Weight loss is more complex than calories in and calories out.
You know this. That's why counting calories never gave you the results you were looking for. Not because you don't have willpower. But because you are unique--what works for one person may not work for you.
In reality, there's a lot going on in the body besides calories. You could call them variables. These are small differences that affect your appetite, how you use energy, and how you store fat. The most important variables include your medical history, your current diet, and your DNA.
Are You Doomed To Always Feel Hungry?
Your DNA is a molecule that stores information about who you are and how you're built. The genetic information found inside your DNA influences everything from eye color to appetite.
And according to research, one gene in particular affects how full you feel, how often you eat, and how you respond to food: The FTO gene, or the obesity gene. (1)(2)(3)(4)
Bear in mind that there are many genes and environmental cues affecting your ability to get lean.
There is no single gene or lifestyle change that holds the key to your success--but if you know your genome, this can help to explain why weight loss is so difficult. And what to do about it. (5)
When The Paleo Diet Works (And When It Doesn't)
The FTO gene can increase your risk of obesity up to 20%. It may even stop you from reaching your weight loss goals. (6)
Current research suggests that the FTO gene influences hunger and the "hunger hormone," known as ghrelin. (7) So much so, that some variations of the FTO gene are strongly associated with excess weight gain.
But while you may be genetically wired to have a strong appetite, recent studies also show that certain foods--like proteins--dampen the expression of the FTO gene and its leverage on your hunger hormones. (8)
In other words, plenty of dietary protein can control the things that the FTO gene seems to influence. Like appetite and satiety after meals.
But before you order steak and eggs for breakfast--in this particular study, a "high protein" diet was a mere 25% of total calories.
For an active, healthy woman, this is the equivalent of a little more than 8 ounces of salmon per day.
Other studies have found that a "high-fat" diet increases the threat of obesity in those with the high-risk FTO gene. (9) Unfortunately, the same study also found that people with high-risk variations of the FTO gene tend to gravitate towards a fatty diet.
A Paleo diet is rich in both animal proteins and fat. While healthy fats (like those found in cold water fish, cold-pressed olive oil, and virgin coconut oil) are essential, I recommend a plant-based diet that includes moderate portions of protein and healthy fats.
Make The Paleo Diet Work For You
The Body Ecology Diet has been Paleo for the last 25 years.
But instead of steak and eggs, my emphasis is on plant foods that feed good gut bacteria and on cultured, probiotic-rich foods. These should be the bulk of your diet.
Because the reality is that your microbes outnumber your own cells 10 to 1. (10) The more you support with your inner ecology, the healthier you'll be.
Indeed, research tells us that antibiotics make our children fat. (11) And there is no doubt that obesity is related to a wounded inner ecosystem (or gut dysbiosis). (12)
In order to make the Paleo diet work for you and your weight loss goals (even if you are genetically doomed to obesity), it is critical to follow the Body Ecology Principle of 80/20, which says:
- Roughly 20% of can be protein-rich foods, like animal protein.
- The remaining 80% of our meal should include non-starchy vegetables, seaweeds, and fermented vegetables.
This ratio is ideal even for those with so-called "obesity genes."
If you struggle with weight loss, it's not calories that you need to be mindful of--but your inner ecosystem and your genes.
1. Wardle, J., Llewellyn, C., Sanderson, S., & Plomin, R. (2008). The FTO gene and measured food intake in children. International journal of obesity, 33(1), 42-45.
2. Frayling, T. M., Timpson, N. J., Weedon, M. N., Zeggini, E., Freathy, R. M., Lindgren, C. M., ... & McCarthy, M. I. (2007). A common variant in the FTO gene is associated with body mass index and predisposes to childhood and adult obesity. Science, 316(5826), 889-894.
3. Scuteri, A., Sanna, S., Chen, W. M., Uda, M., Albai, G., Strait, J., ... & Abecasis, G. R. (2007). Genome-wide association scan shows genetic variants in the FTO gene are associated with obesity-related traits. PLoS genetics, 3(7), e115.
4. Scheid, J. L., Carr, K. A., Lin, H., Fletcher, K. D., Sucheston, L., Singh, P. K., ... & Epstein, L. H. (2014). FTO polymorphisms moderate the association of food reinforcement with energy intake. Physiology & behavior, 132, 51-56.
5. Meisel, S. F., & Wardle, J. (2014). Responses to FTO genetic test feedback for obesity in a sample of overweight adults: a qualitative analysis. Genes & nutrition, 9(1), 1-4.
6. de Luis, D. A., Aller, R., Conde, R., Izaola, O., Sagrado, M. G., & Sanz, J. C. (2013). The rs9939609 gene variant in FTO modified the metabolic response of weight loss after a 3-month intervention with a hypocaloric diet. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 61(1), 22-26.
7. Karra, E., O'Daly, O. G., Choudhury, A. I., Yousseif, A., Millership, S., Neary, M. T., ... & Batterham, R. L. (2013). A link between FTO, ghrelin, and impaired brain food-cue responsivity. The Journal of clinical investigation, 123(8), 3539-3551.
8. Huang, T., Qi, Q., Li, Y., Hu, F. B., Bray, G. A., Sacks, F. M., ... & Qi, L. (2014). FTO genotype, dietary protein, and change in appetite: the Preventing Overweight Using Novel Dietary Strategies trial. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 99(5), 1126-1130.
9. Sonestedt, E., Roos, C., Gullberg, B., Ericson, U., Wirfält, E., & Orho-Melander, M. (2009). Fat and carbohydrate intake modify the association between genetic variation in the FTO genotype and obesity. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 90(5), 1418-1425.
10. Bäckhed, F., Ley, R. E., Sonnenburg, J. L., Peterson, D. A., & Gordon, J. I. (2005). Host-bacterial mutualism in the human intestine. science, 307(5717), 1915-1920.
11. Bailey, L. C., Forrest, C. B., Zhang, P., Richards, T. M., Livshits, A., & DeRusso, P. A. (2014). Association of Antibiotics in Infancy With Early Childhood Obesity. JAMA pediatrics, 29.
12. Moran, C. P., & Shanahan, F. (2014). Gut microbiota and obesity: Role in aetiology and potential therapeutic target. Best Practice & Research Clinical Gastroenterology, 28(4), 585-597.