Put On Your Mom Genes

Do you feel like you have to go to a thousand stores to find the perfect “jeans” without taking into consideration whether they actually fit your “genes”? What we generally fail to recognize is that thousands of years of genetic makeup cannot be altered by “perfect” eating, supplement-taking or hours spent exercising so you can fit into your ideal “jean.”  However, you can either: change your jeans, rock your Mom jeans (see video below for a good laugh) or accept how your “genes” look in any pair of “jeans!”

Case in point -- the unfortunate news that Bob Harper suffered a heart attack while exercising at his New York gym. Bob Harper has been the face of “perfectionism” with his gospel preaching of clean eating and fitness. Harper reported during his interview on Fox News that “I fainted one time in the gym, I started having these dizzy spells and I just kind of overlooked them. I just adapted which was one of the dumbest things to do. I kicked myself over and over again about that.” In another interview, it was revealed that Bob’s mother had a heart attack around the same age and upon genetic testing was found to have high levels of lipoprotein A. 

When I compare genetics and how they associate with health, strangely my mind wanders to a Ron White skit at Thanksgiving dinner with his siblings (now, before you panic with where I am going with this - HOLD ON).  While I have no siblings of my own, my husband does. His sister is a geneticist, his brother is a judge, and my husband is the funeral director. These siblings share genetics (DNA), but are vastly different in their personalities, looks and careers, yet each bring different lenses on how to view life and health.

Brandi, my sister-in-law (geneticist), studies how genes evolve over time and has a great understanding of what the likelihood is that you will have a health risk or be diagnosed with a health condition. My brother-in-law, Jim, is a judge in the truest sense, listening to both sides of a story as to what is uncontrollable (genetics) and what can be controlled (environment/behavior).  Last, but not least, my husband the funeral director probably has the most valuable lesson of all….. I will save that for the end!

Just as Bob Harper could not eat and exercise his way out of a heart attack, individuals cannot “willpower” their way out of an eating disorder, “eat clean” enough to control their cholesterol, think enough “positive thoughts” to overcome panic/anxiety, or simply “count their blessings” to overcome addictions. For people to accept living in the body given to them, they must consider their genetics (DNA).

Photo by digitalskillet/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by digitalskillet/iStock / Getty Images

A person inherits genes from each parent, as well as the cultural /socioeconomic experiences from his/her family. Inherited genetic variations within families clearly contribute both directly and indirectly to the pathogenesis of disease.

 Here are a few examples of genetic influences:

  • University of Iowa and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center studied single families in which eating disorders were common across generations. They found that people with mutations in two different genes – ESRRA and HDAC4 – had a 90 percent and 85 percent chance of developing an eating disorder, respectively.
     
  • A study published in the June 2013 issue of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders underscored that certain anxiety traits correlated with panic disorder are evident by the age of 8.
     
  • Many other health conditions have strong genetic links: obesity “thrifty” gene; alcoholism, breast cancer, and heart health. 

So why does my husband, the funeral director, have the most to learn from?  While you can’t control or change your genes, you can control how you choose to live your life. At funerals you will hear stories of those with longevity and prosperous lives who didn't sweat the small stuff and accepted that there are just some things you can’t change. Besides, when you take that last breath you won’t – nor would you likely want to be – remembered for your cholesterol number, pounds lost on a diet or your perfect eating. 

Life is Not Measured By the Number of Breaths We Take, But By the Moments That Take Our Breath Away

I like to think of myself as a relationship expert exploring the relationship one has with food, weight, body image and sports performance -- helping to find a place where these can mutually co-exist and thrive with enjoyment. I am a master's prepared registered dietitian, as well as a board certified sports specialist. My practice is devoted to helping those maximize performance, address disordered eating &/or eating disorders and most importantly optimize self-wellNESS.

I like to think of myself as a relationship expert exploring the relationship one has with food, weight, body image and sports performance -- helping to find a place where these can mutually co-exist and thrive with enjoyment. I am a master's prepared registered dietitian, as well as a board certified sports specialist. My practice is devoted to helping those maximize performance, address disordered eating &/or eating disorders and most importantly optimize self-wellNESS.