There’s no denying that food and exercise are important to a weight loss plan, but you’ve probably heard that genetics play a part in how effective your body is at achieving those goals. And that’s true—but maybe not in the way you might think.

This has been discussed at length in the medicine world. According to Dr. McCarthy, there are a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors that have a major influence on how your genes express themselves. This is significant since much of what we experience on a daily basis in our stressful lives causes our genes to be expressed in unhealthy ways—especially when it comes to the body’s managing of metabolism and energy storage” he explains.

“There’s a saying in genetic medicine that the genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger,” says Dr. McCarthy, our on-staff naturopathic doctor. “You might have a genetic predisposition, but those genes that are encoded need to be activated and brought to life.  This process is often influenced by certain elements in our internal and external environments—like stress and toxicities which set us up for unhealthy genetic manifestations.”

How does it work? When the body is under situational stress, it goes into crisis mode and adjusts physiology to maximize the potential for survival. “It’s like a hurricane coming in,” says Dr. McCarthy. “In that instance, people are put into a high-pressure mode where they’re preparing for what could potentially be a long, drawn-out event where they might not have access to food or water. The body does a similar thing. Stress signals that the body is in an unsafe environment, and it shifts your metabolism to help your body  hold on to fat stores and conserve energy, which can make you put weight on.”

“Stress signals that the body is in an unsafe environment, and it shifts your metabolism to help your body hold on to fat stores and conserve energy, which can make you put weight on.”

According to alternative practices, the symbolism of this act is found in the body creating padding to protect from life threatening influences in the environment. From a primal perspective, it’s a protective mechanism. With more fat stores, you  appear bigger to other animals which may be advantageous; and further, your internal organs have more protection from physical trauma, and from extreme cold, not to mention a huge supply of stored energy to get you through a long period of sc