Picture this, I sit down for a strictly regulated diet meal, fighting the plump – and possibly my genes once again, across the table sits Jane, the one who never ponders her weight or what she eats, skinny as hell, loves exercise and radiates overall wellness. Jane has elected the 4 cheese pizza, not giving a hoot about her gene pool or the impact of mozzarella on her thighs. All that goes through my mind is: “Was I born FAT to die FAT – what genes did I inherit!!?”
Society seems to understand my questioning, we all know that some people can eat like hippos and never look like one and then there is the REST OF US…. we tend to look at a glass of red wine and the double chin sets in just in case we take a sip. This unbalanced scale [I am Libra, I LOVE BALANCE!] tipped in favor of those who eat without abandon without the consequences made me search for reason, I mean surely if I can intellectualize this imbalance I can beat it??? Either that or I need to be reborn…
We are told that our size is determined by the amount of food we manage to consume, those little buggers we call calories have a massive impact [no pun intended] on our waist size… But, could it be that our environment and our genes could influence this? What about our thoughts, if one of the laws of the mind is WHAT YOU FOCUS ON GROWS do we really want to be thinking 24/7 about our expanding waist size.
THOSE CALORIE CRITTERS
How do these buggers end up being stored, burned or bypassing our digestive tract to the poop hole without negatively affecting us? At the end of the day, research shows that all of these are affected by your genes, your excitement on a treadmill and of course how much energy used while sitting on the couch binge-watching Game of Thrones… If your binge-watching is greater than your excitement for time on the treadmill chances are you will make good friends with the stored calories on the WAISTLINE.
Right here, the balanced scale ends up OUT OF BALANCE for me, the closest enjoyment and excitement I have for exercise is watching Charlie Hunnam [drop dead gorgeous lead actor of King Arthur for the uninformed] swinging his sword around. I don’t mind taking on a yoga position watching this man move but naturally, that is not enough to get the scale of critters in critters out, weighing in my favor. So what is left? Possibly decreasing the volume of calories that go in during my day and so too whilst watching dearest Charlie taking on his hero’s journey may be the trick to balancing that scale? If only weight loss was THAT SIMPLE…
THE GENE FOUNDATION
Scientifically speaking, a gene is a unit [similar to the calorie critter I mentioned above if it is NOT in YOUR FAVOUR!] which is kindly and lovingly transferred from your parents to you as a baby to ensure that the neighbors know who the mother and father are of said offspring…
Made up of approximately 20 000 to 25 000 genes with a copy of both Mom and Dad within us, surely the ‘FAT’ gene should be irrelevant? I have sat in my office seeing client after client who puts the blame of ‘kankles’ squarely on the family genes. Could this be the case, could I truly lay blame to poor ‘fat’ genetics for my personal struggle with weight gain? There are over 400 different genes that could be blamed for plumpness! Within that, there is only a handful that are the Kingpins of FATNESS… So what do these genes DO?
Genes affect appetite, satiety, food cravings, metabolism, our addiction tendency when it comes to using food for ‘coping’ with stress and so too where we pack on the weight ON our bodies. But, there are more variables to this… oh dear, no simple answer exists, in fact, when it comes to the understanding of our bodies and how it works, I have heard we have the heavy-handedness of a butcher attacking it with a chainsaw… extreme? Maybe. But have you seen how conclusive findings with regards to medical science change more often than the weather patterns?
Your gene influence on your personal plumpness varies from 25% to 70 or 80%. Finding clarity may involve taking on some introspection, take a careful look at YOUR HISTORY and if these play a role, chances are you are on the higher end of gene influence. I would, however, like to add; we CAN AND DO feed our GENES, we influence our tipping of the gene scales with what goes in! If like me you feel FAT is a constant battle, when you are tired of blaming your hormones, lack of exercise, metabolism and the myriad of options available, have a look at your genetical background, I always joke when it comes to it, always saying that my family and I came from the wrong side of the railway line when it came to health genes. Sometimes there is truth in it, we just need to be willing to investigate. Let us have a look at a couple of factors that can indicate that the genetic scales are not in your favor.
*note… this is not to promote complacency or blame, as I stated above, we can feed the gene monster or starve it.
- Let us start with our parents, and their parents, it is not enough to only look at your parents. If your parents, and their parents, not necessarily all of them were overweight or struggled with health challenges attached to obesity then your chances of having the same struggle and possibly reaching obese status goes up to 80%.
- You find yourself exercising like a machine and eat rabbit food in an attempt to rid your body of fat and NOTHING happens… FRUSTRATING for sure! I went through a period where I exercised for 4 months 6 times a week eating lettuce leaves and managed to move only 2kgs. At this point, I decided I was fat for life and there was no point. [I was wrong – there is ALWAYS a way to beat the genes!!].
- The next question to ask and answer truthfully is, have you been overweight most of your life, and I am not referring to the cuddly baby fat, or the weight as a result of living on JUNK FOOD 24/7. No, the overweight I am speaking about involves living on an average daily intake but ALWAYS ending up in the plump zone?
- Then, you have a friend who swears by XYZ diet, you do the research and there are millions having success at it. This is not the first time that said friend has politely recommended a plan of action for you due to the battle you find yourself in. In quiet desperation, you ONCE AGAIN take on another clearly healthy regulated diet and NOTHING HAPPENS. You end up losing water weight and ‘think’ all is good this time, only to come to a standstill somewhere along in your journey. Again, frustration is the name of the game and you once again GIVE UP.
If these 4 pointers sound familiar it may be your genetic pool is NOT in your favor. This is an honest conversation, so let us continue it, maybe it is not your genes that are the problem and sometimes we find ourselves completely UNAWARE of our own actions. I have worked with people who start a regulated diet and come back to me a week later shocked at how their awareness had escalated in the week, they had gone from openly admitting they don’t understand their weight gain to realize their walk to the fridge or pantry consumed most of their waking hours and only after being on a regulated consumption did they notice it. It may not be the genes when we realize that we have food available in our environments consistently, it is easy to go-grabba-whatever-is-available in a totally unconscious manner. It may not be genes when you gain weight after a birthday week [yes, the older you get the longer birth-days become], your birthday leftovers extend for at least a week and you happily oblige consumption instead of wastage. It may not be genes when weight gain is evident every December and January sees more of you based on the fabulous holiday meals with family. Finally, it may not be genes when you start a regulated diet and end up cheating by day 3, attacking the pantry like a homesick child and devouring the biscuits you bought for your child’s school bag. It then becomes easy to blame the chosen diet AND the GENE abnormality…
It is safe to say that if you don’t resonate with any of the discussion above you may be like my friend Jane, eating without abandon or a seconds thought to the calorie critters associated with her intake, you may, in fact, be laughing at this article convinced that me, your friend just needs to stop watching Charlie and get my butt into a gym. I may just agree with you, I have never been satisfied with accepting the standard, I have always believed we were born perfect made by perfect. If we have a couple of plump issues, embracing a healthier take on life may resolve the issues and yes we can celebrate what our bodies can do by living said life in a more vibrant and exercise-driven way. Simultaneously, for some of us, it may just NOT BE THAT SIMPLE, and that is OK. If we understand it, we can live a vibrant life all the same with a few tweaks here and there to put the gene scale back in balance.
BUT, WHAT ABOUT EPIGENETICS?
Now we talking! As I stated, I am not pro accepting that which is, and for many years I battled with the fact that my genes are as they are. I became truly excited at the study of our genes and the associated possibility of these little bugger ‘expressing’ in a new way. Epigenetics. There is hope for the FATSOME in me…
Why did I get excited? Well, if you understand that ‘YOU are WHAT you eat‘ and that our environment AND our thoughts have a direct influence on WHO WE BECOME, AND that we are energy beings continuously evolving then genes are just the ride into untold possibility. Taken from the article above, the section below explains it in a sciency way but makes sense to basic understanding:
“Here are a few important points about epigenetics:
- Epigenetics Controls Genes. This is achieved through (a) nature: epigenetics is what determines a cell’s specialization (e.g., skin cell, blood cell, hair cell, liver cells, etc.) as a fetus develops into a baby through gene expression (active) or silencing (dormant); and (b) nurture: environmental stimuli can also cause genes to be turned off or turned on.
- Epigenetics Is Everywhere. What you eat, where you live, who you interact with, when you sleep, how you exercise, even aging – all of these can eventually cause chemical modifications around the genes that will turn those genes on or off over time. Additionally, in certain diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer’s, various genes will be switched into the opposite state, away from the normal/healthy state.
- Epigenetics Makes Us Unique. Even though we are all human, why do some of us have blonde hair or darker skin? Why do some of us hate the taste of mushrooms or eggplants? Why are some of us more sociable than others? The different combinations of genes that are turned on or off is what makes each one of us unique. Furthermore, there have been indications that some epigenetic changes can be inherited.
- Epigenetics Is Reversible. With 20,000+ genes, what will be the result of the different combinations of genes being turned on or off? The possible arrangements are enormous! But if we could map every single cause and effect of the different combinations, and if we could reverse the gene’s state to keep the good while eliminating the bad… then we could hypothetically* cure cancer, slow aging, stop obesity, and so much more.”
With that said, maybe being born with a gene foundation that embarrasses a toad is of no concern. Maybe just maybe we have a say. This is where controlling the controllable is paramount. No matter who we are, we have the tendency to look externally to blame our expanding waistline, science, however, informed us we could look internally to blame, [even worse in my opinion as we end up blaming ourselves and our family for that muffin top]. Instead of an attitude of blame, maybe the manner in which to take on this personal jail of the gene pool is to CHANGE IT. First, in the thoughts we have about it, then in the actions that WE CONTROL. Trying to fight the environmental impact can be done to a lesser degree, here the focus SHOULD BE control the controllable. After all, as an in-utero baby, we have no control over what our mothers eat, smoke, drink or do. The health challenges she works with and those that came through your Dad’s genes you have ZERO control over… it cannot be changed. Then your environment as a baby you too have little control over, whether Mom decides to have a cesarean or natural birth, to breastfeed or bottle-feed is of ZERO concern to you, you are truly capable of only taking control of the NOW.
WE have the ability to decide if you overeat on the calorie critters, binge watch Game of Thrones, chose a chicken salad over a pizza or light up that next cigarette. WE decide to focus on a healthy, vibrant life versus focussing on the obesity epidemic worldwide and how we are ‘destined’ [NOOOO] to fatness based on our genes. WE decide how much sleep we get, how we alleviate our stress levels if we stop at a junk-food joint for supper [it is junk for a reason] and the amount of water we drink daily. WE decide on an exercise regime, or NOT. WE can decide to jail ourselves in the blame game, the available arsenal to justify the current circumstance we find ourselves in, is endless, media, health advocates, nutritionists, dieticians et al give us daily ammunition to lock that jail door There is SO MUCH we CAN control but it is MUCH EASIER not to. To do that which is difficult is as easy as not to do it, it takes the same amount of energy whether in the instant of choice or, for that matter, later on in life.
THE GET-OUT-OF-JAIL-FREE CARD
It has been said that our attitude affects our altitude… I got so involved in looking for the reasons for my CONSTANT BATTLE AGAINST OBESITY that even I fell into the trap of the blame game jail. How did it serve me? Well, I only got fatter. With that, the continual woe-be-me struggle elevated my victim status to my gene pool being guilty until proven otherwise. Even I got tired of my hacking the food industry, the endless useless diets, the defunct gene pool dilemma, and the ridiculous suggested exercise regimes. Sadly it took over 40 years of my life to come to terms with controlling the controllables. My attitude regarding health and living to age 100 in a vibrant way was my doing and ONLY MY DOING. This clarity IS a get-out-of-jail-free card. For some it may seem like DUH… in fact, it was for me too, but, if what I am saying is simple and can have duh status, why do we STILL sit with the obesity epidemic, ladies having tea blaming diets that don’t work, writers writing about the A-Z of sugar evils? Informational purposes for sure but in some aspects, our addiction to the doom and gloom of how we find ourselves in a useless quagmire of ill health and obesity keeps us RIGHT THERE.
My saving grace was dropping the cognitive dissonance I had embraced [this for those needing clarity, describes feelings of discomfort that result when your beliefs run counter to your behaviors and/or new information that is presented to you – basically you start living the lie you believe to suit your circumstance. – ouch], realizing that me, and only me, will result in a different outcome.
MY LIFE and obesity was a CHOICE, MY CHOICE.