The ability to design one’s very own personalised nutrition regime using digital devices makes losing weight these days less about guesswork and more about genetics. Sasha Sandher finds out more.
Keto, Paleo, Atkins, the cabbage soup diet – we’ve all tried extreme diets in the pursuit of losing weight. Despite ordering copious amounts of exercise equipment and signing up for as many online classes as possible, confinement to my residence during lockdown saw me add to the scales more than I ever have before. Initially, I tried to take the ‘easy’ way out with crash diets (in spite of my better judgement). I would lose weight quickly, albeit unhealthily, but put it on when I resumed a regular diet. I realised I needed to map out a proper nutritional journey to achieve weight loss with sustainable results.
The diet industry is worth billions globally, and there seem to be experts everywhere professing their top tips all over Google. What struck me was how generic the advice was – our bodies come in all shapes and sizes, we have different health issues, our lifestyles grossly vary – yet the advice never reflected this.
The one consistent message was that too much fat around the midsection can lead to diabetes and cardiovascular risks. It’s indicative of visceral fat – fat that has accumulated around your organs – so keeping this in check is vital for your health. It is said that “abs are made in the kitchen” and “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet”, so the bottom line seems to be that a well-balanced approach to nutrition is key to weight loss. And more than aesthetics, the health aspect is the number one priority. But in order to accomplish this, we need to personalise our approach for our own bodies instead of trying the one-size fits-all methods.
Firstly, consider what you’re working with at a cellular level. We all have a unique genetic code that dictates our bodies, and this will influence our workout and nutritional plans. Have you ever wondered why your friend can eat all the pasta they want, while if you so much as smell a doughnut you add an inch to your hips? It’s chiefly down to our DNA; how we absorb fat, where it sits on our bodies, what we enjoy eating, and how fast we burn calories. That isn’t to say that if you’re genetically predisposed to obesity that you should resign yourself to it, you just need to do things a bit differently.
There are many DNA testing services that can provide you with fully comprehensive testing. For example, Circle DNA gives you over 500 reports to build a picture of your health profile at a genetic level. You not only understand how what you eat affects you, but why you eat what you do. As an example, those with an extreme sweet tooth may not taste ‘sweet’ as sensitively as others, and therefore seek out the most syrupy, saccharine treats to satisfy their cravings. So, by gathering key information about your DNA, you can start to build yourself a nutrition plan that works specifically for you – whether that focuses on low calories, high protein, low fat or simply avoiding dessert!
All that will provide you with a solid guide on where to start with your nutrition. However, for those of you looking to really hack your metabolism, a handheld device by Lumen can help to determine what and when you’re eating throughout your day. By breathing into it, it monitors your carbon dioxide levels and tells you if you’re burning carbs or fat. You can then use this data to optimise and customise your daily nutrition plan and ensure you’re on track. For example, if you’re not burning fat, and have an excess of carbohydrates stored, perhaps you want to avoid carb-rich foods for a while or consider intermittent fasting while initially slimming down.
Another consideration is your base level of activity. If you’re always up and about you’ll typically burn more calories than someone who is sedentary at a work desk. Of course, this doesn’t include those who include extensive HIIT sessions or heavy strength training sessions after work. But as a rule, the less active you are throughout the day, the less you should eat to maintain a caloric deficit. Also, keep in mind macros when looking at calories – protein builds muscle, fat helps satiety, and carbs provide energy. All are important, but the optimum ratio will be specific to your own body. Once you have established your caloric intake you can work out your macro ratios with apps like MyFitnessPal that fit your goals, genetics, and metabolism. Fitness trackers such as FitBit can also serve as a guide to your daily caloric use.
With all this being said, there are some general rules to try and stick to throughout your weight loss journey. Measure yourself rather than focus on weight by itself – your weight might go up as your muscle tone improves – and don’t allow yourself to be so ruled by food that you stop enjoying life, or you’ll be more likely to quit and lose progress. Keep your goals sustainable and achievable. Don’t set yourself up for failure. And if you’re really struggling to lose weight, it’s advisable to consult a doctor for some hormonal tests.
Everyone and anyone can attain their goals with a deeper understanding of their own body, proper research, and commitment. Our bodies are unique and special entities, and treating them as such will help them to function and feel the very best they can.