How Your Genes Drive Your Eating Habits

By Heather Marsh

Genetics and lifestyle play a significant role in the daily habits and behaviors you do. However, the lifestyle you live significantly influences how much effect your genetics have on these habits. 

There are parts of your genes that you have no control over, such as, eye color. But did you know that your genes that code for your height have 80% influence on how tall you are. While that’s very significant, nutrition also plays a major role. 

20/20 LifeStyles launched genetic testing into it’s program four years ago in 2018. Since then, we’ve discovered two genes that were found in 85% of our clients; BDNF and DRD2. These two genes drive your eating habits and are heavily influenced by lifestyle and the environment you live in. 


The BDNF gene codes for a family of proteins found in the brain called brain derived neurotrophic factor. When you have the risk allele or a version that is operating less than optimal, you may experience the the common BDNF effects. Some symptoms include; extreme cravings for food or alcohol, loss of control when eating and depressive traits. Extreme food restriction can cause these cravings to intensify.   

The 20/20 LifeStyles team has done the research to figure out how to lesson the effects of BDNF. You can increase BDNF and help control cravings by exercising four to six times per week at a moderate intensity. Practicing mindfulness and eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day also work to help control cravings. The 20/20 LifeStyles genetic program provides the proper training and meals to help combat the risks of BDNF. In the program you’ll receive enjoyable workouts at the perfect intensity, expert nutrition advice from Registered Dietitians and learn to build mindfulness skills with a PRO Medical counselor. These three providers help develop the best behavior and lifestyle support around this gene. 


DRD2 is a gene that plays a major role in your dopamine reward center. There are a few types of dopamine receptors but DRD2 has been found to play the largest role in eating behavior. When you have this risk allele, there are a smaller number of binding sites for dopamine. You might experience greater dopamine through high fat and sweet foods which causes a higher craving and potential addiction for them. You may also experience a greater craving for alcohol or risk seeking behavior.  

20/20 Lifestyles has worked with this gene by providing strategies that help with blood sugar control and consuming other types of foods that help increase dopamine. The 20/20 registered dietitians create strategies to help educate clients about blood glucose levels and foods that support a healthy dopamine system. Furthermore, PRO Medical counselors work with clients on reward strategies to help with goal setting. To receive the most support for this gene you ideally want to work with both of these providers. 

You can learn more about working with these genes and achieving health goals in the 20/20 LifeStyles program. Genetic testing is also available outside of the program. Please contact (425) 861-6258 or email to learn more.

HEATHER MARSH, 20/20 LifeStyles Program Manager & Genetics Educator

Heather has been working with our 20/20 LifeStyles program for eight years. She has a Masters in Exercise Physiology from Central Washington University, was a Personal Trainer and the 20/20 LifeStyles Director. In 2019 and 2021, she completed her genetic training through DNALife and is now the 20/20 Genetic Specialist/Educator. With a newfound passion in the field of genetics, she is fascinated by the science and seeing people make a deeper connection to how their bodies function. In her downtime, she enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, hiking, camping, and traveling.

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