Weight Control Puzzle

Not only is weight control difficult, it’s not even fair. We are different in genetic makeup, age, gender, physical activity, medical problems and emotional health.

Heredity and Environment
If members of your family are overweight (10-19 percent over ideal weight) or obese (20 percent or more over ideal weight), you are 20-30 percent more likely to become overweight or obese than someone who does not have a family history of weight problems. If a mother is heavy, there is a 75 percent chance that her children will be heavy. If she’s thin, her children are likely to be thin, also.

Genetics is a factor, but the biggest health risk is that people use it as an excuse to deal with the problem. Other people have predispositions to diabetes, cancer or heart disease, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do everything they can to prevent or delay the onset of a family problem.

Research is finding out that genetics is playing a bigger role than we thought. Studies of identical twins who grew up in separate places have shown great similarities in body shape and weight. Our body shapes (round, angular or athletic) can reflect our capacities to store fat. There is also evidence that people burn calories at different rates, but again, this should not be used as an excuse.

Even though there may be some metabolic predisposition to being overweight, environmental factors are just as important. Some people have just learned to eat too much. Studies comparing portion sizes show that Americans put a lot more food on their plates than Europeans and the sizes in the United States are getting bigger.

Doctor believes that obesity is determined partly by genes (30 percent) and the rest by environment (70 percent). People’s genes haven’t changed since 1930, but now more people are fat. We eat more food, more fat, more sugar, and we don’t exercise.

As we get older, the amount of lean muscle tissue decreases. That makes fat account for a greater percentage of total weight. At the same time, our rates of metabolism slow down with age. These factors can combine to add pounds, and, if the person also reduces the amount of exercise, the three changes make weight gain likely.

Men have more muscle tissue than women, while women have comparatively more fat tissue than men. Because of those differences and because men have a higher resting metabolic rate than women, men may expend 10 percent to 20 percent more calories than women at rest. Women may have to exercise longer and harder than men to lose the same amount of weight.

Nutrition experts emphasize the importance of exercise and its relationship to being overweight. Inactivity does not always cause obesity, but overweight people are less likely to be physically active than people of normal body weight. Which problem comes first is not clear. The effect of exercise is an individual consideration, but it is still a vital component of a total weight control program. Even if a person knows that exercise is necessary, he or she may need further education, physical skills or simply enough time to participate in a program.

Health Problems
Although health problems are frequently blamed for being overweight, the truth is that less than five percent of all obesity is related to metabolic or hormonal imbalances.

With all of the talk about genetics, body types and family history, does will power have anything to do with weight control? Yes, people exhibit discipline in all sorts of physical behaviors — exercising, resting, refusing to use drugs, abstaining from alcohol. Overeating is no different. We may have individual needs, but the ability to show nutritional discipline is another part of the weight control puzzle.

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