How often is it we hear someone use the reasoning that they have a problem with obesity, heart disease or diabetes because of their genetics? I have diabetics on both sides of my family, should I simply accept that to be my fate as well and give in to eating trash foods laden with refined sugars? It’s in my genes, I can not avoid it right?
If my genetics causes me to have fair skin that burns easily in the summer sun, am I to carelessly go out in the scorching summer sun shirtless? Or would it be prudent for me to protect myself from sunburns by using sunscreen protectants and by wearing suitable clothing to protect my skin? Whose fault is it if I do not protect myself and I get severely burned on a summer afternoon out in the sun? Can I blame my ancestors because I got a bad sun burn?
Hmm, what if I am of German and Irish descent, surely this genetic make up would excuse me if I was to be an angry drunken asshole, right? If I can be a drunken asshole, is there anything I can do about it? Surely if I insult you during a binge, you might be sympathetic because of my genetics… Or, maybe because of my genes, I should just avoid alcohol entirely and live as a kind and decent person despite my genetics.
Genetics, rather heredity is the biological process where a parent passes certain genes onto their children. Every child inherits genes from both their parents, and these genes will in turn express certain traits. Some of these traits may be physical, for example hair and eye color, along with skin color too. Some genes may also carry the risk of certain diseases and disorders that can be passed on from parent to child.
However, just because we are genetically predisposed to certain conditions, it does not mean we have to resign ourselves to just laying down and allowing them to run roughshod over us. We can and should do all that we can in order to protect ourselves as we can control our health and destiny through eating a healthy diet and through exercise. We do not have to be fat, we do not have to get type 2 Diabetes, we do not have to have heart disease. These are all in most cases preventable no matter who you are.
But, but diabetes is genetic and it is not my fault! My whole family is fat! I can hear this going through a few minds right now. Yes, diabetes is genetic, but you can watch what you eat and you can get your butt off the couch and exercise too, unless you are legitmately unable because of injury or disease. No matter how many fat diabetics we have in our family trees, we do not have to go this route. And when you look at the obesity epedemic in our children, it is a crying shame that so many are unwilling to do anything about it. Shame on you if you allow your child to become obese and then subsequently suffering from ailments that at one time were only suffered by older people. Your child should not be over weight, suffering from diabetes or high blood pressure for any reason. Period. Do not use genetics as a lame and weak excuse to doom your child to a lifetime of illness. They deserve better from you.
Think about this, the role in which genetics plays in obesity and diabetes I concede is actually undeniable. People of certain descent have smaller beta cell reserves in the pancreas. If these folks consume the Standard American Diet (SAD) and become over weight, they will certainly have a higher risk of becoming diabetic.
That being said, the doubled rate of diabetes in the USA over the last twenty five years obviously did not occur because of genetics. Even though some folks may be at a higher risk because of genetics, this does not, DOES NOT, mean that their health fates are predetermined. Years ago, people were not so lazy and obese as in todays modern world. One of the reasons for the increased genetic risks for obesity and diabetes to appear now is likely because our ancestors for the most part were all thin and highly active. Our ancestors did not require a large reserve of beta cells in their pancreas. Our inheritance pattern is only a risk factor for people who eat a disease promoting diet. Although people whose parents are obese have a tenfold increased risk of becoming obese themselves, the explosion of obesity in America is a recent phenomenon in human history brought on by fast food and the processed food industry. Clearly, obesity is not primarily genetic. Rather it is more a cultural phenomenon as a result of the people you are surrounded by. I will get more into this.
It is certainly inarguable that the combination of poor food choices, inactivity, and genetics that determines obesity and diabetes. Those who genetically store fat more efficiently may at one time had a survival advantage thousands of years ago when food was scarce. Back in the day when you might hunt game with rocks and a sling shot, hoping your prey did not eat you first. But, in todays modern pantry where high calorie and toxic foods abound, those people are at a survival disadvantage. Sugar laden processed foods are slowly killing them. When we focus on the element of genetics, the problem does not get solved. You can not change your genes. Sadly, rather than taking an honest look at what causes diabetes, too many are still looking for a magical, effortless cure for it, a gimmick, a drug or surgery, Damn, anything but the obvious which is a clean diet and exercise. Why change my weak lifestyle when I can simply stick a needle into my body or take a pill, right? Face it, the ony answer is living a healthy lifestyle focused on excellent nutrition along with adequate exercise. Once you adopt this type of lifestyle, the lifestyle I promote on David’s Way, the benefits will overwhelm genetics and allow even those people with a geneti predisposition to weight gain and diabetes to achieve a healthy weight and a long life free of preventable disease.
Culture is the driving force over genetics!
If you are surrounded by fit family and friends, you are more likely to be fit as well. Conversely, if you are surrounded by obesity, then odds are you are not going to be the odd one out down at the local all you can eat buffet. One of the most exciting studies in the field of weight control and obesity in recent years was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. This study documented that if you have a fat friend, your risk of developing obesity increases by close to sixty percent, a higher rate than if a sibling or even a spouse becomes obese. This high percentage held up even after controlling for the fact that people tend to form bonds with others similar to themselves. If both people listed each other as friends, and one become obese first, the second was approximately three times as likely to follow suit.
This finding illustrates that obesity is spread by similar eating styles in social networks. Hence the idea that obesity is contagious. Peer influence is not to be underestimated. However, understanding how powerful bad unfluences can be, especially with society’s approval and promotion of addictive eating, leads to the inescapable conclusion that healthful behaviors can be just as contagious if you are surrounded by health conscious family and friends. One powerful secret to a fit and trim body along with good health is to cultivate friends who are supportive and can share a healthy eating style with you. Genetics are not the major factor. The social norms of the modern world have made obesity and diabetes pervasive.
And once again, obesity and diabetes runs on both my maternal and paternal sides of my family. It could be said I too am genetically predisposed to obesity and diabetes too. However, I refuse to resign myself to this life.