Is it possible to escape a family curse of obesity

Everybody in my family is fat? Do I have any chance to stay slim?

Over the years I have helped a lot of people reach and maintain a healthy weight. Many of them joined Weight Watchers to reverse what they called “a family curse of obesity.” I don’t believe that families are cursed with obesity, but it’s true that scientists have discovered obesity genes and there is a definite hereditary link.

Although genetics load the “obesity gun”, it’s environment that cocks the gun, and behavior pulls the trigger. I understand why people fear getting fat, but it’s not the worse thing that can happen.

I don’t want to get fat like my parents. Is there any hope for me?

There are many things that are a lot worse than being fat. Do not confuse body weight with a lack of character. The people in your family can be intelligent, kind, creative, generous, honest, sincere and brave. Those are all qualities that matter more than the number they see when they step on the scale. I understand the fear of getting fat, but it’s important to know that in no way does weight make somebody a better or lesser person.

Everybody says I look just like my mother. I hope I never get that big.

“Will I get as fat as my parents?” I am often asked that question.

The answer might be “yes”, but it doesn’t have to be. Genetics certainly affect weight, but women, and men too, can take action to limit their genes’ ability to express themselves.

Many adult children of one or two obese parents think it’s inevitable that they will become obese too. This belief pretty much guarantees that obesity is, indeed, in their future. If action isn’t taken to reduce the likelihood of obesity and especially if behaviors are such that it’s a forgone conclusion rarely will it be avoided.

Two warnings that are especially important for young people who are afraid of getting fat like their parents:

1. A rigid, very low calorie diet is dangerous to your health and hard to sustain. It can lead to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Most people will find it impossible to keep to such a restrictive plan and rather than increase calories to a healthy and moderate level, they’ll swing too far in the other direction.

2. Managing weight out of fear of getting fat or hating your body is self-destructive. Hating your body or fearing what it will become doesn’t inspire good care. We don’t take care of the things we hate. We abuse them.

How to maintain a healthy weight

If you start gaining weight, don’t panic and definitely don’t punish yourself. Take stock of your eating and activity habits.

  • Are portions getting larger?
  • Has your snacking and in-between-meal eating been getting more frequent?
  • Are you eating more processed, higher calorie foods with added fats and sugar?
  • Has your activity level decreased?

Even if you think the answer to each of these questions is “no” pay closer attention. It helps to keep an eating and activity journal just to enable you to accurately monitor your actions.

It’s usually easier to manage weight sooner rather than later. Instead of buying bigger clothes and becoming comfortable with your gain take steps now instead of waiting until you’re 20, 30, 40, or more pounds heavier.

Consider joining Weight Watchers to help you establish healthy eating behaviors and to reinforce them in an environment of group support.

If you are an overweight adult child of overweight parents and you want to help your children maintain healthy weights, the most important thing you can do is be a good role model. You have the power to avoid a family trait towards obesity and positively influence future generations.


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.