The national obesity rate is one clue to the big role that environment can play. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 65 percent of Americans are overweight or obese, a 16 percent increase in fewer than 10 years. Genes have been around as long as human beings have, but the current obesity epidemic is brand-new, according to this article from Women's Health on inherited traits.
One simple explanation, says Cummings, is the supply of calorie-rich food in our culture. "A couple hundred years ago, not many people had ready access to a lot of food, so only those with an extremely high susceptibility to weight gain became overweight." Today, for a few bucks, even someone with skinny genes can buy enough food to supersize herself. "We are living in an environment for which our genes just weren't designed," Cummings says.While there is certainly a genetic disposition determining where we store excess fat (hips/thighs vs. tummy for example) and even a genetic component to how easily we acquire muscle mass, we cannot gain weight without consumption! We are not genetically predetermined to be fat or thin: our weight is a reflection of our lifestyle and that calories in/calories out equation. Believe that you have the power to change it, and you CAN!
For most of my life, starting when I was a teenager, people told me how lucky I was because "You can eat whatever you want!" And, I believed it. I was just born that way, or so I thought. But in truth, I always ate home-cooked meals, and small portions. My family never went out to eat, and we had fast food on occasion - a handful of times a year. I also ran track/cross-country junior and senior years, running six days a week.
But in my early 20's I didn't run or work out on a regular basis. And guess what happened? I gained 37 pounds! Yes, 37 pounds! I was 115lbs in high school, and percentage wise, that is a lot of weight! Also, no longer living with my parents, my eating was nowhere near as healthy. So I started training for my 1st marathon in 2002, thinking the weight would magically disappear. But, it did not. I actually ran 10 marathons without loosing ONE pound.
I did not see any results until last year, when I started modifying my diet. I am not currently on a diet - there is a difference. It's a lifestyle change...not temporary. Since then, I have lost 27 pounds!
Now, when people tell me "You can eat whatever you want!" I explain "But, I don't eat whatever I want!"
Winning the Genetic War Despite the slew of new research indicating that certain body shapes are largely preordained, it's by no means a fat sentence. At the end of the day, you're in the driver's seat of your own life and the navigator of your own body. "No matter what your genes or your environment might be, you can't gain weight unless you're taking in more calories than you're expending," Kahn says.
In other words, while you may not be able to change being apple-shaped, it's certainly well within your power to be the healthiest, fittest apple possible.