My Fat Genes

With Kim Nemoy, my baby sister, on right

My baby sister was always bigger than me. She takes after my father’s people. The women on his side are thick and full-bodied.  Why are they big? One answer is: Good food leads to eating a lot. I always blamed our Mississippi and Louisiana heritage for developing our famous cooking genes! I mean, who invented Southern cuisine? Not Paula Dean! But, more on our cooking genes later.

Actually, many of us inherited fat genes from our ancestors—a genetic disposition for obesity. One in every seven Americans were born with the fat gene! Mexico recently surpassed the US as the  “world’s most obese,” according to a United Nations report. But are you destined to be fat if your family is fat? Scientists say No! You can prevent obesity by exercising and eating healthy food.

Furthermore, British scientists recently gained a deeper understanding about a fat gene called “FTO,” that causes our “hunger” hormones to crave certain foods more than others.

“A version of an obesity gene, called FTO, had been linked to a bigger belly, but the reason why was uncertain. A study, published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, showed it made fatty foods more tempting and altered levels of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. Obesity experts said drugs targeting ghrelin might reduce weight gain.

Read more about it:

In my family there were several heart attacks and strokes. As we know, obesity is a high risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. At least 2.8 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. More than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight in 2011, according to the World Health Organization.

Let’s face it. All of us may gain a few pounds now and then. And, we really can’t blame our extra weight on any single factor: genetics, nature, nurture, and environment. In terms of the environment, if you live in New York City, you are more likely to walk and take public transit than folks living in other places where they mostly drive. Obesity is caused by a combination of factors.

view of man’s fat belly sitting on park bench.

So, let’s not wait for pharmaceutical companies to develop new obesity drugs based on our fat genes.  Instead, let’s eat better, cook healthy, walk and exercise more and prayer helps too! Does the fat gene run in your family?

7 thoughts on “My Fat Genes

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Sylvia.

    I can really relate to your post about fat genes.

    I grew up surrounded by a number of large, loving aunts who I adored.
    Suffice it to say that they loved to eat and they ate a traditional southern diet of
    fried chicken, steak, sausage, macaroni and cheese, ham, pig feet, mashed potatoes
    and overcooked vegetables swimming in fat back and ham hock infused water.
    My folks wouldn’t think of eating greens without smoked neckbones or fat back in them.
    All of my life, my parents would warn me to watch the amount of food that I ate, because “you don’t want to
    end up fat like your aunts”. Not only were they obese, but they also suffered from the diseases associate
    with obesity such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

    Fortunately for me, their health problems triggered a desire in me to avoide the same fate.
    Therefore, I have spent most of my adult life learning how to eat well, stay fit and live a relatively healthy lifestyle.
    Because the fat gene definitely runs in my family!

    1. Deborah, Our family’s fat genes are related to our traditional Southern diet. But, there are ways to make “soul food” healthy. We are not alone! So many in the world experiencing obesity– especially recent news about Mexico obesity rate! Bravo to you for your dedication to healthy eating and lifestyle.

  2. Thank you for posting this! I’m black, my maternal family has lived in Ohio since the 1890s and my paternal family has lived here since the early 1900s and I don’t (think;) I have the “fat gene”-BUT, we all love to eat and cook and we have histories of diabetes. My late husband’s family (maternal and paternal) are all proud Southerners-and good cooks! I’ve seen no evidence of the “fat gene” there either, but again there is a distinct history of diabetes and Alzheimer’s. With that genetic information as a back drop, my husband and I were focused on developing nutritious eating habits and (relatively;) active lifestyles for ourselves and especially for our sons. All our sons were breast-fed for the first year-even the twins! After the 1st year they slammed on Cream of Wheat and and pureed vegetables, a good deal of which my husband grew in our garden (“you don’t know who’s canning that commercial baby food!”-Yeah, he was a bit focused;) we did not introduce meat until they were 3 years old and any junk food they consumed pretty much happened outside our home. They’re now in their 30s and appear to be very healthy. I maintain a large organic garden around the perimeter of the house-in raised beds (5 ft long & 2 ft wide) the guys built for me-so all my herbs (potted on the deck) and veggies are fresh & organic and the beds produce enough for me, our sons’ homes, my parents, my siblings and friends. This year I planted VEGGIES: zucchini, cucumbers, romaine & buttercrunch lettuce, green beans, corn, cherry, roma & big boy tomatoes, red, yukon gold and sweet potatoes, turnips, kohlrabi, beets, peppers, sugar snap peas, spinach, brussel sprouts, collard, kale & mustard greens, asparagus, onions, garlic & shallots; FRUIT: blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe & honeydew melons along with a dwarf lemon tree and orange tree on the deck; and HERBS: basil, sage, rosemary, dill, chives, parsley and thyme. It’s healthy, it’s inexpensive (most of this food was started as seed!) and gardening is good exercise. My flowers: dahlias, roses, hydrangea, gardenias, petunias, coleus & geraniums planted on the deck and around the yard attract hummingbirds and butterflies which help cross pollinate the veggies. I use Marigolds to repel rabbits, moles, etc. Bottom line: The fresh fruits and veggies are flavorful so they don’t need a lot of cooking/oil/fats and with the fresh herbs as seasoning very little food needs much in the way of salt, and the mustard greens are so hot that there’s no need for commercial hot sauces. We’re still black and still love to throw down in the kitchen and fire up the grill-and I do a good bit of baking;) but the fresh veggies & herbs really help me stay on track and keep whatever fat genes I have in submission under my foot!;)

    1. Paula, You and your family are role-models for healthy “soulful” lifestyle. I’m impressed and inspired with everything you said here–especially your husband growing the baby food! Love your garden and all the delicious edibles you have going on all around your house! Loved your: ‘We’re still black and still love to throw down…” If you don’t mind, I’m sending your comments to my cousins with the hope that they will see the light. Would love to hear story about how your African American family lived in Ohio since 1890’s! Now, there’s an American history chapter! Thank you for sharing.

  3. From the time I was a little girl I resolved that I was NOT going to be fat like so many of the elders. In retrospect I realize they were not that FAT, not really but in light of what was commercially touted as the perfect size, well let’s just say we were big folk. Among them, I was the runt at 5’7″ I was always a picky eater even as a child. As soon as I got away from home at 20, my palate expanded and my love affair with food began. I brought all of this back into the family, switching things up as far as preparation was concerned. Folks loved eating new things like baked fried chicken, pesto, eggplant etc because we ate what we grew, picked off trees and fished out of lakes when I was growing up. But it did not replace fried chicken or ribs and greens and yams. Having said all that, eating properly remains a meditation for me. As I age I find it more difficult to maintain muscle and strength in spite of my diet being pretty lovely. Fat is chasing me.

    1. Patricia, Thank you for your comments. Sounds like you have tall genes in your family if you were a runt at 5’7.” Lol! Oven-fried chicken sounds deelish! I love your words: “eating properly remains a meditation for me.” How lovely!True, maintaining muscle and strength as we age is an issue. I hear you, sister! Add weight training to your routine. But check doctor first.

Comments are closed.