Facing The Genetics of Obesity

April 28, 2011

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weight and genesWhen it comes to weight, not all people are created equal, it seems.

You probably know some “naturally thin” people in your own life. The ones who never exercise, seem to eat anything they want, and yet not gain weight. Likewise, you probably know people (maybe yourself!) that seem to gain weight very easily, even if they exercise more and eat less than the “naturally thin” folks.

The difference seems to be genetics. For reasons we have yet to fully understand, some people are just better at gaining weight than others. I’d even venture to say as much as 80 percent of weight issues include a genetic component.

At one time, in the centuries when grocery stores and fast food drive-thrus didn’t exist, being able to gain weight easily was a genetic advantage. In a feast or famine world, those who could pack on the pounds when food was abundant were more likely to make it through the lean times when food was scarce.

Unfortunately today – when food is cheap, plentiful, and easily available all year round – this same genetic code is now a distinct disadvantage, not just cosmetically but also health-wise.

Not fair, one may say. And it’s true, it isn’t fair. But just like some people are much more likely to get heart disease or cancer, those with a genetic tendency toward easy weight gain are better off accepting the facts and taking the steps needed to counteract their genetic code than to deny it or rebel against it.

Like someone with an increased genetic risk of another disease, you may need to be much more diligent about your weight than most. You’ll likely have to exercise more and watch your calories more closely than others. You may have to see a doctor more frequently about your weight and even possibly even take medication to keep it in check.

But like the people who know they are at a higher risk for cancer that eat well, take excellent care of themselves, and see the doctor for regular screening exams, the extra effort is far better than ignoring the facts and then facing a grueling (or losing) fight for their life against cancer as a result.

Also, like those who are genetically more prone to cancer, being genetically prone to obesity is not a character flaw, your “fault,” a sign of a weak will, or any of the many other shame and blame stigmas that these folks are subjected to.

It may not be a choice, but that doesn’t mean you have to just give in or give up. You can take action to counter your genetics and escape your fate. It may take more effort. It may not be as easy. But it will be worth it.

Also, it’s not something you have to do alone. Like any serious medical threat, managing obesity is something I believe should be done under a doctor’s care, by someone trained in the complex issues at hand, and who can help you navigate your way to the best possible outcome like we do at The Center for Medical Weight Loss.

Someone wouldn’t dream of trying to avoid and monitor their cancer risk on their own, for example, and neither should someone with a genetic tendency toward weight gain.

Dr. Michael Kaplan

Founder and Chief Medical Officer

The Center for Medical Weight Loss

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Comments (3)

[…] is especially important in families with a genetic tendency toward obesity. While you can’t change your genes, like someone with a family history of cancer […]

[…] to see that not every diet works for everyone, just as we are seeing that not everyone’s weight problems are caused by the same things. That’s why CMWL tailors a program taking all of these factors […]

[…] a person can also fall within the ideal weight range but actually be unfit and unhealthy, with too much body fat and not enough lean […]

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