On genetic destiny

If obesity runs in your family are you destined to a life of obesity? Are your genes your destiny?  Is it possible to win a fight against genetic destiny?

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute has said,

Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.”

What he means is that the expression of your genes (i.e., whether they do what they are programmed to do or not) very much depends on the environmental conditions in which they exist.  Keep in mind this quote is coming from the guy behind the Human Genome Project!  I hope his statement instantly gives you hope, because environment is something each and every one of us has some control over.

What do we mean by environment? Your environment is wherever you spend time.  In any given day, where are you?  Home. Work.  School.  Friend’s house.  Restaurant. Store.  Let’s take “home” for example, since most of us spend a good deal of time at home and also have a lot of control over the home environment.  Ask yourself, is your home pulling your genetic triggers?

If you are genetically prone to overeat, an environment full of tempting foods will most certainly pull your trigger.  One of the most important things you can do to reduce the impact of your genetic predisposition is to construct your personal environment in such a way that eliminates anything that would make you vulnerable to overeating.  To figure out what those things are, think of the last few times you overate and then draw it back to something in your environment.  If you came home starving after a stressful day only to eat 3 bowls of Lucky Charms before dinner, you have an environmental problem.  First, you had no healthy snack to stave off your appetite in the car on the way home, and second, your home contained a food that you overeat when stressed.  A handful of almonds on the ride home, followed by a snack of fresh fruit and vegetables (which you would consume only in the absence of more tempting foods) would be one example of stacking your environment in your favor.  In addition to rearranging your personal environment, steering clear of environments (e.g., buffets) that pull your triggers will be extremely effective in gaining control over your genes.

While there is much ado about genes, the truth is we don’t even really know what our genes are actually coded to do.  I mean, who really knows their genetic code?   Even though being overweight might run in a family, we don’t know for sure if it runs genetically in the family or for another reason.  The family might just share similar habits and pass them down generation after generation.  There are dangers to believing that you are genetically wired to do a thing, because the belief will increase the likelihood that you behave accordingly.  In fact, our perception of our genetic destiny may have a worse negative impact on our behavior than the genes themselves. If you believe that you are wired to have a big appetite or be heavy, you will be eat more and gain weight.  Beware of the consequences of assuming your genetic destiny, as you may be unintentionally sealing your own fate.

Your gun may be loaded, but it may not matter as much as you think.  If it really is loaded, don’t be your own gunman.  Focus on the factors you can control and be the master of the destiny you choose.

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3 Comments

  1. pt=”Obesity runs in my family”
    dr=”i think the problem is that NOBODY runs in your family”

  2. Mbfgmike says:

    Sherry this is on if my favorite posts of yours. I find the subject very interesting and after reading it I was happy to find out that the “Bauman gut” can be fought. I plan on winning that battle.

    Gene that was a good one.

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