maintain their weight loss, or else they will regain the weight.
But what are these gene changes? And how do they affect gaining weight back after losing it? Let’s discuss some genes linked to regaining weight.
- One such gene is the FTO gene. It creates a protein involved in various body processes related to metabolism. People who have a certain change in this gene, tend to have higher body weight, more body fat, larger waist size, and higher risk of obesity. They also eat more, prefer high-calorie foods, and feel less full. People with this gene change also tend to gain more weight back after losing it. They burn fewer calories at rest, feel hungrier, and respond less to diet changes. This suggests that people with this gene change may need more focused and customized plans to prevent gaining the weight back after losing it.
- The MC4R gene is another gene linked to weight regain. It makes a protein that regulates hunger and energy balance in the brain. People with a certain change in this gene, also have higher body weight, more body fat, larger waist size, and higher risk of obesity. They eat more, feel less full, and use less energy. People with this gene change tend to regain more weight after losing it too. They burn fewer calories at rest, feel hungrier, and respond less to exercise. This suggests that they also may need more focused and personalized plans to prevent regaining weight after losing it.
- The ADIPOQ gene, which produces a protein that helps regulate sugar metabolism and fat storage, is another one. People with a certain change in this gene, have lower levels of this protein in their blood. This can affect how their bodies use insulin, take up sugar, and burn fat. People with this gene change tend to regain more weight after losing it. They burn fewer calories at rest, produce more insulin, and respond less to diet changes. This suggests that they too may need more specific diet and exercise strategies to maintain their weight loss.
Moreover, there are numerous other genes and gene variants that scientists are studying in relation to weight loss and regain. Many of these genes are involved in metabolic processes, hunger and satiety, and the regulation of body fat.
For instance, the leptin gene (LEP) and its receptor gene (LEPR) are believed to play a role. Leptin is a hormone that signals the brain to reduce appetite. People with variants of these genes may have altered leptin signaling, potentially leading to increased appetite and weight regain after weight loss.
In the same vein, the insulin-induced gene 2 (INSIG2) has also been implicated. INSIG2 plays a crucial role in the regulation of cholesterol and fatty acid synthesis. Certain variants of this gene might increase a person’s susceptibility to weight regain after dieting.
Overall, these genetic variations contribute to a complex interplay of factors that influence weight loss and regain.
Some people, due to their genetic makeup, may have to put in more effort to maintain their weight loss, while others may not struggle as much. It’s important to remember that genes are not destiny, and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise also play a significant role in maintaining a healthy weight.
If you are concerned about your weight or have trouble maintaining weight loss, it may be beneficial to speak with a healthcare provider or a genetic counselor.
They can provide guidance on strategies that are most likely to work for you, based on your individual genetic makeup and lifestyle.
How Does Lossing and Regaining Weight Multiple Times Affect?
Weight cycling, often known as “yo-yo dieting” or “weight fluctuations,” is when you repeatedly lose and gain weight over time.
It’s a lot like a swing, you go down, then you come back up – gaining the weight back after you’ve lost it. Sadly, this isn’t great for your health or your happiness.
- Firstly, this constant losing and gaining weight can actually make you more likely to get serious long-term health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and things like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These can be life-threatening conditions.
- Secondly, this weight loss and gain can cause your muscle mass and bone density to decrease. This can lead to weakness and conditions like osteoporosis, which makes your bones brittle and more likely to break.
- Additionally, it can mess up your metabolism and hormones. This means it can be more difficult to lose weight the next time you try and even easier to gain weight back. It’s like a cruel weight loss rebound.
- And that’s not all. Weight cycling can also harm your body’s defense system, making you more likely to get sick from infections and have inflammation.
Gaining weight back after losing it can negatively impact your mood and how you feel about yourself. It can lead to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and dissatisfaction with your body.
It can also affect your thinking and memory, messing up things like learning, decision-making, and problem-solving.
But it doesn’t stop there. Weight cycling also hurts social and financial well-being. People might feel lonely, rejected, or even stigmatized.
People in school or work might find their performance suffering as they go through the cycle of losing and gaining weight. This can lead to lower grades, lower income, and less satisfaction in what they do.
Then, there’s the financial part. People constantly gaining and losing weight will likely see an increase in medical costs and potentially a decrease in access to healthcare. This could make their health status worse in the long run.
Lastly, constantly regaining weight can limit the fun things a person get to do in life like hobbies, traveling, and other leisure activities. This can lead to less enjoyment and fulfillment in life.
So, maintaining weight loss after you’ve achieved it is critical. Understanding how to maintain weight after a weight loss regime can keep you healthier and happier in the long term.
How can you stop gaining weight back?
To stop gaining weight back, you need to address both your genes and your lifestyle.
- Balance your calorie intake and output. You can do this by eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.
- Choose nutrient-dense foods. These are foods that are high in nutrients but low in calories. They include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, etc.
- Be mindful of your eating habits. This means eating slowly, savoring your food, and stopping when you’re full.
- Get enough sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Manage your stress. You can do this through relaxation techniques, physical activity, hobbies, social interactions, etc.
- Keep motivated. You can do this by setting realistic goals, tracking your progress, rewarding your achievements, etc.
- Seek social support. This can come from family, friends, healthcare providers, support groups, etc.
- Know your genes. You can take a genetic test to find out your risk of gaining weight back. This can help you plan your weight management strategy.
- Customize your diet and exercise plan based on your genes. For instance, if you have the FTO variant, you might need to focus more on controlling your hunger and metabolism. If you have the ADIPOQ or PPARG variant, you might need to focus more on managing your fat storage and metabolism.
- Monitor your progress and adjust your plan as needed. This can help you stay on track and overcome any setbacks.
Your genes can influence your weight and whether you gain it back after losing it. But, by knowing your genes and changing your lifestyle, you can successfully manage your weight and keep it off.
It’s not just about losing weight, but maintaining weight loss over the long term.
Overview of possible interventions for those with genetic predispositions to weight regain
There are various types of interventions that can help you prevent weight regain based on your individual genetic profile.
These interventions can be broadly categorized into two groups: dietary interventions and physical activity interventions.
Dietary interventions are related to what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, etc. They include:
- Calorie restriction: This involves reducing the amount of calories you consume per day. This can help you create a negative energy balance (burning more calories than you consume) and prevent weight regain.
- Macronutrient manipulation: This involves adjusting the proportion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in your diet. This can help you regulate your blood sugar levels, insulin levels, fat storage levels, appetite levels, etc.
- Meal timing and frequency: This involves changing the timing and frequency of your meals. This can help you regulate your hunger levels, satiety levels, metabolism levels, etc.
- Food quality and variety: This involves choosing foods that are high in nutrients and low in calories. This can help you improve your health status, prevent nutrient deficiencies, and increase your food satisfaction.
- Food supplements: This involves taking supplements that can enhance your diet. These supplements can include vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, fiber, protein, etc.
- Medications: This involves taking medications that can affect your weight management. These medications can include appetite suppressants, fat blockers, glucose-lowering drugs, etc.
These dietary interventions can help you prevent weight regain by affecting various aspects of your metabolism, appetite, energy expenditure, fat storage, etc.
They can help you determine the best dietary intervention for you based on your genetic profile, medical history, current health status, goals, preferences, etc.
Physical activity interventions
Physical activity interventions are related to how often you exercise, what type of exercise you do, how intense you exercise, etc. They include:
- Aerobic exercise: This involves any type of exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing rate. This can include walking, running, cycling, swimming, etc. Aerobic exercise can help you burn calories, improve your cardiovascular health, reduce stress levels, etc.
- Resistance exercise: This involves any type of exercise that increases your muscle strength and endurance. This can include lifting weights, doing push-ups, doing squats, etc. Resistance exercise can help you increase your muscle mass, improve your bone health, boost your metabolism levels, etc.
- Flexibility exercise: This involves any type of exercise that increases your range of motion and mobility. This can include stretching, yoga, pilates, etc. Flexibility exercise can help you prevent injuries, improve your posture, reduce pain levels, etc.
- Balance exercise: This involves any type of exercise that improves your stability and coordination. This can include tai chi, dancing, skating, etc. Balance exercise can help you prevent falls, improve your agility, enhance your cognitive function, etc.
These physical activity interventions can help you prevent weight regain by affecting various aspects of your metabolism, appetite, energy expenditure, fat storage, etc.
However, these effects are not the same for everyone. They can vary depending on your genetic profile, as well as other factors, such as your age, gender, health status, etc.
It is important to consult your healthcare provider and your genetic counselor before starting any dietary or physical activity intervention.
Role of healthcare professionals and genetic counseling in managing weight regain
As we have seen in the previous sections, genes can influence weight regain by affecting various aspects of your metabolism, appetite, energy expenditure, fat storage, etc.
However, these effects are not the same for everyone. They can vary depending on various factors, such as your environment and your behavior.
This means that managing weight regain is not a simple matter of following a generic diet or exercise plan. It is a matter of finding the optimal balance between your genetic profile, environmental factors, and behavioral choices.
This is where healthcare professionals and genetic counselors can help you. They can provide you with the following services:
- Genetic testing: This involves analyzing your DNA to identify the variations in your genes that influence weight regain. This can help you understand how your genes affect weight regain and how they interact with other factors.
- Genetic counseling: This involves providing you with information and guidance on how to use the results of genetic testing to manage weight regain. This can help you develop personalized strategies and interventions based on your individual genetic profile.
- Medical supervision: This involves monitoring and evaluating your health status and progress during and after weight management interventions. This can help you prevent or treat any potential complications or side effects that may arise from weight loss or weight regain.
- Behavioral support: This involves providing you with psychological and emotional support during and after weight management interventions. This can help you cope with stress or emotions affecting weight regain or interfering with weight management.
In this article, we have explored how genes influence your tendency to regain weight, and what you can do about it.
We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of the relationship between genes and weight regain, and how you can use this knowledge to manage your weight more effectively.
Weight regain is a complex and multifactorial problem that affects many people who try to lose weight. It can also have negative consequences for your health and well-being. However, it is not inevitable or irreversible.
By understanding how genes influence weight regain and how they interact with other factors, you can adopt personalized strategies and interventions to help you prevent weight regain and maintain weight loss.
Important: However, we also want to emphasize that this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your weight or any medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.
Dr. Sumeet is a seasoned geneticist turned wellness educator and successful financial blogger. GenesWellness.com, leverages his rich academic background and passion for sharing knowledge online to demystify the role of genetics in wellness. His work is globally published and he is quoted on top health platforms like Medical News Today, Healthline, MDLinx, Verywell Mind, NCOA, and more. Using his unique mix of genetics expertise and digital fluency, Dr. Sumeet inspires readers toward healthier, more informed lifestyles.