What is your reaction when you get out of the shower, look in the mirror, and see yourself naked? Most Americans probably think, “thank God we wear clothes,” or maybe you think to yourself that you really need to lose some weight. Where does that extra padding come from? What are the different factors that add up to contribute to the state of our bodies—how much we weigh or how healthy we are?
Some people may say, “It’s just my genetics,” or “I’m just big boned.” Others may say, “I’ve tried, but I just can’t lose weight.” Luckily there are only a handful of factors that contribute to the physical condition of your body.
Claiming that obesity is genetic is really not a correct statement. Let’s look at some facts: The obesity rate in America has more than doubled in the last thirty years. In recent years, obesity rates are increasing all over the world, even in underdeveloped countries. But genomes don’t change that quickly and in such a large population. In an isolated population, it takes anywhere from ten thousand to hundred thousand years for the actual DNA and the actual human genome to change. So assuming that genetics of the population of America could have changed in thirty years is really pretty absurd.
In a short period of time, like thirty years, genes just cannot be responsible for broad changes in a population of animals or humans. This becomes especially apparent when you take a look at population and genetics which actually studies how genes and changes in DNA spread throughout a large population.
So here is an example: Let’s say that Joe is born in Ohio with a gene that predisposes him to be obese. Well there are 310 million people in America, so how many generations of Joe’s offspring would have to successfully reproduce and still be carrying that gene before that gene is able to spread to a population of 310 million people? Well, Joe’s genetic line is likely that it can even die off and even if it didn’t, after one hundred years, that gene would have barely even scratch the surface of 310 million people.
Likewise, it doesn’t matter what your racial background is. We are seeing increased obesity rates in all of the different racial ethnicities.
Now certainly genetics do have some influence on our bodies and how our bodies respond to different foods or different activities. But to say that obesity is caused by genetic s or that genetics is solely responsible for someone being obese is a very dangerous thing to do. Why is it dangerous? Because you can’t change your genetics. Reaching into someone’s DNA and selectively pulling out or altering their genes is still the stuff of science fiction. So what happens when someone says, “I’m overweight because of my genes,” is the ultimate admission of defeat.
At first, blaming the extra weight on your genes might sound like a good excuse. But in the long run it is the ultimate of signing over all of the responsibility to something you have no power to change. So it’s like throwing up your hands and saying, “There is nothing I can do about my weight, so I might as well drink cokes and eat cakes all day while I lounge in front of the TV, because there is nothing that I can do. It’s my genes that made me fat.”
What your genes actually do is determine how our bodies will respond to the real factors that cause obesity. There are genetic differences—some people can’t drink milk or can’t eat wheat. One person may respond better to eating to a huge amount of carbohydrates than another person. Both people will still gain weight when they consume huge amounts of carbohydrates. It just may be that one man gains it a lot faster than the other.
So what is the influence of genetics on our weight and overall health? Our genes provide a basic template for the body. It’s really up to us to decide how we fill that template out. The genetic template determines where things go but afterwards, what you eat, how much you eat, how much you exercise, how many different toxins you are exposed to will all determine how your body actually ends up turning out. By controlling what you eat and how much you exercise, you can change the DNA template of your genes—to create a skinny, fat, muscular or diseased and very sick you.
Now it is true that our genes may have some limitations. Not all of us are going to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger did when he won the Mr. Olympia contest at age twenty. You also have to realize that body builders usually work out for more than eight hours a day and they are on very intense nutritional programs that allow them to manipulate and fulfill their genetic template in the way that they do.
Let’s also take a look at sumo wrestlers. Here you have the largest, most obese people in the world, but sumo wrestlers are often from Japan and the Japanese only have an obesity rate of about three percent. So there is a genetic template that is predisposed to being very thin, but sumo wrestlers who eat enough carbs and drink enough beer and exercise their bodies in the correct ways are able to become oversized and obese despite their genes.
Your genes have a tremendous amount of possibilities for the different ways that your body could end up. Some people may say, “I don’t have the genes to become a body builder,” but what do you think would really happen if you started working out ten hours a day and took on a really strict dietary regimen? Your genes responds to the environment and the way that you use it and that response is what determines the condition of your body.
Chances are, you haven’t always been in the same weight that you are now. Chances are good that at some point in your life, you weighed considerably more or less than you do now. Maybe there was a time in your life that you were more active so you had more muscle mass. So we are constantly changing our weight throughout our lives but there is one thing that has not changed, and that’s our genes.
Right now, you have the exact same genes that you did when you were born. What has changed in your life is what you eat, how much you eat, how much physical activity you engage in and which physical activities you engage in, as well as your exposure to toxins and other things that are a part of your environment.
It doesn’t matter how overweight you are. If you went to North Korea where people are starving from food shortages and famine, your gene template would respond by creating an emaciated you. It does not matter how out of shape you are, if you went to a prison and was forced to do hard labor all day, your gene template would respond by developing muscles. If you work a sedentary job followed by eating fast food on the sofa, watching TV after work, your gene template is going to respond by creating an obese you. No matter what your body type is right now, there exist a potential for a skinny you, a chubby you, or a buff and totally ripped you.
The combination of all of your experiences, decisions, and activities have led you through your life to arrive at this exact moment that you are in right now, reading this article. No matter the condition of our body, the state your body is in—how healthy you are, how much weight you have on—is a result of all the things you have ever put in your mouth, every physical activity you ever engaged in, every toxin you’ve ever been exposed to, etc.
If you are unhappy with how your genetic template has turned out, then you have to stop doing the things you’ve been doing that have gotten you here in the first place. If you have been trying to lose weight and feel that you just can’t, then it’s important to recognize that most of the environmental factors that are a part of our modern lifestyle here in America, are going to elicit that genetic response to become overweight and unhealthy. If we are eating the processed foods that are everywhere and kind of addictive and really hard to avoid, our body is naturally going to respond by becoming overweight.