LA Weight Loss - Does being genetically overweight mean you can never be thin?

02-08-2008, 08:07 AM
i was just wondering if you have a history of obesity in your family does that mean you'll never be thin? because I've been hearing that people who are genetically overweight will not ever get below a certain weight.

im kinda worried that i won't be able to get to a healthy weight. because i have a family history(on mom's side) of obesity

02-08-2008, 08:18 AM
I personally don't believe so.
I had a doctor once tell me that i was genetically predispositioned to being overweight, because obesity runs in my family on both of my parent's sides. Neither of my parents are overweight, but all of my aunts (my father's sisters) are, and my grandmother (my mother's mother) was very heavy, as are all of her sisters. My sister is obese, I am technically still obese. But I wasn't always obese, so I do believe that I will reach a weight outside of the obese range (only 4lbs to go!!) and then the overweight range someday, and i will maintain it.
However, I have a large frame and am heavily muscled, so my "goal" may not actually be a "good" weight for me - it may be too small for my frame. I am going to reevaluate once I lose another 20lbs. My healthy weight might be within the national standards idea of "overweight" for my height, so in that matter I may actually always be "overweight" acordding to some national standard, but that's only a number on the scale. my body fat percentage and overall health are far more important.

02-08-2008, 08:19 AM
I think that having parents who are overweight might up your chances of becoming overweight, but it doesn't guarantee that you'll never be of a healthy weight. My dad probably weighs about 400 lbs. My mom (who's 5'1") probably weighs around 250 lbs. All of my relatives on my dad's side of the family are overweight (most probably obese). About half of my relatives on my mom's side of the family are the same. I have one sister who was thin through high school and has put on about 50 pounds since then. But I have another sister who is tiny and always has been. She wears a size 6 after having had a baby about 9 months ago. I weighed almost 300 lbs., but have lost almost half of my total body weight (and maintained the loss for over a year). I don't think I'll ever be stick skinny (not that I want to be!), and I know that, for the rest of my life, this is something that I'll have to think about.

It kills me to hear about people who just give up because they think they're "destined" to be obese! It might be tougher to lose the weight if your family isn't supportive or understanding, but it's not impossible!!

02-08-2008, 08:26 AM
I don't think so. My maternal grandmother had 8 sisters and 1 brother. Half were borderline obese and the other half were thin. My mom and her siblings are split the same way and since no one's genetic make-up is the same I don't think that's true. I even have friends that are twins and one of them is overweight. Isn't that strange???

02-08-2008, 08:52 AM
Just because you have overweight family members does NOT mean you got "the fat gene," nor does it mean THEY have "the fat gene." They could very well be overwieght due to lifestyle choices. You could have gotten diferent dominant/recessive genes that don't match the same dominant genes of your parents (or siblings or whatever).

I do think some people have a larger frame than others, but the idea of being predisposed to obesity based on family history is kinda silly to me. It seems no different than saying, "well, your grandfather died of lung cancer, so you're predisposed to have an increased risk of the same," when said grandfather smoked 3 packs a day his whole life and you don't smoke at all--silly :dizzy:

02-08-2008, 10:15 AM
Dr Oz I believe said about genetics...It's like inheriting a house,how you decorate that house is up to you.I believe that.

02-08-2008, 10:50 AM
Genetic factors do exist. Adoption studies have shown that the weight of adoptees as adults are correlated with their biological parents and not (or weakly) with their adoptive parents. However, I think the genetic component is neither inconsequential or all-powerful. I was adopted as an infant, and while my mother and grandmother had middle-aged spread weight issues, I became obese at age five (having been very slender until then - no baby pudge at all, then wham), and have struggled with my weight ever since. My two younger sisters (parents' bio-kids) have followed after each of our parents. One gaining weight in the hips in her late 20's like Mom, and one very trim and athletic like Dad (if she continues to follow after him, she might gain some after retirement).

To me, this suggests genetics at work. Does that mean I'm doomed and might as well give up now? Should a genetic diabetic, throw away insulin and wait to die? If you're born with a defective ankle or have one because of an injury, do you give up on learning to walk better? I don't think so. Whether you inherit a weakness, or come by one in another manner, choosing to give up is always an option, but doesn't have to be, and is about as ridiculous in either case.

02-08-2008, 12:09 PM
I agree that genetic factors exist, but I don't believe it's the culprit nearly as often as people today would like to believe. Just because a parent has poor habits and is overweight doesn't mean the child is automatically genetically predisposed to being overweight, and I think that's where a lot of people don't realize the disconnect. I think too many people say they're overweight because their parents are overweight, so they must have gotten those genes from the parents, but who says the parents even HAD those genes to begin with?

I don't know. Short answer: no. You may have lower metabolism or larger bone structure due to genes, but I don't think there is anyone whose genes would keep them from reaching a healthy weight. They may have to cut more calories than the person sitting next to them, but I still think it can happen.

That said, I also believe a "healthy weight" is different for everyone, and that doctor's charts and BMI are complete bunk.

So, along those lines, I suppose it depends on what you mean by "thin." Do you mean reach a healthy weight? Do you mean have a perfect hourglass figure? Do you mean reach a size 2? You used the term "healthy weight," butI gues sI'm not sure what your idea of a healthy weight is. I think any weight at which you have no weight-related health issues and a reasonable body fat percentage is a healthy weight. And ANY weight lower than you highest weight is still a healthier weight :)

02-08-2008, 05:06 PM
I agree that genetics can make it easier to gain weight. My entire family is overweight, and for me to go from 160 to 260 in 9 months (during pregnancy) was just too easy - it shouldn't be possible. On my husband's side, they gain a little weight as they get older, but mostly stay slim. I also think "genetically" overweight people have a harder time losing weight.

Doesn't mean it can't be done, though. =)

02-08-2008, 05:25 PM
How much is genetic, and how much is environmental, is very speculative. They can't be separated, and the research is fairly recent, so it's only a guess whether it's underestimated or overestimated. The adoption studies do make one wonder whether genetic factors are actually more common that we think, but in many ways it doesn't matter. Whether you're conditioned by the environment, or have a genetic predisposition, either way you're left dealing with the issue.

I think what does have to be removed from the equation is blame and recriminations. Whether you learned the behavior or have a genetic predisposition (or more likely both) - you shouldn't consider yourself bad, crazy, lazy, or stupid, you just have to adapt to the challenges you are dealing with.

02-08-2008, 07:15 PM
How much is genetic, and how much is environmental, is very speculative. They can't be separated, and the research is fairly recent, so it's only a guess whether it's underestimated or overestimated.

A recent study at University College London studied 5000 sets of twins (both identical and non identical) and suggests that genetic factors form a much greater part in obesity in childhood than ever suggested before (over 70%).

A summary of the research can be found here. (

An pertinent quote from the article concludes:

"Even if someone has a gene which predisposes them to obesity, it doesn't mean they will become obese if they work hard to eat healthily, and take more exercise to burn off those calories."


02-08-2008, 07:39 PM
My sister and I have the exact same genetic heritage and yet she is thin and has always been and I have to work very hard at keeping my weight in check.

But one clear difference between us is how we deal with stress and hectic lives. I eat and she forgets to eat.


02-08-2008, 08:03 PM
When my father died, he was about 450 lbs. My mother was heavy much of her life. I was a fat child, and have lost a significant amount of weight twice before. Each time, it took about 10 years for me to regain some or all of the weight.

While I do believe that genetics play a part in my battle, I believe that I can and I will return to a "normal" weight. Will I be thin? No. Could I be thin? Maybe. Would it be difficult for me to get there - definitely. Could I stay thin? Possible, but not probable. I do believe that my body reacts differently than someone who does not have the same challenges I have had. This is not an excuse - it is my reality.
That being said, I am looking forward to reaching my goal, and using the information I have gleaned from 3FC, as well as the support from this community to stay at my goal weight for the rest of my life :)

02-08-2008, 08:29 PM
Lori, are you and your sisters identical twins? If not, there still would be a very good possibility that you inherited one or more fat-supporting gene(s) and she lean-supporting gene(s). How you deal with stress may even be partially determined by those genes. Some genes require environmental triggers, so that identical twins can have the same gene for a disease, but only one show symptoms.

I think knowing that there are genetic components does change the way that we look at and treat obesity. It would be advantagous for people prone to obesity to know early on that harder work is going to be necessary and maybe things naturally thin people can take for granted, they cannot.

On a television program (can't remember which one, but I think it was on TLC) one doctor pointed out the survival advantages to being prone towards fatness and leanness. In times of plenty, the naturally lean person or animal has the advantage. They are strongest, fastest, and are the most productive breeders. In times of famine, the fat prone have the advantage. The problem is, some of us are waiting for famines that never come. Also, there are probably environmental tipping points as well. During severe famine and times of scarce resources - even the lowest metabolism is not going to keep a person fat. And in times of super abundance (like in the USA) where consuming high caloric diets is encouraged, it may be that even many with high metabolisms will have a hard time staying lean.

The hunger drive is often very difficult to overcome. Sometimes saying "just eat less" is like telling a person "just stop breathing." You can do it for a while, but eventually more primitive parts of the brain take over.

In business they say "don't work harder, work smarter," and I think that is what we are just starting to learn in weight loss. I think many people with life-long weight problems kept trying to work harder, usually crash dieting. If I can't lose weight quickly on 1800 calories, or 1500, or 1200, I'll try 400.

The fact may be that some people cannot lose quickly and need to be willing to accept more modest losses over a greater period of time. Or, as growing research is suggesting, maybe there is no optimal diet for the human species. Maybe some people do better on a low carb, or at least low grain diet. Maybe there are some people whose brains treat certain food substances more like drugs, and therefore those foods have to be treated as such.

Right now, we're just coming out of the diet dark-ages. Trial and error is about the best advice we have for anyone right now. Low-carb diets are showing promise for people who've had an especially difficult time with weight loss, but that still holds a lot of controversy. They're finding some of the fat genes (or evidence of them), but not the role they play with the environment. Food science is starting to look at health effects not just methods of cheap production. Restaurants are starting to offer (and keep on the menu) healthier options, and people are finally starting to buy them.

We are learning, but we're also taking steps backwards. Schools still provide kids more processed crap than whole natural food. Fast food restaurants are catering in the schools and vending machines line the halls. Chicken nuggets and corn dogs are considered wholesome. I don't know if ketchup is still being considered a vegetable, but I bet canned mixed vegetables still are (the ones that are so mushy and gray that only the kids who will eat anything will touch them).

The problem isn't simple, and the solution won't be either - for individuals or the nation.

02-08-2008, 09:04 PM
Colleen - you make several good points. Much of what you point out is supported by Kolata in Rethinking Thin.
It was an eye-opening book. A bit depressing, but I am an eternal optimist! It did help me understand much about my struggles with my weight over the years however. I am slowly learning to listen to my body instead of everyone and everything else when it comes to determining the best way to win this battle once and for all.

02-08-2008, 09:11 PM
I keep hearing about that book, looks like I'll have to break down and buy it.

02-08-2008, 09:14 PM
My mother was never thin and my father was only thin when he was young. My sister was heavy from adolescence and I was a heavy kid, slimmed down during the teen years and then was heavy again as an adult. The eating habits in my parents house were awful! Everything was heavy, fattening, and served in large portions.

Do I think there is a genetic link to our family weight issues? I have no idea. I do know that both my sister and I have slimmed down to a healthy weight. She has maintained for several years and I've been maintaining for 6 months.

I think that regardless of your genetics it is, more then likely, possible to achieve a healthy weight and with learned habits stay there. There maybe a small percentage that wouldn't be able to achieve this, but I think that's a VERY small percentage.