Should We Fear Our Genetics?Posted on Jul 28th 2011 12:00PM by That's Fit Editors
In high school, all but one of my mother and her four sisters were very thin (the eldest sister was considered quite chubby in high school, we're told, though in photos she looks perfectly average-sized by today's standards). Oh, they always had booties -- in our family, it's known as the 'Bronner Butt,' after some generously derrièred great- great- somethings of ours -- and wide hips, but with tiny waists the effect becomes more narrow-hourglass than pear. There are photos of them visiting relatives in California, and I don't think my mom is wearing a shirt that covers her stomach in a single one (halters and bell-bottoms as far as the eye could see!-this was the 1970s). Marching around in sequined majorette leotards and white go-go boots, their legs look as long as their ironed-straight hair.
But the average American woman puts on the equivalent of one pound per year as she ages, and they are no exception; all have put on at least that much since high school, if not more, and it mostly shows up around their hips, thighs, and lower extremities. What's been strange -- like my own small-scale longitudinal study -- is to see this process accelerated in my generation. While my mom and aunts remained slim and trim well into their thirties, some of their children began gaining weight after high school. I hate my own body in high school photos, though I was considered thin by everyone around me. My hips and thighs look gargantuan to me now. I know this is neurotic -- at about 20 pounds heavier than I am now in those photos, the extra weight is noticeable, but hardly extreme. There are men who like my leaner body better, but there are always men who prefer a little extra -- I suppose there's no other way to say it -- junk in the trunk.
At 5-foot-6-inches I'm one of the taller of our family's 12 female grandchildren, and I've seemed to inherit more of my dad's genetic heritage than my mother's: crooked spine, curly hair and fast metabolism. I still worry sometimes about the dramatic Bronner butt transformations I've seen, but by this point in life, I've channeled my fear of metabolic fate into a positive focus on healthy living and nutrition (instead of obsessive dieting). Heredity is not destiny, or so the saying goes. And it's not as if healthy eating is a strong point in my extended family, even when they were younger (my mom says in high school she'd go all day on a Payday and a Coke). A certain amount of weight gain may be inevitable as people age, but as recent studies on long-term weight change have found, it's also heavily correlated to eating certain types of food and beverages, or engaging in certain habits or behaviors. In other words, habits trump heredity? Well, let's hope.
More from Blisstree.com:
The Body Positive: When A Fat-Loss Expert Gets Called Fat
The Body Positive: Less-Than-Perfect Is Good Enough For Me
Genetics and Exercise: Are You a Natural Born Gym Rat?