Is Obesity Hereditary or Caused By Lifestyle Choices?
I hate black and white questions. I really do. They seem to automatically assume that there are only two explanations for all sorts of phenomena in the natural world. What a lot of these black and white questions or do and don’t situations miss is the fact that there is a third way.
I know it’s a bit too much for a lot of people to wrap their minds around. But the truth is there is an interplay between our lifestyle and who we are genetically. It’s easy to think that a lot of the things that are happening to us are basically set in stone.
In other words, we are just born into this world and because of our heredity, our genetics and everything else intrinsic about us, whatever happens is somehow, someway, preordained. There’s really not much we can do about it. We just have to go through the motions until we die.
Now you may be thinking that this is a pretty sad and bleak view of the human condition and I would agree with you. Most people would. But you have to admit that there is a certain serenity or certain sense of confidence or even peace when you think that things just basically operate on auto-pilot.
You basically just have to do things the best you could. But at the end of the day, you can expect the same predictable outcome. How does this give anybody peace? How does this give anybody a sense of assurance?
Well, you can pretty much see the future because if you realize your genetic make up, you can pretty much make safe predictions about how things will turn out. This is very comforting for a lot of people because hey, let’s face it, life is messy, it’s very chaotic and, often times, it involves a lot of hard decisions.
When you think you realize that life really has a certain pattern and there’s really not much you can do about it, it frees you of some of that responsibility.
You say to yourself, “Well, even if I make one hard decision after another and resolve to overcome one setback after another, who’s to say if I just end up in the same place? What if I just look at how things are set up as far as my parents are concerned and their parents before them and then just go with that? Basically, I’ll just go with the bare minimum. I dispense with having to go through the process and go through all that hassle and I don’t have to worry about anything.”
That is the sense of calm that I’m talking about. That’s the false sense of security that too many of us fall into because they look at the pattern and they feel that it absolves them of the responsibility to buck against the pattern and make choices that eventually can free them from the pattern.
Well, the problem with this is that when it comes to obesity, you are basically just settling for the bare minimum. You’re not really living your life. You have to understand that life is all about transformation. Just because you’re born with a predisposition to to pack on weight doesn’t necessarily mean that you just have to lie down and take it for what it is.
You don’t have to give up. There are a lot of people who have “greedy genes”. These are individuals in certain parts of the world that have a genetic mutation that basically loads up on energy when they eat anything.
Now these parts of the world are prone to drought and famine. It’s easy to understand why these individuals have this genetic mutation. It ensures that one generation survives the next. Pretty straightforward.
But when you take these individuals and put them smack dab in the middle of America where there is no possibility of famine and food is not only abundant but cheap, you have a problem on your hands because those greedy genes can’t be turned off.
So every item that you eat, your body basically squeezes as much calories out of it and it stores it in your body in the form of fat. You get fatter and fatter, although you’re just basically eating the same amount as everybody else around you.
If you have that predisposition, you really have a choice. Do you dial down the amount of food you eat or do you adopt a more active lifestyle? There is a choice. To say that “I come from a lineage where there is this greedy gene and there’s really not much I can do about how I eat, what I choose to eat and how I look.” is, let’s face it, a cap out.
I know you don’t want to hear that and most people don’t want to own up to that, but that’s what it is. Let’s call a spade a spade. It’s a cap out. You were put on this planet for a reason. You have the freedom of will. You have the freedom to choose. Why not choose something that would transform you from somebody who just basically takes everything lying down to somebody who puts up a fight? Somebody who emerges like a butterfly from a cocoon.
That’s really what life is about. And all this temptation, all these challenges and hardships that we go through are simply just opportunities for us to overcome the test. And let me tell you. If you fail a test in life, it’s not like the test will go away. It’s not like you’re given the test once and if you fail, forget it. It’s over and you just move on and coast for the rest of your life.
It doesn’t work that way. You know what happens? When you fail a test, you’re given that test over and over again until you learn the lesson and then you move up to the next level and guess what? You get tested again and again.
That’s life for you. So do yourself a big favor. Instead of saying to yourself, “There’s really not much impact lifestyle choices can have on something that has been set on genetic stone.” Stop playing games with yourself.
Tell yourself, “This is a golden opportunity. I have these certain health risks. I have this certain genetic predispositions in my blood. That’s not going to go away. What can have an impact are the choices that I make here and now. These choices can either reaffirm the character that I’ve chosen for myself or it can basically just reveal that I’m just going along to get along. I’m basically just trying to put in the least amount just to keep going.”
Let’s face it. A lot of people do that and it’s sad because if you don’t put up a fight or you make better decisions, you are going to join a sad and sorry statistic of Americans dying early. More and more people are dying of obesity related conditions.
The worst part to all of this is the fact that as medical care improves, the system is able to keep people alive longer. But the problem is a longer life doesn’t necessarily mean a well lived life. It doesn’t necessarily involve a high quality life where you’re living life to the fullest.
You can be very sick for the final 40 years of your life. Who wants to go through that? You want your life to have meaning. You want your life to have an impact. You want yourself to plant seeds of greatness and hope in other people.
But it’s hard to do that when you’re really sick because of the bad decisions you’ve made previously. So the bottom line here is just because there are certain predispositions that won’t go away doesn’t necessarily mean that we are forever trapped by them.
We do have freedom of will. We can choose and ultimately, we can choose the reality that we want for ourselves and yes, this includes our health outcomes.