The other day I was out and overheard a snippet of a conversation between two people, with one of them lamenting about how she had fat genes, and how her whole family was fat. She then went on to say that she was doomed to be fat her entire life, because her DNA was programmed this way. That’s all I heard of this conversation.
Then the next day, I was in the food court of a mall, grabbing a quick bite during a busy day. I ended up sitting beside a family; mother, father and 2 children. I’m guessing, but I’d say the kids were about 10 and 12 years old. Every member of this family sitting next to me was carrying significant extra weight. And guess what they were having for lunch?
If you guessed greasy fast food, you are correct! And not just the regular servings of greasy fast food, but the up-sized portions. Every single one of them was sitting there with extra large fries and extra large soda, in addition to their “main course” which was either a hamburger or chicken fingers. And the kids both had a deep-fried dessert on their tray too.
So this got me to thinking back to the conversation I had overheard the day before, with the woman complaining that she had fat genes. I began to wonder whether it is truly our genes alone that control our weight, or was it more likely to be familial habits that ultimately lead to everyone being overweight?
Since the family I know best is my own, I began to think about our style of eating and relating to food. While I was young, I was the only member of our family with a weight problem, but in the last 10-15 years I have seen every single member of my birth family struggle to some degree or another with their weight.
As a family we tend to congegregate at my father’s house. He and his wife have a lovely home that is large enough to accomodate us all, and they are gracious hosts who love to have the entire family all together whenever possible.
And like with most gatherings of people, there is food. Lots and lots of food. You’ll never go hungry at a Grieve family function! There’s always lots to drink too, from soda to beer to wine to mixed drinks.
And there’s always lots of junk food before the main meal! If we are gathering outdoors, the back yard table will be filled with chips, nuts, chocolate, popcorn, and whatever treat my Dad saw at the store that he just had to try. And if we are indoors, the spread is exactly the same on the table in the family room.
My Dad has some weight to shed. I have seen his weight go up and down year after year after year. His wife loves him dearly, and really does try to keep him in line food-wise, but he loves to eat and drink.
My Dad’s father was also very heavy, and ended up with adult onset diabetes in his later years. My grandfather used to sneak treats at all hours of the day, and we’d find candy wrappers “hidden” (not too well!) all over the house.
Then my siblings and I have all been on diets at some point or another.
So do we Grieve’s have a genetic predisposition to gaining weight, or do we just have a multitude of bad habits that have been passed down? Habits like snacking between meals? Habits like appetizers before the main meal? Habits like dessert with every meal, often with multiple choices, which usually means multiple servings? Habits like consuming beer and wine on a regular basis?
I’d be willing to bet that most of the weight issues in our family have to do with these habits that have developed. After all, when we were kids, I was the only one who had to deal with my weight, all the other members were average-weighted. I doubt the DNA changed as the people got older. More likely years of bad habits finally caught up.
Children pick up on what the adults are doing, (more so than on what they are saying) and if a child sees an adult eating a certain way, the child is going to want to imitate that. The family that sat next to me in the food court was a prime example of that. (Children are also going to build habits around exercise based on what the parents are doing too. When was the last time you saw a fat family all out for a bike ride together?)
So if you think you are genetically programmed to be fat, take a look at your eating (and exercise) habits relative to your relatives! Chances are you can give up the “I am a victim of my genetics” story, and start taking control of your life and your weight. I’m here to tell you you have far more control than you may be aware of. You don’t have to be like your heavy relatives! It’s not all in your DNA!
Causes Stacey Grieve Supports
Foster Parents Plan
Shannon Miller Foundation for Childhood Obesity