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Factors Affecting Weight Loss

By Carly Schuna ; Updated July 18, 2017

For some people, losing weight seems to be a snap. Without much effort or planning, they reach their goal weights in record time. For others, exercising every day and diligently eating less still doesn’t make much of a difference. Although scientists do have a clear understanding of some weight-loss factors, others are less apparent, which makes the process of slimming down different for everyone.

Genetic Makeup

Some people have genetic predispositions that make it easier for them to lose weight and keep it off. According to a research review published in 2007 in the journal “Diabetes Spectrum,” certain gene mutations are tied to obesity in humans. Even in studies of twins, in which all pairs of twins ate the same number of calories for a trial period of time, some twin pairs gained or lost much more weight than others -- but identical twins almost always lost or gained the same amount of weight.

Metabolic Rate

Your metabolic rate is also a factor that’s related to genetics. In essence, metabolic rate defines how efficiently your body burns calories, whether at rest or when you are active. Although it’s possible to temporarily speed up your metabolic rate with a one-time workout or by eating certain foods, such as those containing caffeine or hot peppers, the most effective way to boost your metabolism and lose weight over time is to build more lean muscle mass with strength exercise and lower your percentage of body fat.

Activity Level

Even if genetics seems to be stacked against you, you can make progress toward losing weight with consistent exercise. Physical activity burns calories, and although resistance training doesn’t typically burn as many calories as cardio exercise, it builds muscle, which increases your metabolic rate. In a research analysis published in 2011 in “PLOS Medicine,” scientists found that across a wide range of subjects who all had a gene mutation associated with obesity, those who exercised regularly were almost 30 percent less likely to be overweight.

What You Eat

It’s a no-brainer -- your diet, in large part, determines how much you weigh. On average, vegetarians and vegans are slimmer than meat eaters, even if they eat a similar number of calories every day. Why? The most likely explanation is that your body metabolizes calories differently depending on where they come from, so foods that are high in dietary fiber and plant proteins may benefit your metabolism more than foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Your eating patterns also play a role in how much you weigh. For example, almost 80 percent of members on the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks people who have maintained a weight loss, eat breakfast daily -- a habit that may help curb hunger and cravings throughout the day.

Your Surroundings

You may not think about it much, but your environment and surroundings make a big difference in how much you weigh. If your neighborhood is highly walkable, for example, you may find it easier to lose weight than someone who lives in a remote area and needs to drive everywhere. Slimming down is also more realistic for people who can easily access and afford healthy foods or who live in households where healthy foods are readily available.

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