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How I Fought My Bad Genes

By VALERIE ORSONI

I was born with poor genes, according to all the doctors who have treated me in the past. From a brain tumor to other ailments, my body has been fighting me practically since the day I was born.

In my teens, due to my parents' divorce, I started packing on the weight, ballooning to 75 pounds more than I weigh now. I could have let my life be determined by my genes, or I could fight back with a healthier lifestyle. I decided on the latter. 

Healthy lifestyle

I've lived through more than 40 diets on my own (cabbage soup, prehistoric), with my family (pineapple, low-calorie, hyper-protein) or alongside friends (dissociated diet, fasting, high-protein diet).

[Read More: Foods to Keep Out of Your Kitchen]

After losing and regaining weight that eventually burst the seams of my jeans and after feeling taunted by so many failures and demoralized when I looked at myself in the mirror, I woke up one morning and decided that I had simply had enough!

I decided to educate myself in order to better understand my excess weight and attack it intelligently. I joined forces with my father, who was also overweight at the time. Together, we committed to maintain a gourmet approach no matter what. We loved eating too much to deprive ourselves continuously.

We devoured books on nutrition, fitness and psychology. Gradually, we integrated concepts that seemed logical and healthy-sounding into our lives. We also came to terms with the fact that if took years to gain our weight, it would be unreasonable to attempt losing it all in two weeks.

The results? After one year, we achieved our ideal weights without any suffering or deprivation. Here are the steps what we took to successful weight loss:

Breakfast: There are a lot of studies out there, many which say that eating breakfast will help you lose weight. It's highly likely that your own doctor has advised you that eating breakfast helps reduce the overall number of calories consumed during the day.

But other studies say skipping breakfast is actually a good thing when trying to lose weight. But eventually, we discovered that for my father, breakfast was indispensable. For me, it was not.

Start Meals With Protein-Rich Foods: Based on the works from Harvard Nutrition Center and the University of Sydney in the world of the glycemic index, glycemic load and food insulin index, we start all our meals with protein-rich foods (vegan or animal sources).

Whole Is Better: We favor whole grains as opposed to refined and processed foods.

Eat More Fat: Our diet has seen its fat content reduced over the years from 55 percent during Paleolithic times to 35 percent in the early 20th century to 25 percent more recently. At the same time, the obesity rate has increased. More and more studies are showing that obese individuals who replace starchy carbohydrates with fat in their diet lose weight faster.

So we modified our diet so that it contains more healthy fats (about 40 percent): avocado on a daily basis, olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts and cold-water fish.

Limit Dairy: This is based on the recommendation of the Harvard Nutrition Center. If we do have any dairy, we favor goat and sheep cheese, but in moderation.

Limit Gluten: Instead, we enjoy gluten-free grains like buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth. Why avoid gluten? According to more and more studies, even people without celiac disease might suffer from some sort of gluten sensitivity, which cannot be diagnosed with a regular test.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables: We eat more than just five servings of fruits and vegetables, aiming for 10. It is possible -- it just requires more organization and creativity when it comes to preparing meals. Think of vegetables as the main dish, not as the side.

Take 12,000 Steps: The official recommendation is 10,000 steps a day, but I like to go beyond the basic requirement, so I aim for 12,000 steps to increase my level of self-esteem at the same time.

[Read More: Why Your Workout Isn’t Working]

Regular Exercise: An hour of cardio per day (walking, biking, swimming), three sessions of strength training per week and 10 minutes of yoga every morning followed by five minutes of meditation.

Be Flexible: If you're going to a restaurant, just enjoy the food; don't count points or calories. Think about burning it all off tomorrow. Don't be afraid to experiment with new foods: Try black rice, red quinoa, new fish, new seafood, raw food.

Food is not the enemy. An unbalanced diet combined with being sedentary is! If all of this seems daunting, I suggest taking baby steps, integrating one thing at a time, then adding more elements as you get more comfortable.

I now feel (and am) very healthy, and I am certain you will regain a brand-new level of energy when you follow these simple tips.

--Valerie

Readers -- Do you struggle with "bad genes"? What kind of genetic issues have you inherited? What steps do you take to overcome those issues? Which do you think influence your health more -- lifestyle or genes? Leave a comment below and let us know.

Valerie Orsoni is a health and wellness expert, lifestyle coach and the creator of LeBootCamp, a popular online weight loss and lifestyle program with over 1.2 million members worldwide. A survivor of both a brain tumor and cancer, Valerie channeled the energy and knowledge she discovered through her own health challenges into a unique, four-pronged coaching method to help anyone achieve their personal goals.

One of the most widely recognized personalities in Europe for weight loss and fitness, she's known for her effective techniques based on simple fitness routines and healthy lifestyle choices that don't require grueling diet restrictions, counting points, supplements and endless hours in the gym. Instead, she makes it her mission to bring French joie de vivre to a healthy lifestyle. 

She is the author of numerous books including Le Personal Coach - A French Trainer's Simple Secrets for Getting Fit & Slim without the Gym and Un Corps de Rêve pour les Nuls/A Dream Body for Dummies, and is the face of the Wii and Sony Move game, "My Body Coach," and an ambassador for Nestle Fitness Cereals in Europe. She's been featured in hundreds of top magazines, including Self, Glamour, Food & Wine, Brides and has appeared on numerous television programs in the U.S. and abroad. 

Connect with Valerie on her website, Facebook and Twitter

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