Understanding the Link Between Biology, Weight and Health


Within our culture, we often have a way of thinking about our body size and weight that is culturally driven. While culturally-defined standards for weight and body size can definitely influence an individual’s decision to lose weight, we may be missing one very important factor that should never go overlooked!

Along the journey with weight and health, it’s also important to understand that our body weight and size is also biologically driven. Having excess weight drives many different health risks, but weight-loss simultaneously drives many different health benefits. In this post, we aim to share with you some key knowledge about our bodies and our biology that shape our health, our lives and the way we come to think about ourselves.

What You Need to Know about Biology

Many different factors drive our risk for obesity – It’s common for other people, including ourselves, to blame our weight on personal decisions that could have been controlled. This often leads to feelings of guilt and shame – but the truth is that many different things can potentially influence our weight and contribute to the development of obesity, including:

  • Genetics – Genes that we inherit through birth and are passed down through our families
  • Stress/mood – Our mental health affects our hunger, sleep cycle and other important brain functions
  • Medications – Many medications are associated with weight gain such as insulin, oral medications for diabetes, antidepressants and more
  • Metabolic adaptation – Changes in our metabolism and physiology can affect our energy needs that influence weight-loss
  • Environmental drivers – Our environment can make weight-loss difficult by providing readily available, energy dense and high palatable foods while promoting sedentary levels  and low activity

Our weight affects our health, not just our appearance – Although weight is a concern for many people who care deeply about their visual appearance, we must also bring health into the bigger picture. Having excess weight can contribute to many different health conditions. Fortunately, there is a strong relationship between weight-loss and risk factor improvement. Every pound lost reduces our risk of:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Breathing problems (such as sleep apnea and asthma)
  • Gallbladder disease and gallstones
  • Some cancers

In fact, every single pound we gain or lose is significant! Even modest weight-loss improves our risk factors for ALL BMI categories and people of every size, shape or weight.

Certain behaviors can make one healthier at any weight – If understanding our biology and physiology is important for improving our weight and health, what can we do to promote long-term success on our weight-loss journeys?

  • Address our mental health – Take small steps to improving your mind. This may include meditation, exercise to help improve clarity and feelings of well-being, or treating yourself with rewards such as a vacation, a warm bath or even a nice massage.
  • Get enough sleep – You may not always be able to control this, but try doing what you can! Strive for at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night by going to bed earlier, relaxing before bedtime or drinking calming tea in the evenings.
  • Monitor food intake – Be aware of what’s going into your body and how much. Are you controlling your portions? Eating foods that are less-processed and rich with nutrients?
  • Establish healthy habits – Simple lifestyle changes can do a lot for your body. Try developing an exercise routine, or eating at home more with your family. These are just some of your many options!

Want more information about the link between your biology, weight and health? You can watch the full video online as Dr. Donna H. Ryan speaks to attendees at the OAC’s 2015 Your Weight Matters National Convention in San Antonio, Texas by CLICKING HERE.

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