Monday, January 9, 2012

Fitting into your Genes

In this game of weight loss we cannot forget about genetics. Your genes are who you are; your hair color, your eye color, your height, and your weight. Partially. 

While genetics are proven to play a role in weight, they cannot take full blame for someone being overweight.  If you're living as healthy as possible but you're still having trouble losing weight, then yes, maybe it's genetics. You might be fighting to bring your body to a low that isn't natural for it. People do it all the time; it can be done.  It's difficult though. 

Take a look at your family.  You may have a family member who is significantly overweight; morbidly obese. You may have another family member who is slightly overweight; just a little chubby. Or maybe none of your family members are overweight, not even aunts or uncles. Maybe it's a recessive trait that you had the misfortune of receiving.

It's important to talk about these things with your family. Make a sort of diagram to track who has had issues with their weight.  In my profession, genograms are popular in illustrating family relationships. You could do a simpler version. Circles for females, squares for males, lines connecting parents to children.  Come up with a code for what you want to show.  It could be as simple as "H" for healthy weight, "OW" for overweight, and "OB" for obese. Or maybe "F" for fat and "T" for thin. Whatever works for you, based on what you know.  Then you'll have a visual of how many family members have weight issues.  Perhaps your weight is more genetically based than someone else's.  Obviously you cannot do an at-home in-depth look at your genes, but I think that a simple exercise or diagram could help show that it runs in the family.

I'm envious of those of you who can track that. Being adopted as an infant, I have very little information.  I do remember my paperwork stating that my biological mother was an average height and what would be a healthy body weight for her.  My biological father was taller. I want to say he was a bit heavier maybe around 200, but considering being tall he was a tall guy it may not have been an unhealthy weight. I also have some limited health info and recall reading about diabetes.  Whether it's related to weight, I do not know.

I believe that our genes to play a role in our weight. I cannot argue with science.

However, so do our behaviors.  This reminds me of the nature vs. nurture debate.  In the end, I don't know that one has more of an effect than the other, but I'd tend to lean toward nurture being a bit more powerful than nature, with nature having a definitive role.  This is my opinion, based on my experience.In more ways than not, I feel like how I was raised has had a larger role in who I am than my genetics.

When you're looking at those in your family weight weight concerns, you can't just look at that.  You really need to take a closer look.  What do they eat?  Do they frequent fast food places? Or eat out several times a week? Do they indulge in sweets too often? Do they eat a lot snacks?  Do they drink enough water? Too much pop? A lot of alcohol? Are they physically active? Do they get enough exercise? Any?  Have any of your family members had success with weight loss? Failures? What methods did they use? Was a change in lifestyle made? Or was it a fad diet that lead to short-term success?

You can't use genetics as an excuse. Well, I suppose you can, but you shouldn't.  Don't say "oh I'm destined to be fat" and then hit the drive-through.  Your genes do not jump out of your body, go to the fast food place, and force feed you. They do not sneak around at night and sneak chocolate into your body. They don't make you sit on the couch watching television rather than getting up and taking a walk. 

Genetics play a role - to an extent.  You also need to take responsibility for your own behaviors. If I had continued my unhealthy lifestyle, I'd still be fat.  I didn't perform some strange gene alteration procedure.  I took responsibility. I ate healthy. I started exercising. I changed my life. That was all me; my strength, my determination, my motivation. Most of which I believe comes from my amazing parents; my Mom and Dad, the people who raised me. They're the people who taught me those things, who encouraged me, and who have been supportive of me. 

My genes didn't achieve weight loss for me. I did.


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