The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC – Eating Right Because Our Jeans Are Too Tight


When I saw this question come through I have to admit I was more than excited to take a crack at it. It’s something I’ve wondered myself for a long time. I mean, it’s not very often that you go to and see an overweight Mom riding an electric shopping cart with her healthy, in-shape daughter riding on the back. Also, do you remember the Obese Biker Twins from the Guinness book? What role to you think genetics played in both of them being extremely overweight? The fact of the matter is that obesity is generally a common thread  in families. I know that it is in mine. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) “If one parent is obese, there is a 50 percent chance that the children will also be obese. When both parents are obese, the children have an 80 percent chance of being obese.” Both of my parents were very overweight and both have had gastric bypass surgery. I’ve seen them struggle since having the surgery so I chose a different route but I can’t say it wasn’t something I considered when I weighed 400 pounds.

So what’s the answer? Is it nature or nurture?

Is what we’re taught about nutrition, the level of activity in our family, and the way we view food more impactful on our weight than our genetic makeup? Or is it the other way around?

I decided to get serious about it and Ask Jeeves! OK, I didn’t ask Jeeves but I did do quite a bit of research.

The first thing I came across was the Thrifty Gene Hypothesis. Just so I don’t put you to sleep before your morning cup of coffee is done brewing, this basically just says that the same genes our ancestors used ages ago to be more efficient during times of famine and hardship, are the same genes that are making us fat in the modern day where food is found EVERYWHERE. Basically these genes are storing and preserving energy when we really don’t need them to. This is especially true in in what would be the hunter/gatherer population and the child bearing population.

Only problem is that it’s a hypothesis…

There’s still a lot of opposition to this idea. Some people say the idea that there were frequent famines can’t be verified. Naysayers also claim that if the hypothesis were true, our weights would remain the same/similar during periods when we ate much less or hardly anything at all.

Then I found this quote from James Hill, an obesity researcher.

“Despite obesity having strong genetic determinants, the genetic composition of the population does not change rapidly. Therefore, the large increase in . . . [obesity] must reflect major changes in non-genetic factors.” [source]

Wow he sounded really smart didn’t he? He could have just said “genetics change slow and we’re getting fat fast, so other things have to be contributing to our obesity.”

I know that growing up, food always seemed to be the center of any event. “What are we going to eat?” was always the first question asked (and the biggest concern) about any get together. Genetic predisposition or not, I know that environment played a very big role in my own personal weight gain.

There’s a very small percentage of diseases that actually cause weight gain. Some examples are things like Cushing’s disease, polycystic ovary syndrome, or thyroid issues. However, these account for less than 1% of obesity in the United States.

I could go on and on about this, but ultimately both genetics and environment play a role in whether or not we’re fat. Genetics does play a much smaller than environment, and the obesity chain can be broken with consitent good nutrition and a healthy amount of exercise (surprise surprise right?).

Remember as always: If you have a question for our mailbag send it to [email protected]. You can also send us questions for Runner Joe to the same address. You can also just leave them in the comments below.

Tags: featured, genetics, obesity genetics, weight loss

Category: Mailbag Monday, Ryan