Genetics vs. Lifestyle: Which One Affects Your Health Most?By Stephanie E - Jenny Craig Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, R.D. Science-Backed
Genes: They’re something you’re born with, and there’s nothing you can do to change how they’ll affect your health, right?
Fortunately, there are some simple, yet powerful, lifestyle choices you can make to take charge of your health — and your weight loss.
Now, it’s easier than ever to take a DNA test that could outline your family tree, or even help you to lose weight. A DNA test for weight loss could help you to better understand your likelihood of experiencing certain health concerns, like your overweight risk. But what’s hidden in your genes doesn’t have to be your destiny — a variety of lifestyle factors could have a significant influence on your weight loss, and many of them are in your control.
How your lifestyle could affect your weight loss efforts
While many different factors can influence weight loss, a DNA weight loss tool, like Jenny Craig’s DNA Decoder Plan, can help to identify areas of your health that may be linked to your genes and your lifestyle.
“Your genes can give you insight into your likelihood of developing or exhibiting certain health conditions,” says Dr. Mark Sarzynski, Ph.D., FAHA, FACSM, Director of Genomics Research at a genetics-based health management company.
While all humans share the same genes — genes are expressed differently in every individual. Whether or not a gene is expressed, or turned “on” or “off,” can be impacted by your external environment (your lifestyle choices and what’s around you) and your internal environment (including factors such as hormones and metabolism).1
“Although your genetic markers can give you a better understanding of certain weight loss-specific traits that you may exhibit — they’re only one part of the picture. Your lifestyle, behaviors, and the environmental factors you’re exposed to have a substantial impact,” explains Sarzynski.
Regardless of your genetic makeup, making healthy lifestyle choices can benefit your weight loss goals — and your overall health.
These are some of the weight loss-related markers you’ll find with Jenny Craig’s DNA Decoder Plan, common lifestyle factors that could affect them, and healthy habits you can start practicing to support your goals.
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Lifestyle factors that may contribute to this marker: Certain eating habits, like overeating or consuming fast food on a regular basis, can add unnecessary calories and high amounts of saturated fat, sugar and processed carbohydrates to your diet, which could all contribute to weight gain. If combined with an inactive lifestyle, it can be difficult for your body to burn off the majority of the calories you consume.2
Healthy habits to try: Following a balanced meal plan that includes complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and lean proteins in healthy portions is a great first step. One large study involving adults in the United States found that the types of foods and beverages eaten influenced the quantity of what was consumed. In the study, changes in the amounts of refined foods and liquid carbohydrates (including alcohol) consumed were associated with long-term weight gain, while changes in the amount of unprocessed foods (including vegetables, whole grains, fruits and nuts) were linked to weight loss.3
To help make mealtimes healthier, try these tips:
- Use this portion size guide to help build your plate
- Drink plenty of water
- Load your plate with fresh or frozen non-starchy vegetables (think: broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and more)
- Eat a moderate amount of lean protein (think: chicken, fish and legumes)
- Include a small amount of high-fiber carbohydrates in your diet (think: whole grains and fruit)
- Consume a small amount of healthy fat (think: avocado, nuts and olive oil)
Additionally, try to increase the amount of physical activity you do in a day. One study found that regularly jogging or practicing yoga helped to decrease participants’ genetic predisposition to certain obesity measures.4 The study also determined that walking, mountain climbing and dancing could help lessen the effects of participants’ genes on body mass index, or BMI.5 Take a walk around the block, park farther away from your destination, or check out this Beginner’s Guide to Exercise for more tips.
Your metabolism’s efficiency
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Lifestyle factors that may contribute to this marker: If your test results suggest you have a slower metabolism, don’t worry — some factors that influence your metabolism simply happen naturally, like aging. Other elements that could impact your metabolism include a less active lifestyle, an unhealthy diet, a lack of sleep and poor-quality sleep.
Although your resting metabolic rate (RMR) may gradually decline throughout your life,5 you can take steps to support it. One study indicates that RMR is greatly influenced by physical activity, because the boost it provides to your metabolic rate partially carries over, even when you’re finished exercising.5 As a result, the study concludes, people who are physically active may maintain a higher RMR than those who are sedentary.5
Your metabolism may also be affected by what — and when — you eat.
Healthy habits to try: Try to eat in alignment with your circadian rhythm, the daily changes that happen to your mental, behavior and physical states over a 24-hour cycle.6 These patterns are typically divided into two 12-hour periods, which are dictated by daytime and nighttime. To follow this natural rhythm, you’ll consume most of your meals during daylight hours when your metabolism is working more efficiently, and refrain from consuming food and caloric beverages at night, so your body can focus on other processes besides digesting food.
Jenny Craig’s Rapid Results weight loss program integrates a circadian rhythm-based “daylight nutrition strategy,” where you’ll eat your meals and snacks during the first 12 daylight hours, and then use the remaining 12 hours of the night to allow your body to rest. So, if you have breakfast at 8 a.m., you’ll finish dinner before 8 p.m., and have breakfast the next day at around the same time. And if going 12 hours without eating sounds intimidating, don’t worry — you’ll spend most of this time sleeping!
Your sleep quality
What this marker indicates: Whether or not you’re prone to getting quality sleep on a regular basis.
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to this marker: Too little sleep and poor-quality sleep can both affect your weight loss efforts. But what could be keeping you up at night? Environmental factors play a large role when it comes to getting restful sleep. From high levels of stress to eating certain foods, there are a variety of factors that could potentially spell trouble for your zzz’s.
When you miss out on sleep, your hormone levels of leptin (which helps to suppress appetite) and ghrelin (which helps to stimulate appetite) may be affected,7 which could influence eating habits. One study found that men who were sleep-deprived were more likely to crave high-carbohydrate foods that were sweet, salty or starchy.7
Healthy habits to try: The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.8 You can also try these 10 sleep hygiene tips to get a better night’s rest. Eating a balanced diet, getting regular exercise and finding healthy outlets to help de-stress may all support restful sleep.
Genetics vs. lifestyle: What’s more important for weight loss?
Your genetics can play a part in your weight loss, but the way you live your life may have more of an impact. Learning about your genetic tendencies can be a helpful tool to support you during your weight loss journey, but your results don’t have to dictate your lifestyle.
So, what’s the biggest benefit of taking a DNA weight loss test? Using these insights, it may be easier to spot habits that you can improve. You can focus on different areas of your lifestyle — like your eating, sleeping and exercise habits — and begin making healthy changes.
Want to learn more about how your genetics, lifestyle and weight loss are all connected? Try the DNA Decoder Plan to help jump-start your weight loss today!
Stephanie Eng-Aponte is a copywriter for Jenny Craig and has written for the health and wellness, tech, and environmental industries. Stephanie graduated from Rutgers University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Media Studies. They employ an “eat first, write later” approach to food blogging and enjoy the occasional Oxford comma. Outside of writing, you can find them photographing a muttley crew of rescue pups, brewing kombucha, or exploring San Diego.
Favorite healthy snack: green apple slices with sunflower butter
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and fact-checked by Briana Rodriquez, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Jenny Craig.
Our goal at Jenny Craig is to provide the most up-to-date and objective information on health-related topics, so our readers can make informed decisions based on factual content. All articles undergo an extensive review process, and depending on topic, are reviewed by a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) or Nutritionist, to ensure accuracy.
This article contains trusted sources including scientific, peer-reviewed papers. All references are hyperlinked at the end of the article to take readers directly to the source.
Edited by Stephanie E - Jenny Craig