Proof Your Weight Is Almost Entirely Genetic And Not Your Fault

Woman Eating Indian Buffet

Nobody can resist all you can eat Indian buffet.

This post might positively change your life forever. After reading this post you will hopefully: 1) stop beating yourself up for why you aren’t in shape, 2) stop feeling guilty about what you eat, 3) stop spending money on diet fads, 4) stop spending money on exercise equipment, and 5) gain more confidence and self-esteem.

I’ve struggled with staying in fighting shape ever since I entered college. As an athlete who played competitive tennis, I was always about 152-155 in high school with a body fat percentage of under 7%. I benched 1.5X my body weight and clocked a 4.5 second 40 yard dash. When tennis season was over, I ran the anchor for the 4X100 and 4X200 relay. Sports was a huge part of my life and I don’t think I can happily live without it.

By the time I graduated college, I permanently gained the freshman 10. After my second year of working 70 hour weeks in NYC, I ballooned to 175-180 lbs. My strength and speed dissipated. I got sick a lot, had horrible allergies, and even came down with the weirdest case of plantar fasciitis.

My breaking point came when a female colleague I fancied nonchalantly said I looked like another out of shape colleague. I was crushed, but knew she was telling the truth as I looked in the mirror to spot the first signs of jowls. What the hell are jowls?!

I proceeded to work out like crazy for six months in the gym upstairs. I even bought those “Ripped Fuel Extreme” pills filled with ephederine, a substance that is now banned! In three months, I got down to 165 and felt better. But you know what? I’ve been 162-170 for the past 13 years no matter how much I exercise or how little I eat. Something must be up!

GENETICS DETERMINES YOUR WEIGHT

On Sept 18, 2012 an Ohio state parole board recommended that an obese inmate on death row should have his sentence commuted to life in prison. At 470+ pounds, Ronald Post (CBS news article), 53, was sentenced to death by a three-judge panel in 1985 for the 1983 aggravated murder of a hotel clerk after entering a plea of no contest. In other words, Ron has been in prison for 27 years, and is still obese. We’re not talking 20-50 pounds overweight. We are talking 250 pounds overweight.

When you think of prison, you think of minimalism. They are not serving double cheeseburgers, scallop potatoes, rib-eye steaks, nachos, Twinkies and other fine foods. Instead, prisons are feeding inmates carefully rationed amounts which fall under general recommended guidelines. In fact, here is the 2012 Federal Bureau of Prisons Certified Meal Menu. Most states are also under siege due to budget constraints. Therefore, the last thing a prison will do is give inmates more food than necessary.

If you are in prison for 27 years and you are still obese, how do you not concede genetics has almost everything to do with weight? Sure, we can watch what we eat and exercise a bit to improve our fitness and lower our weight at the margin. But, the vast majority of our weight explanation seems predetermined.

TAUTOLOGIES ARE TAUTOLOGIES

You think I’m being stupid for thinking we have no control over how we look. That’s fine, but I’m trying to be unbiased and 100% rational here about the explanation for how someone could be obese after 27 years in prison with budget cuts and food rationing. We do have control over how we look, but how much control we think we have is an illusion.

I used to believe working out and eating healthy made up 70% of the reason why we look the way we do after watching contestants from The Biggest Loser shed literally hundreds of pounds over a three month filming. The remaining 30% was due to genetics. I was pushing 170 pounds at the beginning of the year and needed to believe I could make a difference.

After eating less and working out vigorously, I ended up hitting 158 lbs and stayed there for several months until I went on a 2.5 week cruise to Scandanavia at the end of September. During this trip, I gained everything back. Only after joining my friend’s social exercise site (here’s my group page if you want to join and app) and focusing on my diet again for two months was I able to get down to about 163 lbs. Unfortunately, I’m still 5 lbs over what I achieved last Spring.

YOU CAN ONLY DO SO MUCH

Genetics plays a greater part in our body composition that we think. No matter what, my “happy weight” will always hover around 160-170 lbs. I’ll be happier at 160 lbs than 170 lbs, but below 160 lbs I’ll start getting pissed off because I’ll always be hungry! At over 170 pounds, I’ll also start getting annoyed because I’ll be slower, my pants will feel tight, and my face will start looking like dough.

Genetics has an immutable way of normalizing our weight back to a predetermined range. Exercise and extreme dieting can help you get below your range briefly, but you’re going to mean revert sooner or later. How else do we explain why the large majority of diets fail?

Everybody needs to stop beating themselves over the head wondering why they can’t stay thin. Stop thinking we need to look like the actors we see on TV or the models we see in magazines. The industry is simply selecting those people who have weight bands much lower than the average person. Folks we see on the big screen are also more attractive than the average person. They are the anomaly, while what we see all around us is reality.

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Regards,

Sam

Sam started Financial Samurai in 2009 during the depths of the financial crisis as a way to make sense of chaos. After 13 years working on Wall Street, Sam decided to retire in 2012 to utilize everything he learned in business school to focus on online entrepreneurship.

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Comments

  1. says

    i see what you are trying to do with this post – mixed feelings about this one. i am afraid it gives people reason to justify not to do at least what is in their control. agreed that genetically we are likely to revert to a certain “norm” which is unique to us and our genes, but it’s certainly no reason to control factors we can (diet, exercise, lifestyle). we don’t stop breathing, sleeping and eating every day do we? so why stop exercise?

    but to each their own – cheers to a successful 2013 – however we define success

    • says

      We only have so much control. Instead of the post giving people justification as to why they shouldn’t try hard, the post is giving people a reason to feel BETTER about why they have tried hard and constantly fail.

  2. greg says

    c’mon, Sam! I know you’re more data-driven than that! Cherry-picking one case doesn’t make a pattern.

    http://xkcd.com/605/

    Calories in, calories out in almost every case. Personally, I’ve gone from an almost-obese kid to lifting a good deal relative to my body weight and running half marathons every week. Others can work hard at fitness and self-control as you have at your job and reap the rewards!

    • says

      Got to compare apples to apples, not when you were a kid, growing into your body and now. With this inmates example, we have 27 years of evidence in adulthood showing his obesity is not his fault. Genetics has kept him in his weight ban, and no matter how carefully rationed his portions are in prison, it does not matter.

      • says

        You’ve got to wonder though, how much exercise is someone over 450 pounds really getting? Even if consumption drops drastically, being very immobile due to weight really drops the amount burned when compared against an average person.

        • Anthony says

          I think just giving this one example of an obese inmate is indeed cherry picking. Although inmates do get their food rationed in the mess hall. They buy their own food and trade them like commodities. If you look at the typical prison diet they don’t only get the food from the cafeteria, but they are eating a lot of processed foods like instant ramen noodles, koolaid drinks, hostess snacks, etc. My wife and I used to watch a lot of the Lock-up shows on tv and almost all of the ones who are observed are seen trading or buying massive amounts of processed foods from the store. So again I say, your prison inmate story is a bad example, especiallly since its only one example.

      • Cory says

        How were they rationed? By calories or by weight? I don’t know how you can tout 27 years of “evidence” when there is no report of caloric intake versus output. Do you have the prison menu to show what kinds of food are available? There are huge assumptions here in your “evidence.”

  3. sara l says

    So, people in prison don’t have access to other food other than what they are served for meals? I find that hard to believe but well, I’ve never been in prison.

    I agree that genetics likely plays some part in one’s weight but not sure your example of Ronald Post proves that point.

    • says

      Correct. And certainly less access to other foods as free people have. There are no all you can eat buffets or chipotle nights in prison if that’s what you’re thinking. There is no better evidence than my own experience with weight loss/gain, and Ron’s 27 years of obesity than to prove genetics plays a dominant role.

      I’m afraid folks who are physically fit give themselves TOO MUCH CREDIT for being fit. Whether they workout, eat right or not, they would always probably be fit. Why do you think healthy people die young all the time? Or folks who never smoke die of lung cancer? GENETICS.

  4. says

    My happy weight is 130-140 lbs. I haven’t worked out in 6 months and my weight is still around 130 lbs. I try to eat moderately though. I think your eating habit is a huge part of your weight and health. I’d rather be working out if I can, but baby is keeping me busy at the moment. The weight might be the same, but I do feel a bit more doughy.
    Genetic is a huge part too, but eating right can really help.

  5. tom says

    Genetics is just an excuse fat people like to make.

    As for Ronald Post: 27 years of doing nothing and eating 3 prison meals will make you obese! Calories in > calories burned = obesity. It’s a simple problem.

    You think Ronald Post actually did any type of physical activity in prison? He ate 3 square meals a day. Even with “prison portion control”, if you don’t lift a finger to do anything, you will gain weight.

    People think eating right will make them lose weight. That’s far from the truth. If you consume 1000 calories and only burn 500, you gain weight. It doesn’t matter if you consume 1000 calories of pop tarts, prison food, or carrots, if you are sitting on your ass in prison all day long, you will not burn any extra calories and you will gain weight.

    Genetics plays no role in this. I bet if you started counting calories and compared that to what you burn, you, Sam, will find that you are either burning the exact same amount that you take in or less. This is why you are not losing weight.

    • Rob says

      Not true, my wife is a fitness buff, works out regularly, when she need physo the theatapist commented that she worked out due to muscle mass, she is also super carefull on her eating yet by BMI standards she is considered morbidly obsess some 25% over her ideal weight. Not noy that she steadily gained about 5 pounds a year

      We’re doing P90X and while the weight won’t go away she is trimming up

      So short answer you can be fat and in shape

  6. Chuck says

    Sorry but you are half wrong. If genetics were the main reason for obesity, then we should be seeing a constant level of obesity in our population. But unfortunately, it’s been growing rapidly. There doesn’t seem to be an evolutionary reason for being fatter over the past generation (IMO meaning there’s no benefit in obesity that pushes us in that direction).

    So evidence points is toward our diet and lack to exercise as the sole factor for our obesity problem. It’s hard to point to this as your specific reason but I’d bet it to be the case. Look at other skinnier cultures becoming more obese with American lifestyles. It’s not genetics changing, it’s diet and exercise.

  7. Matt says

    Yeah, our bodies are not suited to the modern American diet (fast food, sugar, tons of bread, etc.). That is why people have gained so much weight over the last 60-70 years. If it was just genetics there would have been a lot of fat people in the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s as well. That just wasn’t the case. Also, people get almost no natural exercise these days. The only walking most Americans do is from their car in the parking lot to whatever store or destination they are going.

      • Geek says

        A metabolism unsuited to carbs.
        Low carb would probably help this guy. Rumor is, prison meals include bread, a ‘starch’, and dessert. Along with ‘a beverage’ which I’m guessing is juice or sugar drink. If you’re not working out in the weight room during all of your rec time in prison, you’d end up fatter than your ideal weight.

        • says

          My ideal weight is 152-162. Perhaps I would by 10 lbs over my ideal weight, but 200+? There is no way. One has a lot of time in prison. Exercise and reading are a core part of prison routine.

        • Geek says

          I would say that some people are particularly insulin resistant from a combination of genetics and a lifetime of carbs, and it is entirely possible to gain fat even with exercise in this condition.
          It’s just one hypothesis. We don’t have enough information about his activity levels, total macro counts, etc to know what the cause is (although genetics likely plays a huge part, since even with some variation, prison is a much more controlled environment than the outside world).

      • Anonnymous says

        Maybe the inmate’s body wasn’t used to eating fewer calories so the metabolism got screwed up, thought there was a famine and clinged onto every calorie. People need time to adjust to eating fewer calories in order to keep weight off.

  8. says

    Genetics certainly plays a role, but I think you’re overrating its effect. You fluctuating between 160-180 is probably certainly due to genetics because I’m sure even at the top end of that range you would be considered a relatively healthy weight. If you were to quit tennis, and begin a strict fast food diet as many Americans do. you surely wouldn’t blame genetics when you weighed 215, would you?

    I also don’t think its very hard to see how someone in prison could remain obese. While rationed, i’m sure the quality of prison food is pretty par for the course with school cafeteria food. That is to say, low quality. Then take into account that for the most part, prisoners live very sedentary lifestyles and its not a stretch to see why Ron was still fat. (I doubt he spent his days doing pushups in his cell like some others!)

    • says

      A couple things. 180 pounds is considered obese for someone 5′ 10″ with a medium frame. See this post on the ideal body weight.

      Second, I could quit tennis and eat normally, and would never get to 215lbs, or even 200lbs due to genetics.

      It’s not about the quality of food in prison. It’s about the quantity and caloric intake. 470 lbs is not fat. 470 lbs is morbidly obese.

  9. Jamie says

    I think you are on to something! Have you also noticed how debt tends to run through a family tree as well? This must also be caused by genetics and people should not fight it but embrace it.

    • says

      After 20 years of studying my own body, testing out diets, and various exercises, coupled with this story of obesity in prison after 27 years, I believe our weight is predetermined in a band. Skinny people just genetically have a lighter/lower band!

      Love our bodies everyone. Love ourselves!

      • Jamie says

        I would like to propose that for 1 year you change your workout style. Instead of doing your normal routine of weightlifting/tennis and probably a high protein diet, you become a distance runner and focus on marathon training with an appropriate diet. No weightlifting other then light lifting on “off days”. You do not have to be a competitive runner, just complete two marathons by the end of 2013.

        To me it sounds like the issue with your current weight is that you have to much muscle to have an “optimal BMI” based on the average american. Unrealistic goals are causing you to become discouraged, and the only option is to change your goals or change your workout style.

        I was always comfortable with my weight after college, being 5’6″ and 140 lbs while eating reasonably and having my workouts consist mostly of lifting and running approximately 10 miles/week. I then moved to the city, sold my car and started running to and from work 3 days a week. My mileage increased up to 25-40 miles a week, and I no longer had a gym membership because I thought the prices were outrageous in the city. Sure enough, with no intentional change in diet and making no effort to lose weight, I dropped from a reasonable weight of 140 to a skinny 125. That was two years ago, and since then I have reduced my running and workouts, and am back up to 145 lbs. My goal for the next few months is to create a balanced workout of running/lifting and to get my weight back to 135-140.

        Additionally my Mother, Father, 3 of 3 biological aunts on my fathers side, and grandfather on my fathers side are all what would be considered obese. I do not know the genetics on my mother’s side beyond her because her parents passed away in their 40’s.

  10. Aaron says

    There are at least two significant issues with your argument. First while the prison may carefully control the amount of food and follow government guidelines the inmates are still eating processed junk. Just look at our schools for evidence of what government guidelines get you for a meal. Second your sample size is way too small. There have always been obese people so one obese person in prison does not tell you anything.

    Real food and exercise will allow the majority of people to control their weight.

    • Christine says

      I agree with Aaron! This sample size of one.. far too small to jump to any conclusions like this! Maybe this guy steals food somehow, maybe his weight is caused by genetics but he is an extreme case, where most other human beings do have more control over their general weight.

      Plus if obesity is growing in America it proves that our environment (sedentary lifestyle, easy access to cheap fast food and a society that loves convenience) has a much bigger influence on our weight than our genetics. Some human beings may be able to eat more calories than others and maintain a lower weight. But we are talking about a small difference… one person can eat 2000 while the other 2300 calories per day.

      Obese people are very likely eating double the amount of calories of your average person or more. There may be cases where the metabolic system stops functioning properly… But this person will not have energy, they’ll be extremely tired because they are unable to use their food as energy… burning it up like regular people do.

      Plus even if their body is genetically vulnerable to metabolic problems.. the lifestyle we live can trigger those genes to become active.. or with the right lifestyle those bad genes will never be triggered.. and the person will live a healthy, normal life.

  11. says

    We are ecstatic that we were able to help you with your recent fitness journey, Sam. Can’t wait to see everyone from the Financial Samurai Community on WeightTraining.com – we are ready to giveaway some comfortable, cool shirts! :)

  12. Travis says

    “After eating less and working out vigorously…”

    Did you actually change what you were eating? Simply eating less isn’t going to do much if what you are eating is unhealthy to being with. Did you cut out all soda and junk food? Did you stop eating at restaurants and fast food joints? Did you eat a healthy breakfast shortly after waking up?

    I do think genetics play a part in our weight, but certainly not enough to make it impossible to ever get to a healthy weight.

      • Travis says

        That story reminds me of Fat Head. The guy made a documentary on eating fast food for 30 days as a response to Super Size Me and saw similar results. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch it for free on Hulu. It’s quite interesting.

        As I said, I think genetics play a part in our weight. Genetics affect how our bodies metabolize certain foods. They explain why a friend of mine can drink Mt Dew all day and eat junk food and still be a scrawny little beanpole, yet others would balloon up like an oompa loompa. I’m in the latter category, and it sounds like you are too. To us, it matters where our calories are coming from, so we have to be more careful what we eat. That’s why I questioned what (and when) you were eating. Genetics also play a part in how much muscle we can gain. Two people can eat the same food and work out the same amount, but one will go from 14″ to 17″ biceps and the other will be a “hard gainer” and grow much slower. Genetics. Metabolism. Prescription drugs. Supplements. Eating and exercise habits from when we were young and in our growth stages. Everything can play a role. The trick is figuring out what works for you. Saying “oh well, it’s genetics” sounds like a cop-out to me. It certainly doesn’t sound like the samurai way. Take the time to figure out how your body responds to certain foods and exercise routines.

        You are worrying about those last few pounds. Perhaps for your body type you would see a big result from doing long distance running. Perhaps you’ll see better results weightlifting instead. Or swimming. Perhaps your body doesn’t metabolize certain foods efficiently, which is why you gained so much weight on your cruise. Cutting out certain foods could help. Adding other types of food (high in fiber?) into your diet might help too.

        Anyway, I’m sorry some people aren’t holding back any punches in their responses to your article. Hopefully this can remain a lively and respectful debate rather than an all-out brawl of words.

  13. says

    I agree with the concept, but I may disagree with the percentage. I think you can overcome genetics. You may have to exercise more or avoid certain foods in order to achieve what you want. Now to the extreme, I could do the same training as Arnold Schwarzenegger and still never reach his performance. Genetics plays a part in his performance, although I think he may be an extreme.

    • says

      When I think of genetics, I think of Steve Jobs. He was a vegan and ate super healthy. Yet, he died of pancreatic cancer at 52. I don’t think all the wealth, science, exercise, or healthy eating could have saved his life.

      Genetics win. It does not discriminate between rich or poor. Hence, an argument for universal health insurance.

      • Cliff says

        Was he a vegan his whole life?
        You can call yourself a vegan, eat potato chips, diet soda and all sorts of garbage foods.

  14. Grandpa says

    Maybe Jobs drank alcohol frequently, which is related to pancreatic cancer.

    3 years ago I weighed 275. Today 205. I’m 6’1″. I’m up at 4:50 AM for 45 hard treadmill minutes at the YMCA 5 days a week, before work. I pretty much eat whatever I want, but try to eat good – more fruits and veggies. BTW I am 63 years old. I do agree with genetic predisposition to skinny, normal or fat, but I believe we can overcome this. I have.

    • says

      Hmm, maybe! Although there was no mention of Steve’s alcohol tendencies in his famous biography.

      Congrats on getting down to 205 from 275! 205 is a weight that has always stuck in my mind because that is what Michael Jordan said his fighting weight was in the early 90’s. I was a huge Jordan fan!

  15. says

    I talk with my sister about weight stuff sometimes (she’s a scientist). She always tells me that everyone is programmed genetically to gain as much weight as possible and hold onto it like crazy. I don’t remember why she said that it’s like that. But she also repeats again and again that it’s all about counting calories. You can only gain weight from calories, so whatever your body is programmed to do, without the calories, it can’t do it. *shrug* Do with that what you will!

  16. Mark says

    You are making a huge assumption about prisons that is not really true. In my experience (as a visitor) prisoners have pretty healthy amounts of pretty unhealthy food available to them. Granted its not an all you can eat buffet but they are generally given more than they need at mealtimes (lest they be accused of being inhumane) and on top of that there is plenty of food and drink available for purchase (prisoners do generally work and get small allowances for it), mostly consisting of various forms of processed foods and sugar water. Not to mention contraband (mostly alcohol). So yeah, while I agree that there may indeed be a “set point” that your body maintains which may indeed creep up a few pounds as we age, that prisoner was most DEFINITELY overrating to get to 250 lbs overweight!

  17. Steph H. says

    “Proof”? This article undermines the validity of your entire website.

    And I’m tired of people generalizing that vegan means healthy, so when/if a vegan gets sick people ALWAYS say, “Well, they were vegan, so if they got sick anyone can, so why bother it’s out of our control…” So many vegans I know eat oreos, french fries, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, drink loads of soda and alcohol, etc. There are different types of vegans, all the word means is that you don’t consume animal products. I am one so I know, however, eating healthy is a priority to me. As a result, I feel amazing, both mentally and physically.

    Diet, exercise, environment, and genetics all play a role in disease prevention and weight management.

  18. says

    Cool, makes a lot of sense. Even just looking at people I know, some of them can eat anything they want, don’t do any cardio, and look thin. While others in the same age group can eat less, eat more healthy, but because of their slower metabolism and other hereditary traits are some how more overweight. We can artificially speed up our natural metabolism by exercising or drinking cold water, but in the long run, we can’t control everything about our body.

  19. says

    I hate to say it, but I disagree. I can’t find someone twice as big as me who eats the same way I do. Sure, genetics plays a role, and we all have our set points (like, I will always and forever weigh more than 115 pounds) but I’d argue that diet is 70%, and exercise is 20%, giving 10% to genetics.

  20. says

    You sure know how to write some controversial posts, don’t you? LOL

    I won’t even play in this post, but I will continue reading these comments that borders on the line of a “war against fat people.”

    But just to add a bit a fun, check out accesscatalog[dot]com.

    This is a website where you can send $85 worth of junk food per quarter to any prisoner at a participating prison. If prisoners can still get access to drugs, what makes you think they can’t circumvent the system above to gain access to more than $85 worth of junk food per quarter?

    And no, I am not affiliated with the site above.

    • says

      It is interesting how one of my hopes for this post is to create empathy for folks who aren’t in great shape, but instead turns into a war against why some are out of shape. Disappointing.

      • says

        Yep. Definitely disappointing, especially because the majority of people suffer from some type of “problem.” It’s just that some “problems” are more noticeable than others. In the end, “problems” are all relative to the cultural in which they exist.

  21. says

    This post is so misleading that I don’t even know where to begin.

    First, genetics does play a role in your body composition. Severe obesity has linked to genetics. That much is true.

    However it doesn’t end there. You also have to consider diet and exercise.

    Oftentimes dieters will say that a calorie is a calorie. From a physics perspective, that is true. From a biologic perspective, that isn’t accurate. Your body handles different types of macro-nutrients in different ways. Some will get rapidly converted into fat, others will be more likely to be burned off. 100 calories of protein, 100 calories of carbohydrates, and 100 calories of protein are not the same. So what you eat, in addition to how much (volume and calories) matters.

    Exercise matters as well. Strength training increases muscle mass, which in turn raises your basal metabolism. This means that you’ll need more calories to keep your body functioning outside of the addition of exercise.

    And the questions:

    Readers, how do you explain Steve Jobs dying of cancer in his 50s when he was a vegan and exercised regularly? Why do people who never smoke get lung cancer?

    Cancer arises after a cell has sustained enough damage to it’s DNA to remove the normal limits on it’s ability to replicate, thus allowing the cell to grown uncontrollably. It’s more complicated than that, but this is a blog comment, not a journal article. Environmental insults (smoking, toxins, etc.) can lead to cancer. However, your body also manufactures lots of toxic compounds during it’s normal functioning. Your body has mechanisms to compensate for these, but sometimes they fail either due to the influence of genetics or bad luck. There are common genetic variants that can predispose people to cancer. See the BRCA gene mutations. Bad luck may be just that – one cell gets enough damage in the right places to be cancerous.

    Why do dieters constantly fail?

    Most diets are designed poorly. The changes from regular eating patterns are too sudden and too severe. The best diets are ensure that you are eating enough healthy food to feel full and to provide your body with the nutrients that it needs. These are more total lifestyle changes, not several week stints of asceticism that one partakes in to fit into a bride’s maid dress.

    Why has American grown in size over the past 70 years?

    Most epidemiologists will point to the decline in physical activity, the increase in food abundance, and the shift towards processed foods.

    Why did a professor prove you can lose weight by eating only Twinkies and other Hostess foods?

    A quick Google search reveals that he decreased his caloric intake by 800 calories per day. Anyone will lose weight if they cut their caloric intake by a third.

    • says

      How is stating my opinion based on rational thought misleading? Diet and exercise helps in getting down one’s lower band, but there is only so much one can do. Feel free to share your story here or publish your rebuttal. I’d also like to understand whether we have an empathy problem. Thanks

  22. says

    So I’ve never been to prison, but the only person I know who HAS been was constantly asking for money to be deposited into his account so he could buy crap food like doritos and twinkies. It was hardly a rationing zone.

    Not to be overly contrarian, but I think we have a decent amount of control over our physical health. My family is largely overweight, but I’m not. I exercise, and eat healthily instead of sitting in front of the tv eating melted butter and sugar. When I moved away from my family and their unhealthy habits as a freshman in college I lost about 25lbs. It’s still pretty much all off over a decade later.

  23. Paula P. says

    I work part-time in 2 different prisons. I see no evidence that inmates have a physical exercise requirement, as you suggested in one of your responses. I do know that inmates trade all sorts of things amongst themselves, including food, so basing caloric/nutritional on the govt doc only tells part of the story.

    I’ll give you advice I wish I would take: drink more water and eat mostly vegetables. The weight would roll right off both of us.

  24. says

    Believe me I know people who reduced drastically, some by half, and still maintaining that state for years. While I do agree this has largely to do with genetics but, there’s personal effort that can overshadow the genetics.

    Sportsman, specially, boxers and wrestlers who compete in same weight category throughout their career can attest to this. They maintain same body weight for almost 20 years or more.

    Normal people can’t do that much exercise but body weight can be kept in control by most of us.

  25. says

    You haven’t mentioned your height,Sam! I think 160-170 lbs is ideal range for someone who is 5-10″ in height. I will definitely download the app.

  26. Cory says

    Sam I love your blog but this is a terrible post. Sometimes I can’t tell whether you are being serious or sarcastic, but if you are being serious on this subject then I’m honestly disappointed in you.

    • says

      Cory, definitely explain why and share your thoughts. I would love to learn from you, especially if you have extensive experience in physical fitness. Do you have a site? I’m also curious to know why you lack compassion for those who are overweight. Thx!

  27. Josh in Afghanistan says

    First off, I totally agree with the calories in compared to calories out thinking. Here in the warzone, I see thousands of people regimented meals similar to the ones you describe for prisons. However, some people get a lot of veggies and skip the chicken wings….some do the opposite. Those with the chicken wings tend to be the smokers and loafers. Those with the veggies are the runners and lifters. There’s certainly a correlation.

    More importantly, I believe that, for the most part, your physical appearance is a matter of choice. How you style your hair (if you’re lucky enough to have some), what clothes you wear, etc…are all choices. Sam, you said it yourself: “After my second year of working 70 hour weeks in NYC, I ballooned to 175-180 lbs.” YOU made the choice of money over health. Some of the comments have mentioned other priorities such as spending time with the kids. Again, that’s a choice you make as an individual. You also admit that you feel best between 160 and 170. Some with your body type might be OK with the constant hunger if they were 155 because they felt better. The important takeaways from this are:

    1. At least you’re aware of how you feel at different weights. You have experienced the gamut of fitness. Most haven’t. Many have no idea what they’re “missing” by choosing an unhealthy lifestyle.

    2. We all choose where we place health and fitness on our respective prioritization hierarchies. Back home in Orange County, I see countless stay-at-home moms with washboard abs and 7% body fat. I talked to one who is barely making the payments on the family mansion and German cars. She previously had a career making over 200k/yr and could easily go back to it. However, she and her husband agreed that her fitness and ability to spend time with the kids was of greater priority than their finances. I don’t fault them for that. Similarly, I don’t fault obese people for choosing other things over their health…unless they claim that it’s genetic ;)

  28. Allison says

    On the subject of genetics, I once saw a documentary on a study of weight between twins that was very interesting: they found a few sets of identical twins but who possess vastly different bodies and health issues despite their shared DNA. I believe they surmised that the difference has to do with epigenetics, or how certain genes express themselves, though what actually sets them off are still unknown. It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, so hopefully I’m not misinforming, but there you go.

    I’m willing to believe that people are partly predisposed to be the way they are, but we need to distinguish those people from the folks who are just eating too much and/or have terrible eating habits. They might be depressed or have other problems, and use food to feel better, or they might just love to eat. All the lifestyle changes in the world can’t help those people until their psychological hang-ups are addressed. A healthy diet seems to do the trick for most of us, even if we don’t exercise as much. This seems to be the case with me: I’ve been the same weight since high school, though I exercised more in school and eat healthier now (maybe I just re-balanced the scales?). I couldn’t assume this to be the case with others, though; there are far too many of us.

    • says

      Allison, does being the same weight since high school (i don’t know how old you are, but assuming at least 7 years out) and admitting you exercised more in school buttress the argument for genetics as the majority determinant of your weight?

  29. says

    Weight sure is a sensitive subject. I think there’s a mixture of genetics, diet, and exercise in regards to weight and what the actual ratio is I don’t know. I do think genetics has an large impact on metabolism which affects some people a lot more than others. Some people have super high metabolisms and can eat a ton of calories without exercising and barely gain any weight, while others with lower metabolisms struggle to keep weight off even while eating low calorie meals and exercising multiple times a week.

    I think a lot of people are addicted to sugar too which does a lot of bad things to the body. It’s hard not to crave something sweet at least once a day, and sugar and corn syrup are in practically everything. I try and satisfy my sweet tooth with dried fruit and small bites of dark chocolate and avoid drinking sodas.

  30. says

    Sir Isaac Newton’s 1st law: A body will stay at rest unless force is exerted upon it.
    The law of conservation of energy: Matter is neither created nor destroyed, it can only be converted.

    After all, it is much more difficult to move say Jupiter than it is to move Earth.

    I’d have to say the guy in prison for 27 years and is now still obese has not been given, or at least not followed, and exercise regimen in addition to reduction of caloric intake.

    There will be a point where the plateau effect will come in because the body is used to being in a certain condition and is less likely to change. That’s when another change would be necessary (i.e. change the exercise type and/or change the types of calories ingested).

    I once weighed 70 lbs more than I do now. I lowered my caloric intake and exercised to get back down. I have maintained that weight for 8 years now without having to modify my diet, although I can reasonably eat 1600-2100 calories a day.
    Granted when I was younger I could NOT get my weight above 140 lbs, even eating over 4,000 calories a day (i.e. protein shakes in addition to food and snacking).
    So my “at rest” weight appears to be 165 lbs – 170 lbs.

  31. Derrick says

    Sam,

    While I typically agree with and enjoy your posts, I think you’re really letting people off the hook on this one…

    I agree that genetics plays a certain role within obesity, but the way you make it sound, you’re attributing 100% of obesity to genetics. This just isn’t the case, except in very rare cases of metabolic disorders (which unfortunately many people believe they have thanks to drug marketing/weight clinic advertising, but that’s another rant for another time.)

    I agree with you on the point that our bodies have a “baseline” that it likes to settle into… but I firmly believe that the baseline is controllable.

    What leads your typical person to obesity, IMHO, is a series of choices… some that are not necessarily within that person’s control, but many that are. I’m a strong believer that it begins at childhood, when parents make the choices for what children will eat. Are parents feeding kids healthy fruits, veggies, and meats? Or are they opting to go to McDonalds and letting their kids eat chicken nuggets and fries all day long? This sets the groundwork for choices the child will make when they begin to gain independence as teens, and through adulthood. These choices at a young age set the framework for what your “baseline” will be.

    Also, activity level is significant in so many ways. At the simplistic level, calories burned vs. calories taken in, where more activity equals more calories burned. If that inmate was sitting in his cell, really not doing any exercise, his caloric burn is going to be low. This is a nasty cycle, as the less activity he has, the less his muscles are developed or his muscle deteriorate, and the lower his metabolism will be ultimately. (Muscle burns more calories than fat, even at a resting state). Again, these choices from youth set your “baseline.”

    At a more complex level, calories in are not all created equal. Yes, this is a much debated topic, especially after the “twinkie” diet, however your body reacts differently to different nutrients provided to it. An individual that eats 180 calories of veggies and lean meat will have a very different response compared to 180 calories of Pepsi (about a can). From digestion to how the food/fuel is used by the body, those 180 calories are processed very differently. This is pretty well documented.

    In regards to the prison controlled diet, there’s definitely the opportunity to trade foods and eat outside of what the cafeteria in prison offers you. For awhile, there was a trend for “prison cookbooks” to be released based on what inmates were able to create with the food they traded for… Here’s a reference:
    http://www.prisontalk.com/forums/archive/index.php/t-443206.html

    The key with weight and obesity isn’t about the decisions you make for one day, one month, or even one year… it’s about the decisions you make for a lifetime. Take a look back and think about your activity level and food choices/intake… were they similar to what you were doing pre-cruise? My guess is probably not, which is why you gained the weight back so quickly. It’s easy to fall back into old habits, especially when the change is short term. Your body is used to being at that weight for over how many years, so compared to a few months of weight loss, it’s going to be comfortable going back to your old weight.

    Yes, changing our weight and ultimately our baseline is challenging… but it takes time, effort, and good choices. Does this mean you should never indulge? That’s a personal choice… to stay sane, my wife and I indulge in a meal a week (homemade pizza, ice cream, etc.) because while we know these choices are “bad”, we enjoy them and are willing to make that choice.

    I’ve watched a close friend of mine go from 170 to 230 to 165 to 250 to 165 again, within a span of 5 years. And really, it all came down to choices he made on what he was eating and what his activity levels were.

    If you truly believe obesity is 100% genetic, I would challenge you to try to become obese. Literally, stuff your face with “processed” foods all the time to the point you’re uncomfortable. Also, do as little activity as possible. After a year or so of this, I guarantee your body weight/type/response will be significantly different than you are now, and I’m guessing it won’t be pretty… Genetics can’t prevent you from becoming obese. Respectfully, doesn’t that poke a hole in your theory that genetics is the predominant factor in obesity?

  32. E. Rekshun says

    I think there is a lot of truth to what FS says. Each day for the past 25 years, I’ve done 60 – 90 minutes of daily calisthenics, weight lifting, & cardio. My weight has remained precisely between 155 – 165 lbs. I am 6.0 feet tall and lean. I’m the same height, weight, & body mass as when I graduated from high school in 1981.

    I suspect that my daily exercise routine helps maintain my genetic status quo.

  33. Steve says

    In consideration of your sample size of 2 here (you and fat prison guy), I’m going to give a counter-scenario:
    Myself and both of my parents are pretty slim by American standards. (I’m 6’1” and 170 lbs. Both parents are of similar stature). Both of my sisters are quite overweight. My parents and I exercise quite a bit and eat healthier in general than my sisters (mom only exercises like 2 times a week, but she also does yoga, so we’ll give her full credit).

    How would our situation be explained under this theory where weight is almost entirely genetic?

    I don’t think there’s any denying genetics plays a significant role in weight, but I think you might be taking it a bit too far.

    Bonus Question: My fiance is an identical twin. Her twin has a muuuch fuller figure. (haha don’t tell her i said that)

  34. says

    Very true and I try and relate the same thing to friends. You are only a teenager for a short time of your life so why people try to get back down to that weight is absolutely absurd. As we age (which is natural) things are going to start deteriorating, that’s a fact! Watching your diet and getting natural exercise is about the best we can do.

    ***Here goes my rant***

    Secondly I am soooo sick and tired of magazines & commercials flaunting these men/women who are in extreme shape and portraying that they achieved those results in 30 mins or less a day. It is a lifestyle and chances are they are paid to do it. While the average person works 40 hours a week and has other responsibilities we simply do not have the time to dedicate to our bodies like they do.

    ***Rant over***

    Great post!

  35. David says

    Sam,

    Been reading your blog for a while now (and have enjoyed) but thoroughly disappointed in this post.

    There are many angles to counter this post but all I’ll say is I’ve lived in Europe the past two years and it’s amazing how many fewer overweight / obese people are over here. Look at the statistics man: ~35 % of Americans are overweight. You think it is because Americans’ genetics are “worse” than Europeans given your statement “weight is almost entirely genetic”. No chance man – diet and exercise are the major factors.

    • says

      Hi Dave, sorry, I will try harder for you. Perhaps you can give me a raise for 2013? Come to SF, NYC, SD, LA, or Honolulu. Some pretty fit folks around here, but also plenty who are struggling.

      I’m disappointed that you are disappointed. It absolutely perplexes me why someone who I assume is not out of shape would be bothered by a post that was written to help ENCOURAGE folks who are trying to get fit not to feel too bad about themselves. The post isn’t directed at you.

      That said, I am fascinated about the anthropology/psychology behind what has transpired in the comments section. It’s as if people are devoid of compassion.

      I encourage you to start your own post and write a nice rebuttal. Or you can write a guest post here on why you think the way you do. Give it a go, it’s fun!

      Best, Sam

      • Derrick says

        Sam,

        It’s not that we lack compassion (perhaps some of us do), but your post gives an overall message that genetics controls our weight nearly completely. I don’t think this encourages people who are trying to get in shape, but rather gives them a reason to stop trying.

        Since this first and foremost and financial blog, and liken the example to saying “the job you have, the income you make, your spending patterns, and your saving habits are uncontrollable and are controlled by your lot in life. Don’t worry about saving and spending wisely. Just accept what you have.”

        It’s important for people who are trying to lose weight/get in better shape not to feel bad about themselves, but it’s also important to accept the personal choices they make impact their health, much like finances. I think many of us just feel like your post this time doesn’t inspire people to make wiser decisions about their health, and in some ways, even promotes the idea that there’s no point in trying to improve one’s health.

        Also, a small tangent relating to this topic… let’s remember that weight is just a number, and BMI a standard created by insurance companies originally. A 200 lb man that’s fit and healthy isn’t the same as a 200 lb man who’s obese, and a since BMI only accounts for height and weight, it completely misses out effectively evaluating one’s level of health.

        • says

          Derrick, I’m just wondering why you care about this topic? Out of all the posts I’ve written, why do you choose to comment on this one most? You have not shared your story like I have regarding my struggle with weight. I’m assuming you are a fit individual, and if this is the case, why do other people’s fitness matter to you? Share your story! I’m fascinated by the psychology of it all. Thx!

        • Derrick says

          Sam,

          My feeling of needing to comment on this one in particular is due to a few things:

          1. Your posts have always empowered people to make a commitment to improving their finances, with an underlying theme that there’s always room for improvement; it’s giving people control of their financial destiny. This post, while not focused on finances, run contrary to that empowerment… at it’s core, you tell people that if you’re obese, it’s probably not your fault so just go get another plate of Indian food. (Which I crave everytime I read this btw).

          2. I’m a fanatic about a few things… Finances (which led me to your blog), food (making and enjoyment of), and fitness (to live a long life of enjoying good food and strong finances). In all three aspects, I feel that we as individuals have the power to control and improve our situations… choosing to save money isn’t too dissimilar to choosing to workout hard, or choosing an apple over a doughnut at the company party, or choosing to pick up a higher end flour that will better impact the results of making pizza. It’s all about the choices we make that impact our outcomes. So similar to reason 1, I believe it’s about making the right choices to get to the results we want. And this post runs against a core belief of choice which was partially established by your previous posts!

          In terms of my story? I’m atypical to anyone really… Skinny kid all through junior high, gained a lot of unhealthy weight in high school and college, thinned out after college doing South Beach and regular running/lifting sessions, gained unhealthy weight through my Masters program through my first three years of my hospital career, and then transitioned to regularly doing Crossfit, eating Paleo, and now testing intermittent fasting with great results thus far. I’m a yo-yo when it comes to weight like many of us… but I’ve realized it comes down to the everyday choices in food and appropriate intensity of workouts that make a significant impact on my health. We all struggle with aspects of our lives… whether it’s finances, weight, or otherwise. While you shouldn’t feel bad about struggling, it’s not a reason to give up the struggle.

          • says

            Thanks for sharing your story Derrick. Gives me and others reading a better idea of where you are coming from. Perspective is important.

            I do believe people have the power to change, but only by so much. Perhaps the weight band is around 10 lbs (160-170lbs) or perhaps it’s a larger band between 170-220lbs for something of similar height an build. If you look around you, everybody looks different.

            Is it not a wonder that with billions of people on earth, there aren’t MORE run-ins or instances where you find someone who looks exactly like you or exactly like someone else?

            My hope for this post is to raise awareness that perhaps maybe, just maybe when you see someone overweight, you don’t automatically vilify them for being lazy and not wanting to change. I think in today’s visual ADD society, we are too quick to judge others by first appearance. Very few people I know who are out of shape are happy to be out of shape.

            Compassion is part of our humanity.

  36. says

    I believe genetics have a lot to do with your normal weight, which doesn’t mean that if you eat junk food every day your body will wash it down and keep you at a weight that works for you. I believe that the food you eat as a child is the one that your body gets used to and processes best. In Guatemala, the basic diet is corn tortilla, beans and rice. People are not overweight, but there was a rise in obesity since convenience stores started introducing snacks and sodas. I gained about 25lbs by eating that diet a few years back, then moved back to France, had cheese wine and baguette and lost the weight within three months without noticing. When diet companies introduce the Japanese diet or the Mediterranean one it makes me smile because it is what people have been eating for decades that works, not changing radically your habits if you have never had those kind of meals.
    Or society is one of excess but historically, people weren’t fat, they ate the local diet in reasonable portions.

  37. Mike Hunt says

    Hi Sam,

    Great post- I was eating a carrot with a sandwich for lunch, while pondering how my weight has creeped up from 180 lbs to 200 lbs in the 7 years I’ve been in SE Asia.

    One component is aging and being happily married. Another component is having a 3-4 hour commute of sitting in the car each day plus a sedentary job coupled by crushing heat year round, so sitting in A/C.

    Through these 7 years I gave been working out 6 days a week- typical regimen is 2 days a week outdoor running at 5-6k at an 8 minute mile pace. One day a week riding a bicycle for 15 miles outside, another day running stairs in the condo – 110 flights up and down. The last two days are lifting weights for 1.5 hours and 30 minutes on the elliptical. Surprisingly, I can knock off 30 – 35 pull ups in a row when fresh even at my inflated weight, same as I could do when I was 180 lbs… Most of this has been around my midsection that has grown. Turned into a bit of a fat bastard.

    This year I have a new years resolution to step it up a notch- I will spend 10 days in the year doing a full fast (no food, water only) and will increase my running mileage such that I will do a marathon this year. Since last week the runs are up to 8k instead of 5-6k and I am more strict on the diet but lo and behold the scale reads 199 lbs as of this morning…

    My next goal once retiring is to hike the Appalachian Trial from Georgia to Maine in a summer – that is 2188 miles. I figure that will get my weight down to 165 by the end of the hike!

    Genetics play a huge factor, but lifestyle controls how the genes are expressed.

    Take a look at this study- is shows genetics only account for 25% -70% of the difference observed in weight gain between identical twins and other groups (based on the particular study)

    http://www.iub.edu/~k536/etiology.html

    Yes, you can’t fight genetics. I’d argue that we should at least give some partial empathy to our overweight paisanos… but not 100%

    -Mike

    • says

      Mike – You have a 3-4 hour COMMUTE? What’s up with that? I think I would get a helicopter if this was the case. Impressive on the 30-35 pullups!

      Good luck with your weight loss goals. So your band is 170-200lbs. Sounds genetically reasonable.

      Not sure about the study saying genetics accounts for 25-70%? Is that a typo? I’m at the 70% mark for genetics too.

      BTW, I always lose weight in Asia no matter how much I eat b/c of the lack of dairy.

      • Mike Hunt says

        Yes- 3-4 hours both ways. You have been around Bangkok / Thailand before right?

        Thanks for the luck. I am 6’2″.

        In the link above there is a blurb where one study claims genetics accounts for 25% of weight gain in identical twins, another study says 70%.

        -Mike

  38. says

    Great post, Sam.. My “happy weight” is about 15 pounds more than I want it to be, unfortunately.. I am 6’3, but weight about 220.. My body really resists getting down below 215.. but I look much better at 205…

    I have no doubt that genetics play a huge part in it.. I eat better than just about anybody that I know, but it is always a struggle.

    That said, I don’t want to make excuses.. I can be fit and my desired weight if I can be steadfast and stay focused on the goals.. But, I realize that I may have to work harder than some.

  39. says

    As a dietitian- Most of what I see in clients who lose weight quickly is that the changes they make to lose weight cannot be sustained as a lifestyle (example: big cuts in calories or restricting entire food groups). Instead of focusing on the scale I encourage others to focus on how they feel and eating REAL food. Ideal body weight (and BMI) are not realistic numbers and will only make you depressed when you find out what yours are.
    As a Christian- If I put my identity in anything else other than God (job, nutrition, exercise, friends, money), it will eventually let me down and I will still die. We pursue things we believe will satisfy only to find out it’s just a temporary satisfaction that ultimately can’t quench our desire to feel like we have a purpose. God made food for his glory and our joy. When we let food become an obsession it takes away that joy and becomes a guilt-ridden burden.

  40. Tim says

    Sam,

    I agree with a bunch of other commenters. One data point, no matter how big it seems, indicates a trend. The reality is that genetics plays a bigger role for “some” people and “lesser” role for others. There are indeed people that no matter what they eat will not gain weight and on the flip side there are people that have a much harder time losing weight. This effected by a lot of things: basal metabolic rate, body type I.E. genetics

    However, the vast majority of people fall in the middle where genetics and lifestyle play more equal parts.

    I think the statement “why fit people get sick” is completely misleading. Eating right and exercise will not 100% prevent illness. However, the data shows over and over again, quite conclusively, that I you live a healthy lifestyle you have a much lower chance of getting various illnesses.

    -Tim

  41. says

    Sam,

    What do you think about other factors that are also heavily influenced by genetics, like intelligence, appearance, intro/extrovertedness, laziness etc…? I call it the ultimate lottery of life. ;)

    We are still responsible for our own outcomes, but to attribute 100% of anything to one’s will alone is crazy. That’s why a little bit of understanding and empathy can go a long way.

    • says

      Good points Kevin and something others have failed to address. There is a confluence of things that play a part of who we are and what we turn out to be. I say it’s more than 50% genetics now, from 30%.

      Not everybody can become as rich as Bill Gates, but everybody can certainly try…. but maybe not even on the trying part!

  42. says

    Hi Sam,

    My problem is opposite – I’m a so-called hardgainer. I work out in a gym for more than 2 years already. But still I’m stuck with my weight – it doesn’t go higher – so I still look thin (in comparison to an average person). I tried to eat like ten people, I tried to drink “gainer”-cocktails. Yes, my weight grew a little bit higher. But when I stopped eating very much, it has returned to the old value.

    So I stopped freaking myself out with my weight and gaining a lot of muscles – I just continue going to gym for “staying in shape”.

    • says

      Hi Alex,

      I’ve been waiting for someone who has your situation chime in. Thanks for that. And as you say, no matter how much you eat, you still can’t put on mass. Sounds like another vote for genetics largely determining weight to me!

      Sam

  43. says

    Genetics greatly influences a person’s tendency to gain weight (or not) and their health. However, we can do something about it. That’s why I keep trying to lose weight and be fit despite generations of obesity in my family.

  44. Slimm says

    Environmental perhaps? There is not one case of obesity in my family incl. extended clan and inlaws. We all eat well but not to excess- some cook, others eat out frequently. Plenty of physical activity with either sports or working out – nary a TV couch potato in the bunch.
    Middle to upper middle class Midwesterners, Texans and a few in Colorado.
    Personally, I’m 5’11” female and 135-140, 50’s and pretty active but not obsessive gym rat or jogger – watch what I eat, read labels, cook nutritious meals and watch the carb and calorie intake. My parents, aunts/uncles (grandparents as well when they were alive) are all average weight-absolutely do not eat junk or overly processed food and moderate intake.
    Growing up I can’t recall a single instance of sitting in front of the TV snacking -my mother didn’t allow it. Ever checked an obese persons cart in the grocery store? Mostly junk – high
    sugar/salt, sodas, snacks, processed frozen etc. Family members around the cart are usually
    unfit especially the children. Ever seen an obese persons cart full of fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fresh whole chicken, lo fat milk and beef?
    Two more points:
    1. When I moved to Texas from Colorado 10 years ago, my health insurance premium skyrocketed – I’m self insured. A call to the ins. company resulted in the explanation. Colorado is one of the healthiest states and Texas, not so much. I was now part of the general population
    Of a state with much higher obesity, stroke, heart attack rates. Bit of a blow to the finances.
    2. I have noticed a correlation with friends and acquaintances – sudden weight gain is usually accompanied by financial woes.

  45. John. C says

    I don’t know about this article Sam, I mean if you are going to ask why a guy didn’t lose weight in prison after 27 years, I can ask if its genetics then why in the past 20 years especially obesity rates in this country have sky-rocked. Can’t be down to genetics.

  46. K says

    A little late on this article, but want to share my opinion as a yo-yo dieter who was 30 pounds overweight a year ago and still has some more weight left to shed!

    I think the main point of contention with this article is people’s differing reactions to saying that something is genetic (which many interpret as fate). It sounds like one group (including FS) finds that to be comforting: these are your limits, be happy with who you are and don’t beat yourself up about what’s outside of your control. You aren’t without willpower, there’s just a limit to what your genetics allow you to accomplish. Group 1 finds this message empowering, as it confirms that they are still in control, adding an upper/lower limit to that control just helps to ensure realistic expectations.

    Group 2 (including myself) finds it to be incredibly discouraging and even more negative: no matter what you do, you’ll always be fat, don’t even bother trying. Which, if you go down that road, puts you probably at the highest possible end of the weight bands that you’re discussing because you can give yourself the rationale that you don’t have any power/control/responsibility for your weight at all. This might be a personal weakness of mine (and others in Group 2), that we take such an idea to an extreme. Group 2 finds this message UN-empowering because we take it to the extreme that we have lost all control and shouldn’t even bother trying.

    Personally, I believe that genetics influences body type (similar to how I’ll never be tall, I’ll never have a willowy body type) and ease of weight loss/gain (it might be harder, maybe A LOT harder, for some folks to lose/gain weight). I feel like this encompasses maybe 20%. The rest is up to you. I embrace this message not because I don’t have empathy for those who are overweight (I’m usually counted among them, although I’ve been slowly losing!), but because it’s empowering for me to believe that I have control in this situation. This feeling of empowerment usually leads to a positive cycle where I make better choices around food and exercise, thus making it self-fulfilling.

    I think that’s why the reaction to this article has been so strong. Not because one side has completely opposing views, but just the interpretation of genetics vs. control.

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