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Speaking of cop outs, what about "Weight problems run in our family?"

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Old 12-06-2011, 05:42 PM   #1
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Default Speaking of cop outs, what about "Weight problems run in our family?"

So I was talking to my mom about the work I'm doing digging into childhood issues that may have contributed to my weight issues, and she mentioned that there is some history weight problems in our family. My mom's dealing with a lot of extra weight, too, and I feel like it might just be a cop out to avoid dealing with what she needs to deal with. I mean, binging episodes beginning at age 7 (me) aren't exactly normal.

I feel like I've heard this same statement from lots of people. So, what are your thoughts? Is "It runs in the family" a cop out?
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Old 12-06-2011, 06:26 PM   #2
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In a lot of families, including mine, there is a legacy of being overweight. My mum and grandmother are both heavy, and so am I - at least for now! I think that the cop out is in failing to ask WHY it's running in the family.

In my family, it's a combination of unhealthy eating habits and unhealthy links of self worth/emotions to body image.

My mother and grandmother were constantly in a dieting/gaining cycle. Our family meals would be lasagna and potatoes and ice cream sundaes one week, and salad and broccoli the next week. I grew up learning that food is a delicious reward and also a dangerous enemy.

From the time I was a little girl, I was told by my mother and grandmother, who both struggled with their weight, that I wasn't thin enough, that it was bad to be fat and I had to lose weight. I was told that I was chubby and everything I ate was judged. I remember going to my first day of grade 2 in tears because I felt ugly in my brand new overalls, which I thought made my legs look fat. When I look back on photos and see how normal and healthy I was, I am amazed at how deluded I was.

Unfortunately, it has taken me a long time to understand how linked my weight problems are to my way of thinking about food. I am still struggling to unlearn those things, so that it doesn't continue to run in the family.
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Old 12-06-2011, 07:17 PM   #3
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Kind of both. I do think it is true that some of it genetic. However, that does not mean we have "permission" to use it as a cop-out... just means we have to be really disciplined and work harder at it.
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Old 12-06-2011, 09:17 PM   #4
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I think some people are genetically predisposed toward a tendancy to put on weight easier than others; which is not totally unlike the genetic tendency of some people to be alcholics.

That doesn't excuse overeating and not being active. I know those are the reasons I got fat. But I do think some people have to work harder to lose weight, keep it off, or stay thin (if they never let themselves get fat) because that's just the body type they inherited.

We all know of people who are "naturally thin" and have a hard time GAINING weight. Many will say that "isn't fair", but it's really no different than the inherent differences in intelligence, beauty, natural talent, etc. between humans. It is what it is.

The good thing is, as hard as it may be, 99% of us (excepting those people who really do have thyroid problems and that sort of thing) CAN control our weight. We may have to work harder at it, but that's far better than being powerless.
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Old 12-06-2011, 09:44 PM   #5
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I think that we tend to make obesity and overweight about "blame." We find it so important to blame the overweight person and to "make them" blame themselves, that we don't even care whether the blame actually does any good.

God forbid a person acknowledge factors that might be making their struggle more difficult... it's always seen as a "cop out." Whether the person is succeeding or failing, doesn't even seem to matter as long as they're "taking accountability" and by that we mean blaming themselves 100% for their weight. It's as if we want the overweight person to admit and feel horrible or the weight loss isn't going to "count."

I always blamed myself for my weight - even when I was five years old. No one else in my adoptive family had ever been overweight as a child - not my brother (both of us were adopted, but aren't bio-related), nor my sisters who came after me. My parents and my doctor did everything they could, even things that today would be shocking (like putting a 12 or 13 year old on stimulant prescription diet pills).

I thought I was lazy, crazy, or stupid or in some other way "broken," because that's what I learned that overweight people were supposed to think about themselves.

Then I learned about the genetic factors of weight loss, and started wondering - hey I wonder if that's why no one else in my (adoptive) family except me have ever been even overweight as a child (let alone morbidly obese, as I was at 225 lbs in 8th grade), and maybe that's why no one else in my family has ever exceeded 300 lbs (let alone almost reaching 400).

Instead of being "a cop out," it made me think "maybe I'm not such a freak, afterall. Maybe it's not just in my imagination, maybe weight loss IS more difficult for me.

When I thought my weight was "all my fault," and something that I should have been able to conquer with simple willpower, I always felt like the biggest, most useless, idiot on the planet for finding it so difficult. But when I thought that there might be a reason that weight loss was harder for me, it gave me more motivation. I thought "I may have to work harder than most people - and there may be a good reason for that. I may not be as big of an idiot as I thought."

When I was diagnosed with health issues that are known to contribute to obesity, and prescribed medications that make weight loss more difficult, I could have used it as an excuse, but I realized that I would have to work ten times as hard to get 1/10 the results.

Pointing to the factors that may contribute to weight issues can be used as motivation to work harder or can be used as excuses to give up, or they can be entirely irrelevant. Just because you believe that weight issues run in your family doesn't mean that you're going to use it as an excuse, or even that you're going to use it as motivation either (some people may find that it doesn't affect their motivation at all - it's just trivia).


I'm succeeding now, almost despite myself, but not because I'm accepting more blame, or making fewer excuses, or even being more accountable. I have always understood (even at 5) that ultimately, my weight was my responsibility - regardless of the "why's").

I'm succeeding (though at a much slower pace) because I stopped accepting and following the popular expectations and traditions of weight loss. I stopped judging myself by the standards I was taught that I was "supposed to." I stopped blaming myself, and stopped dieting the ways I was taught to (with lots and lots of self-punishment, until I couldn't take the abuse anymore).

I think the biggest enemy to weight loss is the way we're taught to go about it. Virtually noone volunteers for as much self-inflicted abuse as dieters do.

We define success in such a way that it's almost unacheivable. And then we blame people for "giving up" when giving up is the logical course of action for constant failure. How long would you work without a paycheck?

We judge ourselves by standards so high that virtually no one meets them - so we don't even realize when we're doing better than most people. We assume that "everyone else" is losing 2 to 3 lbs a week, so we must be really lazy and stupid to be barely losing half a pound.

That finally clicked for me, when I complained to my doctor about only losing 1 lb per month when I was at my highest weight (and had so many health issues I was usually house-bound and virtually bed-bound), and said "I should be losing at least 2 lbs per week like a normal person," and my doctor told me I was essentially full of crap. He said that "normal" isn't losing 2 lbs a week, it isn't even losing 1 lb a week. Normal is losing nothing, or is giving up after a few weeks, and regaining it all, and maybe a little extra."

Weight loss is like a marathon in which you assume you're in last place, because you see 1,000 people in front of you, not realizing there are 25,000 people behind you.

We don't know how everyone else is doing, because everyone is too ashamed to admit that they're not losing the 2 lbs a week, we've convinced ourselves is normal.

We also treat "not losing" and even "losing very slowly" as if it were every bit, or at least nearly as bad as gaining. So when someone doesn't meet their weight loss goals (and almost no one does, because we set them too high), they decide "If losing slowly, or not losing, is every bit as bad as gaining - that is if I'm going to be failing anyway, why not at least get to eat what I want...)

We also expect to diet by the perfection method. It's "tradition" to react to a food mistake with intense guilt and then reckless abandon - "I've blown it by eating one cookie, so I'm going to eat the whole box and start fresh tomorrow."

If mountain climbing were like weight loss, no one would survive it, because whenever you stumbled, you'd have to throw yourself off a cliff, so you could "start fresh in the morning."

For me, successful weight loss has been more about unlearning, than learning. My problem wasn't how much blame I heaped on myself, it was all the crap I believed about weight loss, and how it was supposed to be done.

And my biggest mistake was in believing that weight loss was primarily a mind-game of willpower and mind-over-matter.

Ironically, when I started considering "physiological" factors, I started finding techniques that have made weight loss easier. Such as dealing with the hormonal issues of PMDD with the right birth control, and discovering that the "rabid hunger" that I experienced from the time I was a small child when dieting, could be virtually vanquished with low-carb eating.

Knowledge is power - whether and how you use that power is entirely up to you.
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Old 12-07-2011, 03:25 AM   #6
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While I think there is some merit to the "it runs in the family" thing, for me, personally, its a cop-out.

Most of my family is overweight, but I'm starting to realize that learned behavior is a huge factor. We all eat a lot. We all diet and regain a lot.

Case in point...my dad is an identical twin. He and his brother were fit military men until their 30s and then they both ballooned up. My dad is still overweight, while his twin lost a great deal of weight in the past few years. Their parents were both overweight, their sisters are all overweight...but my uncle still maintains a healthy weight because he changed his eating habits.

They are biologically the same, basically. But they're about 80 pounds apart physically.

So for me to blame my weight on genetics...yeah its a cop-out. Unless loving pasta and cheesecake is genetic...Oh lord, I have the potatoes are yummy gene!

Just because my parents are big doesn't mean that I'm destined to be.
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Old 12-07-2011, 05:18 AM   #7
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As well as the psychological stuff and a small genetic component, I think a big part of family weight trends is that families tend to have the same eating habits. There's a huge cultural factor to this as well. I'm from a Jewish family, all keen cooks, where it's considered that you're cooking healthily if you're not making traditional Ashkenaz1 heart-attack-on-a-plate cooking, never mind if you're still making enough to feed the whole neighbourhood. Food is so central to every Jewish festival that there are even sections in recipe books for Yom Kippur, the big fast day!
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Old 12-07-2011, 06:01 AM   #8
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I think there is definitely a greater propensity for one to become overweight according to their genetics. My mum is overweight, her sister is overweight, and my 3 cousins are overweight. My mum's brother is also overweight, as is my grandmother and my grandfather.

I know people who are skinny, yet they eat a lot without any real exercise. I will never understand how they can possibly do this. I could lead the same lifestyle as them and be well overweight. Surely enough, their parents are also thin.

While I do think weight has a lot to do with genetics, its never an excuse to make no effort to lose the weight and keep healthy. Like I said, we have a greater propensity to be overweight, doesn't mean we have to be. We just have to work a little harder than those who are naturally skinny.
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Old 12-07-2011, 09:58 AM   #9
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I don't think it is so much of a "cop out" as it is a different "square one" that others.

If your family has genes that lean a certain way, that's either a leg up or not.

If your family's food culture/cooking skills/fitness knowledge/skills lean a certain way that can be a leg up or not too.

But we all have to start SOMEWHERE, right? Other than the genetics, the other stuff can be learned/improved/changed.

And even the genetics -- you can learn to work with it. If everyone in the fam leans toward diabetes for instance... well, then somewhere in the plan there must be a health check for that right? And keeping an eye on blood sugar and so on.

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Old 12-07-2011, 10:59 AM   #10
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I think it's Nature vs Nurture most often. Just as previous people have said already, you learn a lot of habits from your family be it healthy, excess, minimal or what have you. That's what you learn and that's what you know.

I don't think it's a 'cop out' unless you intend it to be one. I think there are aboslutely genetic/hormonal factors that cant be helped or controlled, however, you can make the choice to use that as an excuse or work with it. You can say "Well I'm destined to be fat/unhealthy" or you can say "Ok, I've got some extra hills to climb, but I can still make this work"
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Old 12-07-2011, 12:31 PM   #11
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This is kind of a sensitive topic for me. Sometimes people who have lost a lot of weight get all "holier than thou" and act like anyone overweight is just excuse-making. We all make the decision when it is right for us, and I think there's a big problem when it comes to weight loss in our society of feeling like it is okay to shame fat people, it is okay to say fat people are disgusting, and there is little support for how hard weight loss can be. There's no compassion, or support. Food is not good or bad, and eating certain things doesn't make you bad, or even lazy. It is simply less or more healthy.

Things like this really bother me, especially from the formerly overweight/obese because it is all about criticizing people without actually helping them.
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Old 12-07-2011, 12:42 PM   #12
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Genetic or physiological issues CAN have a role in the way you lose/gain weight. Diabeties, having a higher/slower metabolism, hormons fluctuations after pregnancies, etc.

However, only a minimal percentage of people has trouble losing weight du to genetic issues (can't remember the exact % though, but it was something like 1-2%), stricly scientifically speaking.

Food intake (both quality and quantity) and fitness habits are mostly the family issues passed from a person to another that cause weight gain in my opinion. And I'm not making any judgment on people here, my own mom was overweight all my life.

I think that at a point, we have to stop pointing out genetic issus that interfer in our weight loss, because there is 1% of the chance that this is actually the problem.

One of the biggest challenge you encounter in a weight loss process is to stop making excuses (''I had no choice eating junk, all my friends wanted to go at this restaurent'', etc etc). I agree that taking the genetic disposition is much more and comforting ideas LOL. But in 20 years, we'll all be glad that we stopped using those excuses and that we made real and definite changes to our lifestyle without caring of our genetic
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Old 12-07-2011, 02:02 PM   #13
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Interesting points all around. I do think it's situational, depending on the person and the particular motivations. For me, I grew up heavy and always just assumed that's the way I was destined to be. I never tried to lose weight until I was in college, because I honestly had no idea that I could actually do it. I wasn't using "it runs in the family" as an excuse, so much as I honestly believed that's just how it was for me.
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Old 12-07-2011, 09:07 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboMammoth View Post
However, only a minimal percentage of people has trouble losing weight du to genetic issues (can't remember the exact % though, but it was something like 1-2%), stricly scientifically speaking.

I think that at a point, we have to stop pointing out genetic issus that interfer in our weight loss, because there is 1% of the chance that this is ctually the problem.

This is one of those numbers that actually gets thrown around frequently, but with little or no actual science behind it.

The number of people who cannot lose weight is actually zero percent - because if you prevent a person from eating anything, they will lose weight until they die (though they frequently may die before they lose much weight).

However, the number of people who "have trouble losing weight" because of genetic factors may be far, far greater than we ever suspected before (but mostly because we weren't looking).

Not only have scientists found several "obesity genes" in animals and humans, they even know how some of them work (and can estimate how many people in a given area carry that gene - and all of them so far, have been found in far more than 1% of the population). Every year, the researchers are estimating genetic factors to be more and more influencial than ever thought before. 1% is a ridiculous number, especially if you're reading the research that is actually trying to determine which those genetic factors are, and how prevalent they are in the population.

One doctor explained it very well, saying that obesity is always a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some environments are so short of food, and require so much physical work just to survive, that regardless of your genetics, the odds of anyone becoming obese is virtually zero). This is the environment that humans evolved under - in the "natural world" overpopulation occurs long before calorie-concentrations will support widespread obesity.


An environment can also be so overabundent in food (combined with a sedentary culture and social pressure to overeat) that virtually everyone would be overweight (and the USA is heading there).

This doctor also said that some people (because of their genetic inheritance) will be fat in all but the scarcest food environment, and some will be thin in all but the most overly abundant environment - but most people fall in the middle (but there's still a very wide bit of territory in between).




The current knowledge of genetic factors usut isn't sufficient to justify making any numerical claims as to "how much" is environmental and how much is genetic. Or to measure the effects in any individual.

If you don't believe me, look for the science. Try to find research to back it up (and look at how they're measuring "genetic" factors - because we don't yet know all of the genes that contribute to obesity, so how are we going to identify the people with and without those genes).


You also have to consider the interactive effect. Most of us do not live in food-impoverished nations - so do we "beat" our genetics by moving there? Well, that's a little extreme.

Both genetics and environment are largely inescapable. When we undertand genes well enough (probably in several hundred years) gene therapy may be part of the solution, but that's not generally an option now. Environment is all we can control, so that's where we have to focus our efforts, but there's still no way as of yet, to determine whether any one person's obesity is mainly genetic or mainly environment (and it really doesn't matter anyway, because we can't do much about the genetic at this point - so we're still left with modifying the environment).
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Old 12-07-2011, 09:26 PM   #15
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I agree with most of the other posters on here- it's a cop out if you want it to be one, but sometimes it does help to understand, or try to understand, how we got to where we are.

I do think that there is less of a genetic component to it than a social component, though I agree with Kaplods that it's hard to tell which is which and science in this area is fairly new. Still, I know that I have a moderate thyroid disorder and since being medicated for it, it's not like the weight has just melted off. I have had a bit more energy than I did before, but usually people don't blimp up to obese weights JUST because of a medical condition- it's because they're eating too much and not moving enough (both of which can be made worse by medical conditions and medicines).

My dad and his sister are both very overweight. My mom and her siblings are not. I am overweight, and none of my siblings have ever struggled with it at all. My dad and his sister are also the ones in the family who have always struggled with a lot of depression, as have I. I think there is a possible connection there.

It's also easy to look at others and say that they can eat whatever they want and not gain, but really, we don't know what they're eating most of the time. Just because some skinny girl in your office always eats a HUGE piece of birthday cake every time someone brings one in doesn't mean she eats like that the rest of the time. Maybe she only eats cake at the office and never eats sugar or fat other than that! Maybe she skips lunch on those days to be able to eat cake.

Though I do think there are people with particularly fast and particularly slow metabolisms, I would venture to say that most of us are probably somewhere in the range of average. I know that when I'm not lying to myself about what I am eating, when I'm honestly tracking every calorie and staying in my range, I lose. Period. When I quit tracking and start estimating and start lying to myself about how much I'm eating, that's when I start to stall or gain and I tell myself that I must just have a slower metabolism than everybody else and pity poor me, it's just going to be so much harder for me than for anyone else out there. That's not true, though. For me, at least.
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