It's Not the Genes...
I went through a chubby stage as a pre-teen girl, which most pre-teen girls do. My favorite uncle was in town visiting and my mom told him that I'd said I was afraid I was going to be fat because I take after the bigger side of the family, his side. He said one of the best things anyone could have said to me at that point. “No, you don't have to do that. You know why? You're too smart for that; you know better. My mom was raising us by herself and she was so proud of how well she could feed us that she fed us everything she could. She'd serve meatloaf, pasta, and potatoes in the same meal, and we just ate and ate. You don't have to do that. You can control what you eat and your size.”
I took his advice. I realized at some point that I don't like that over-stuffed feeling of having gorged myself at a meal, even if it's a holiday. I'd rather NOT have a stomach ache, thank you, and I can come back later for more. And you know what? My uncle was right. So, while I've never been obsessively trying to keep my weight down, I just sort of learned when to stop eating. Later, I would learn more about ingredients and food choices. I've also observed a couple of times in my life a thin person in an otherwise-not-thin family, who at first glance appears to have just inherited “the good genes.” Further observation reveals some different food choices.
Years later, I was shopping with a friend and her sweet nieces for back to school clothes, when the 13-year-old said to me, “I'm probably going to be big one day, because my mom is kinda big.” I didn't want to overstep my bounds, or insult her mother, but I couldn't say nothing. “Well, you really don't have to be. I mean, I don't know what your mom was taught to eat or how she was raised, but you can make your own choices about how much you eat and whether you exercise. You really do have a lot of power over your size and health.”
I lost my favorite uncle a couple of years after our conversation over my mom's kitchen table. He had a heart attack and died at age fifty-two. He had a wife and children who loved him and we would all have loved to have had him around longer. His youngest brother did not make it to fifty, and I never knew my grandmother because she passed away so young. While my pre-teen self was dealing with the fear of “being fat,” my grown-up self wishes I could have had those people in my life longer.
Are there genetic predispositions? Sure. But there's also emerging evidence that we can affect the way our genes work by what we eat. I can look at my family history and say that I am likely to die of a heart attack in my early fifties. Given my choices and resulting health, I don't think that's very likely. I am convinced that there are many of us using inheritance or metabolism as a cop-out. There's actually very little difference between most people's metabolism. So, maybe it doesn't just run in the family, maybe families pass down eating habits, not just genes. Whether we adopt those habits is up to us.
Logic and Choices
My mother has recently been diagnosed with Lymphoma. She was sitting with the nurse, who had just given her the packet listing all the side effects of chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is not exactly known for being gentle to the body or having few adverse effects. My mom decided to ask the nurse about something her friend had suggested she do instead—a Vitamin C flush. The nurse responded, “I'd be concerned about how your body would react to all that acid. You'd probably have burning when you urinate.”
I'm not going to debate methods of cancer treatment here; there are plenty of sites and resources for that. I am a firm believer that each person has to do their own research, and come to their own conclusions that they can be comfortable with. And I am a firm believer in logic. Had the nurse given my mom a study that showed that a Vitamin C flush would not work, she would have had something to go on. But the idea that the acid in Vitamin C, a natural, water-soluble substance, would be harsh enough on the body to give concern to the chemo nurse? The logic hit the floor with a thud.
It's easy to get bogged down with the “what to dos” of getting or staying healthy. Studies can be incredibly deceiving, sometimes intentionally. There's a new “revolutionary” diet out every few months and people really want to know what they should and should not eat. I'm glad there's such growing interest about food and healthy lifestyle choices, but the quest doesn't need to be so confusing. There's no reason to throw logic out the window where your health is concerned.
One of the ways we do this is when we give ourselves over to the experts and take them at their word, no matter what. We do this all the time, especially when we simply don't ask the right questions. We have to remember what type of doctor we have chosen, and what they are trained to do. Most of our conventional doctors are trained to recognize symptoms, diagnose disease, and prescribe the corresponding medicine. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and sometimes that is what is needed at the moment. But don't rely on their drugs and procedures without bothering to ask questions and advocate for yourself.
I've been guilty of going along with the experts and not asking the right questions. I was very young, newly married and on those horrid birth control pills. A few months in, I started having pain in my lower right quadrant. I had grown a large ovarian cyst. I asked my doctor, the expert, if the pills could have caused it, and was told, “No, we actually use the pill to prevent ovarian cysts in women who get them a lot.” That is true, and I don't think my doctor was trying to mislead me. I just think we weren't asking the right questions. “Sure, if someone has cysts already, maybe pills control them, but since I've never had this problem...” Sixteen months of the pill, two surgeries, and when the third cyst came along, I just quit listening to my doctor. I went off the pill and the cyst went away. By that point I was under 21 and missing an ovary. (I was also walking around with staples in my abdomen, but I wouldn't find out about that for nine more years. That's another story.)
I look back at cringe at how I just went along with it for so long. I really didn't have anyone encouraging me to do my own research and ask the right questions. I would do things differently now and I've learned a lot. If your doctor is telling you, “You're [organ] isn't producing enough [vital substance],” maybe rather than, “Which drug fixes that?” the logical question should be, “Why not?” There is not a drug deficiency that leads to a health problem known to man.
Questions to consider when your body isn't functioning correctly:
Do I have a deficiency of some sort? If I do, is it because it's lacking in my diet? If so, how can I get more of what I need in my diet? If not, is there an absorption problem in my gut? What's at the root of the absorption problem? Do I need a drug to fix the immediate symptoms while I work on getting better? Do the side effects of the drug outweigh the benefits?
We need to ask questions that take us to the root of the problem. Ask “why,” and “why,” and “why” again, if you have to. And don't drop logic on the floor when you make your choices.