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Weighing The Possibilities

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Recently I watched a health feature on my local evening news that not only captured my attention, but also left me deep in thought about the subject matter. It was a piece about our nation’s obesity epidemic with an interesting twist to it.

The reporter announced that researchers now have an explanation as to why Americans are getting heavier and heavier. They’ve discovered that genes can play a role. While the experts acknowledge that 66 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in the US are overweight, and that overeating and lack of exercise probably are the biggest contributors to this growing problem, breakthroughs in the lab may explain why some people have an impossible time staying slim.

Several groups of scientists now believe people may be predestined to have weight issues from the moment of conception. In fact, several genes that can affect obesity were discovered, and at least 11 genetic mutations that may cause people to overeat have been identified. Interestingly enough, experts determined the real value in these findings was to get a better understanding of the physical mechanisms that contribute to weight gain so people can lose weight and keep it off.

One of the geneticists was quoted as saying, “It’s not so easy to change our genes but we can change our environment and that’s one of the things we will start to see from these studies.” The investigators concluded that having children adopt healthy eating and exercise habits during the first few years of life, and getting parents to practice the same skills, was the key to successful weight management.

I couldn’t believe what I heard. Did scientists really carry out all of those extensive studies to come to the conclusion that in order to lose weight and keep it off, people have to watch what they eat and exercise? Let’s face it; these facts have been common knowledge for quite some time.

I had mixed feelings after this segment ended. I wondered what message the audience took away from this broadcast. Did they focus on the fact that while we can’t control our family’s backgrounds, we can modify our lifestyles and teach our kids healthy habits? Or did viewers only hear about the “fat genes and mutations” and rationalize that their fates were sealed before birth. Their parents were fat, they are fat, and their children will be fat as well. There’s nothing they can do. It’s destiny.

While I’m not disputing the research findings, the reality is we have an obesity epidemic currently plaguing our country. Two-thirds of the population didn’t recently develop genetic mutations! Maybe what’s going on has more to do with the lifestyles we’ve become accustomed to than to our forebearers’ DNA.

When I was growing up (before the national weight crisis), there were heavy people, but not as many as there are today. I had some overweight friends, and yes, their parents were fat as well. Maybe there were some defective genes in their gene pool, but what was even more obvious was what they kept in their homes.

Their kitchens were always stocked with incredibly rich desserts and fattening snack foods. My friends could eat as much of them as often as they wished. There were never any restrictions. I used to love to go to their homes for some special treats. To this day, the memory of one specific ice cream novelty makes me salivate! For me, though, these goodies were occasional splurges – not daily indulgences. That’s the difference.

Over the past several years, we’ve become a nation that subsists on fast food, processed food, and high calorie, fat and sugar-laden snacks and beverages. These meal options are readily available and accessible all day, every day. As a result, we’re all getting bigger and bigger. Unfortunately, it’s the little ones who will pay the greatest price for these dietary habits. This generation of children is not anticipated to have the same life expectancies as their own parents. That’s sad.

Isn’t it time we stopped making excuses for why we overeat and start taking responsibility for our own lives and our children’s lives as well? Let’s stop blaming everyone else and start living healthier lives so our kids can grow up and have a future they can look forward to. As Maria Robinson said, “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

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  • Barbara Barnett

    Hey, Debbie!

    Welcome to BC. Nice article.

  • wow

    Some people are still coming to realize, yeah diet and exercise…aka calories…are what it’s all about I guess. It’s ridiculous — here is another example.

    Ad on tv has a woman talking about her smoking problem…she is maybe 40 and now is saying it isn’t just a problem, it’s an addiction. Ask any smoker…they all know they are addicted. We are promoting a society of no responsibility.