Do My Genes Make Me Look Fat?

jeaneticsHave you ever wondered if your genes affect your weight? In my experience, there isn’t one diet to fit all and our genetics can play a big role in this. Today we explore this topic with Lisa Andres, MBA, MS CGC (Certified Genetic Counselor) and CEO of and

The answer to the question “Do my jeans make me look fat?” is of course no. But have you ever wondered how your genes influence your weight?   I did, and to get at the answer, I started reviewing the latest research.  What I found really intrigued me.  I discovered that certain gene variations can affect how easy it is for us to lose weight based on the exercise that we do and the amount of nutrients that we eat like proteins, carbs and fats. What that means, is that you can influence your weight by choosing a diet and exercise program tailored to your genes.

So what does this all really mean? Let’s do a short review of genetics and then get back to how our genes influence our weight.  Every cell of our body except for our red blood cells contains 23 pairs of chromosomes. We get 1 of each pair from our mother and one from our father. Our chromosomes are made up of DNA and our DNA is made up of genes.   Differences or variations in our genes are what make each of us unique and influence things like how we look and how our body functions.

dnaVariations in our genes also influence our weight. For example, genes can influence our appetite, how many calories we burn and how our body responds to exercise and to different types of diets.  Let’s discuss a few examples.

The FTO gene appears to have a significant influence on our weight.  One way that it appears to influence our weight is through our appetite.  Different variations in this gene can influence how our body responds to both exercise and diet.

For example, one variation in this gene can influence how the body responds to protein. People with this variation find it easier to lose weight when they are on a higher protein diet.

Other variations in this gene affect how the body responds to exercise.  People with one variant tend to be overweight unless they exercise. Aerobic exercise may be particularly helpful for people with this variant.  Exercise doesn’t seem to influence the weight of people with another variant of this gene.

People with a specific variation in the Plin1 gene sometimes find it more difficult to lose weight even when they are on a low calorie diet.   What’s interesting is that it becomes easier for them to lose weight if they eat a diet high in complex carbs like fruit, vegetables and whole grains.Weight loss is more difficult if they eat a diet low in complex carbs.

Going Strong Without Added Sugar!

IMAG2812Moving into my third week of the no-added sugar challenge and there is absolutely NO dessert cravings. Fruit is perfectly fine for me. I have been very strict with my challenge and have been eliminating natural sugar (outside of fruit) and artificial sweeteners but just cutting out refined sugars is a great step forward!!

Here are some steps that can help you eliminate refined and processed sources of sugar (courtesy of the Move Over Sugar ebook*):

  1. Throw out all the processed forms of sugar in your pantry. No more white/brown/raw packets of sugar, muesli bars, cereals, biscuits, cakes, crackers, dips, etc. READ every single ingredients list and discard everything that contains some form of refined sugar (including glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, invert sugar, lactose, agave nectar, malt syrup, syrup etc.)
  2. Play swapsies. Swap those bad sources of sugar for natural ones such as honey, rapadura, coconut sugar, fresh dates and fresh fruit.
  3. Experiment with making your own treats using natural forms of sugar. Put a healthy spin on your favorite sweet treats, and substitute the sugar for a natural alternative.
  4. Have regular meals packed full with protein, healthy fats and veggies. These meals will make you feel fuller longer, maintain stable blood glucose levels, and prevent you from reaching for the cookie jar.
  5. Be prepared. Plan ALL of your meals in advance, so you are not forced to eat out or choose unhealthy, sugary choices.
  6. Be organized. Always have fresh fruit and nuts on hand or with you for when you get hungry between meals.
  7. Spice it up. Use spices to give the ‘illusion’ that a food is sweeter than it actually is – vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom.

Today’s Recipe

We were feeling a little Irish last week with the cold weather, so we made this delicious low-carb version of Colcannon (traditional Irish dish that is made with mashed potatoes and either cabbage or kale). Recipe is courtesy of



Cauliflower, coarsely chopped, 1 large head

1tbls Butter or Coconut Oil
1 tablespoon heavy cream
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pinch nutmeg, optional

2 slices bacon, chopped
1 pound cabbage, coarsely shredded
1 small onion, chopped, 2 1/2 ounces
Salt and pepper, to taste


Chop the cauliflower into small pieces sauté in pan with butter or coconut oil. Stir and cook ~ 5-7 minutes until very tender. Place in a food processor, with the chopping blade inserted, along with the heavy cream. Process until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the processor occasionally. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg, if desired. In a large skillet, fry the bacon until crisp. Add the cabbage and onion; cook and stir until the cabbage is very tender. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Gently stir the cabbage mixture into the cauliflower without over mixing.

Makes about 6 servings

Per Serving: 78 Calories; 2g Fat; 5g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 7g Net Carbs





Ahh Sugar…

sugar1You may have heard about the new book by Eve Schaub called, “Year of No Sugar”. I have not had the opportunity to review this book yet, but have read several reviews about the content. This article is not intended to review this book, but to spark a challenge about how much “added” sugar is actually in your current diet. I am not focusing on certain types of sugars (i.e. fructose) that were omitted in Schaub book, but just any type of added sugar.

So what is added sugar? “Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits.”1 I feel I eat pretty healthy, and do indulge every so often, but I have noticed there are some unnecessary added sugars in my diet.

Why should someone care about this? Added sugars are unnecessary empty calories that are typically stored as fat. They have also been linked to increased cardiovascular disease risk, weight gain, obesity, and can increase risk of diabetes. Sugar can also affect our mood and can cause act as an addiction as injection of it can trigger the release of chemicals such as serotonin, opioids and dopamine. Over time, people can develop a tolerance for sugar, meaning they need more sugar for a feel-good “fix”. This can cause a downward spiral in our overall health.

I could go on as the reasons to limit added sugar are plentifully, but for the sake of time, let’s get started! I am taking a 30 day no added sugar challenge and I challenge you the reader, to do the same.

To help you along the way, I am including a list of items and ingredients to look for to avoid added sugar in your challenge. Typical products you want to be wary of are:

  • regular soft drinks, energy drinks, and sports drinks
  • candy
  • cakes
  • cookies
  • pies and cobblers
  • sweet rolls, pastries, and donuts
  • fruit drinks and juices
  • yogurts, ice cream
  • processed items

Ingredients on food labels to look out for:

  • anhydrous dextrose
  • brown sugar
  • confectioner’s powdered sugar
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltose
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • nectars
  • syrup
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • white granulated sugar

Other names used for added sugars, but not recognized by the FDA as an ingredient name include cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrate, crystal dextrose, glucose, liquid fructose, sugar cane juice, and fruit nectar.

Just cutting out added sugars is a challenge in itself, but if you want to make it a super-challenge, try cutting out all artificial sweeteners as well!! Your health and sweet tooth may thank you!



I thought it might be a good idea to get you started with a low carb no added sugar smoothie!


1 scoop whey protein powder

¾ cup 2% fage plain yogurt

¼ cup half and half

¾ cup raspberries (frozen or fresh)

Ice cups

*stevia if desired


Pour yogurt and half and half into blender; add fruit and optional ice cubes. Blend until desired thickness.





turmericTurmeric goes by many names but it is commonly called Curcuma longa (domesticated) or Cucuma aromatic (in the wild). It is a relative of ginger, and is a perennial that grows in the tropical regions of Southern Asia. Its roots are bulbs that produce rhizomes (underground plant stems). Although it grows in many tropical locations, the majority of turmeric is grown in India and is used as a main ingredient in curry. It is also used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Turmeric contains protein (6.3%), fat (5.1%), minerals (3.5%, carbohydrate (69.4%), and moisture (13.1%).

The spice
Turmeric has a warm, bitter taste, and is frequently used to flavor and color curry powders, mustards, butters, and cheeses. It is considered safe in cooking with minimal side effects. Alone or added to other spices, herbs, and aromatics, turmeric can boost the flavor of many dishes such as rice, chicken, turkey, vegetables or even salad dressing. It’s also commonly used in pickling recipes to provide a zingy, tangy taste as well. Turmeric is best absorbed when combined with black pepper.

Medicinal Purposes

There has been a lot research done on the therapeutic advantages of turmeric and curcumin; almost too numerous to list. An overview published in Advanced Experimental Medical Biology in 2007 states that, “Curcumin has been shown to exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anticancer activities and thus has a potential against various malignant diseases, diabetes, allergies, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease and other chronic illnesses.” This article will highlight a few of the more researched areas.
Turmeric has been used for 4,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. In both Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, it is used as an anti-inflammatory agent to treat digestive and liver problems, skin diseases, and wounds. Curcumin, the phytochemical found in turmeric, has been studied as a powerful antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is the most active constituent of turmeric with very few side-effects and is generally considered safe; however, some people can experience stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea.

Neither curcumin nor turmeric taken orally is well absorbed unless taken with black pepper or piperine, a constituent of black pepper responsible for its pungency.

Curcumin has been shown in animal studies to stimulate the gallbladder to produce bile acids, which some people think may help improve digestion. One double-blinded, placebo-controlled study found that turmeric reduced symptoms of bloating and gas in people suffering from indigestion. On the other hand, turmeric does not seem to help treat stomach ulcers. In fact, there is some evidence that it may increase stomach acid, making existing ulcers worse.

Studies of turmeric and curcumin have also shown to work as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug for treatment of osteoarthritis; act as a weak phytoestrogen with some cancer protective effects; induces programmed death of colon cancer cells; and suppresses microinflammation in the GI tract associated with inflammatory bowel disease.

The bottom line
Turmeric and curcumin may have some exciting health properties, but there are not enough definitive human studies to make any recommendations at this time. Most of the research I have reviewed involved the extract curcumin. Until there is an extensive amount of data that the supplement is best, cooking with turmeric may be the best way to go. Whole foods are generally better and safer for the body.

This article only suggests using turmeric as a spice in cooking. If you wish to take turmeric or curcumin as a supplement, please speak with your medical provider before doing so, as it can interfere with other drugs you may be taking and may not be safe for use for people who are undergoing chemotherapy, pregnancy, have GERD, or have gallstones. Turmeric may also slow blood clotting and taking turmeric along with anti-clotting medications might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Bobby Flay’s Oven Roasted Cauliflower with Turmeric and Ginger
Courtesy of the food (


3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 jalapeno, finely diced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Whisk together the oil, mustard seeds, jalapeno, ginger, and turmeric in a small bowl.

Place cauliflower in a medium baking dish and toss with the flavored oil and season with salt. Roast until lightly golden brown and just tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve hot.

Chattopadhyay I. Biswas K, et al. Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications. Current Science. 87 (1): 44-53, 2004
Liu J Chen S, et al. Recent progress in studying curcumin and its nano-preperations for cancer therapy. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 19 (11): 1974-93, 2013
Asher GN Speiman K. Clinical utility of curcumin extract. Altern Ther Health Med. 19(2):20-2, 2013.

Food Label

By now you may have heard about the proposed new food label proposed by the FDA but are you aware how this may impact you? The FDA, in an attempt to align with the current scientific literature and nutritional recommendations, is updating the food labels.

The following is the proposed label and the significant changes.Image.

The serving sizes are more in line with typical serving sizes one would eat and the total serving per container is accentuated. The “Calories” per serving print is very large and stands out and may be dramatically changed due to the new serving size guidelines proposed. First some background. The FDA set the current reference values (Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed, or RACCs), in 1994, which were based on Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys. More recent food consumption data show about 17% of the current RACCs should be changed for different food categories. In addition, the FDA is also proposing to add 25 new RACCS.

The FDA is also proposing to require that some food products previously labeled as more than one serving be labeled as a single serving, because people typically eat or drink them in one sitting. Food packages containing between 150% and 200% of the RACCs could no longer be labeled as more than one serving. Certain larger packages that could be consumed in one sitting or in multiple sittings would be required to be labeled per serving and per package. This dual column labeling would be required if a package contained at least 200% of the RACC and less than or equal to 400% of the RACC. Packages containing more than 400% of the RACC, dual column labeling would not be required.2

Some other evident changes are the switch up of the %DV and the total grams will be on opposite sides to allow the consumer make better choices based on their overall daily intake.

Other less evident changes is the requirement of “added sugars” on the label. Having this added to the product will immediately let you know if the sugars contained in the product are naturally occurring or added which makes a big difference in the overall nutritional benefit of the food item.

Potassium and vitamin D will also be required on food labels which are important for chronic disease management. Vitamins A and C would no longer be required on the label. The Daily Values for sodium, dietary fiber and Vitamin D were reevaluated to current recommendations for overall health.

“Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” remain the same as the current label, the “Calories from Fat” would be removed to reflect current research which shows the type of fat is more important than the amount.

The changes proposed will affect all packaged foods with the exception of certain meat, poultry and processed egg products, which are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

So, with that all said, how will it change the way you shop? The changes in the serving size are pretty important. I don’t know how many times I have picked up an item and wondered if people actually adhere to the serving size on the package. It is definitely misleading and causes confusion for some. It will also make product comparisons a little easier. For instance, most soft drinks will be considered a serving size instead of 1 ½ –2 servings as they currently are making it easily for the consumer to see how many non-nutritive calories there really are consuming in the product without having to do math.

The one change I am most excited about is the “added sugar” line addition, as I feel it will be a very helpful feature. I’d have to say that most people are not aware of the amount of added sugar in products and I think it will be an eye opening fact for most. Will it change the way you purchase items? I hope, but at least it will make the consumer more aware.


This week’s recipe is taken from Health-bent

Low Carb Pad Thai


  • 1/4 c fat (butter, avocado oil, coconut oil)
  • 2-3 zucchinis
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 T almond butter
  • 1 T chili garlic sauce
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • Salt and pepper


If you have a mandolin, slicing the zucchinis lengthwise. If you don’t have one you can use a knife to slice the zucchini as thinly as you can (lengthwise). Slice the slices into thin strips, just like the shape of a spaghetti noodle. Over medium heat, melt your fat of choice. Saute the onion, garlic and ginger, until soft. Add the fish sauce, chili sauce, vinegar, lime juice, almond butter and a bit of salt. Stir to combine.

Add the zucchini noodles to the sauté pan. Stir them around to get the sauce incorporated onto the “zoodles”. The point here is get the “zoodles” hot and very slightly cooked through (just like an al dente noodle!), about 10 minutes.

Serve hot. Any kind of grilled or pan seared meat or seafood would go really well with this.








Protein…why the source matters!

What is protein? I usually get the same answer when this question is asked…MEAT. Yes, meat is a protein, but there are so many other great sources as well. In addition, the word meat is often misinterpreted. According to Webster’s, meat is defined as the flesh of an animal, NOT just red meat which is the typical thought.

Okay, so now that is cleared up, back to protein. Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Seafood, Nuts, Soy, Eggs, Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.), Beans, Quinoa, are ALL sources of protein.  No matter what protein you choose to eat, do your research, which is the point I am about to present.

Why should I care what kind of protein I purchase? Let’s start with hormones.  We know high levels of hormones can cause problems in the human body, but can hormones we ingest alter our hormone levels? First we need to know how much of these additives we actually absorb from these products and how much remains in products after processing? Another thing we need to look at is how these hormones will affect our body.

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rbGH)

There is an argument that rbGH in milk from treated cows contains higher levels of this hormone than milk from non-treated cows. However, the FDA concluded that there isn’t evidence that a biologically active form is absorbed. Also, the bovine growth hormone is not active in humans.

Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF-1)

IGF-1 is naturally present in both cattle and humans and it is assumed that humans can absorb extra IGF-1 from milk. It is possible that higher levels of IGF-1 in the blood may be associated with an increased risk of some cancers, but no evidence has proven a link.

Now on to antibiotics. Cows treated with rbGH reportedly have higher incidence of infections in the udder and are therefore treated with antibiotics. High use of antibiotics can create a resistance to certain bacteria making treatment difficult as we know now with all the drug-resistant organisms present these days. It is unknown if the antibiotics used to treat these infections can create harm in humans.

Until more rigorous research is done, I prefer to not risk it. I typically choose Grass-fed, hormone/antibiotic free, organic, and wild-caught items. It is also safe to buy imported European meat products, as added growth hormones are banned in the EU (interesting it is not banned here).

The one thing I can say is that once you make this change, you will not want to go back. There has been a few times when we were in an area without our usual products available to us and had to have grain-fed beef or regular eggs and well… you can tell a BIG difference. But don’t just believe me, try it yourself.

To help you understand some of the confusion terms regarding this matter while shopping, I have provided a list of terms to look for on your food products and why it is important. Happy shopping!!

Grass fed

The meat from the cow is leaner as they are grazing in a pasture for their food. Since they are leaner, they are lower in saturated fat and according to some studies, higher in omega-3’s. USDA grass-fed beef has only has a grass diet and access to pasture year-round. The program is voluntary, however, without third-party verification. Labels that read “100% grass-fed” or “grass-finished” and verified by a third party.

Wild vs Farmed Fish

A 2003 report from the Environmental Working Group showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals. And a widely publicized study in the journal Science in January 2004 suggested that farmed Atlantic salmon had higher levels of PCBs and other toxics than wild Pacific salmon.

Hormone/Antibiotic free (rBGH-free)

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, meat and poultry products can be labeled as “no antibiotics added” if documentation is provided showing that the animals were raised without antibiotics. Similar allowable are “no antibiotics ever,” “no added antibiotics” and “raised” without the use of antibiotics.” However, the term “antibiotic-free” isn’t USDA approved.  Under U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations, “hormone-free” isn’t allowed on meat products. Beef may be labeled as “no hormones administered” if producers document that the animals were raised without hormones. Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in the raising of poultry, hogs, veal calves or exotic animals not subject to USDA inspection, such as bison. Therefore, claims of “no hormones added” can’t be used on labels for these products unless the label also states, “Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones.”


This USDA-certification forbids the use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified feed, or animal by-products in raising the livestock.


This is just for poultry. Chickens labeled “free range” must have access to the outdoors


Recipe of the Week

Pork Tenderloin with Cauliflower Puree and Cranberry Compote*

Pork Tenderloin
1 to 1 ½ pound pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
2 cloves crushed garlic
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
micro greens (for garnish)
salt and pepper

Combine garlic, vinegar, red wine, and tenderloin in a bowl and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. Preheat oven 450 degrees. Bring your tenderloin to room temperature and remove from the marinade, then liberally salt and pepper all sides of the meat. .  In a large skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp. of oil or avocado oil over medium-high heat.  Sear the tenderloin for 3 minutes per side. Once seared, place the tenderloin in a baking dish and bake until cooked through (about 15-20 minutes).

Cherry Compote

1 cup water
12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries
1 teaspoon orange zest

May add a little stevia

Combine stevia (if using) and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add cranberries and orange zest and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cauliflower Purée
1 head cauliflower, broken into florets
1½ cups chicken stock
2 cloves crushed garlic
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper

In a small pot add the cauliflower, garlic, stock, and some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then place the lid on and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. The cauliflower should be incredibly tender. Place everything in a blender or food processor along with the cream and butter. Pulse until everything is very smooth and creamy. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed.

To plate, place spoonful of the purée and fan some of the sliced pork tenderloin on top. Place spoonful of compote over the pork and finish it with some micro greens.

* Adapted from:,,


USDA meat and poultry labeling terms.

The controversy over added Hormones in Meat and Dairy.

PCB’s in Farmed Salmon, 2003 Summary. EWG.

Staying on Track

meal boardAre you starting to get stuck? Some of the best intentions can be met with challenges. We lead such busy lives that it is hard to find “time” to do the things we should be doing. I cannot tell you how many times a day I hear, “I’d love to do that, but I just don’t have the time.” Well I hate to burst the bubble here but time is relative. All we need to do is create time! I know this may sound easier than it is, but it really is that easy! As soon as you say those words, “I don’t have time”, you already set yourself up for failure. Try to change your thoughts and words and say, “I will make time”. You will be surprised at what you can fit in when you change the way you think.

With that said here are some tips to “save-time” and therefore allow you to stick to your plan.

–          Make a Menu Board. I don’t know how many times this has happened to me. I get home from work and had good intention to make something fabulous for dinner, but get home and just make something quick and easy, but not necessarily healthy. I am not saying quick and easy cannot be healthy, but a lot of times unhealthy food can be easy to just through in or pick-up.

–          To go along with the menu board, you will need to plan your meals in advance. This will also help with your shopping trip and will discourage you from buying those unhealthy impulse items that somehow end up in our carts. We sit down every Sat morning and go through the refrigerator and plan meals for the upcoming week, make a list, then hot Trader Joe’s and Sprouts (we are very lucky to have these awesome stores!!)

–          Prep your lunch the night before. This way you can take your time to make a nice healthy lunch. You can also do this with breakfast (depending on what you have in the morning, I have a protein shake so it works great for me!

–          Make a work-out schedule. Sometimes when we are forced to write things down, it makes us a little more accountable. There are also some great apps out there that will get you motivated.

–          Set out your work-out gear the night before. This way it is ready to go for you in the morning,

Hope this helps!


Recipe of the Week

Mushroom Chicken with Asparagus


2 Chicken breasts

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

1 tbs Olive Oil / Avocado Oil

1 bunch Asparagus (washed and cut)

1/2 cup Feta Cheese

Mushroom Basil Sauce (courtesy of


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use a meat mallet and pound out the chicken breasts so they are about ½ inch thick. Boil water and place asparagus in water until blanched. Dry and set aside. Place asparagus on chicken with feta cheese (divide between the 2 breasts), wrap and set aside. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Place chicken breast in skillet and brown on both sides. Place in baking dish and drizzle with olive or avocado oil. Finish in the oven for ~30min or until 165 degrees. Make Basil sauce and pour over chicken.