Fat Genes: destined to be obese?

Growing up, I remember hearing the argument that "I'm not fat, I'm big boned" and this always made a certain type of sense to me. As someone who has broad shoulders and wide hips, I was never going to be able to achieve the coveted Heroin Chick look of the nineties.


But logically, being big boned is only part of the story. My wobbly arms and jiggly tummy are probably not caused by my skeletol structure, and I'd argue for many people classified as obese this is also the case.

Enter the latest argument: it's genetic. You can't control your genes. If your family is fat, you will be fat.

And unlike the big-boned argument, this one was always more difficult to get my head around. "Fat" people 100 years ago were much rarer, certainly those that are 100 pounds over weight (a la me, 7 months ago), weren't they? My dad tells stories about being called the "fat boy" in school and honestly? To me he looks healthy. I just don't see the fat.   

It can't just be genetics, right? Let's look at what the research says.

The Research

According to the CDC, a rare subsection of obese people are obese because of a single gene and genome-wide association studies that have been ongoing since 2006 have found that there are more than 50 genes associated with obesity.



Most of these genes have very small effects but those small effects add up and we end up exactly where we're at now. 

However what's commonly cited in the research around the genetic influences of obesity - unless it's presented by someone who either wants you to believe that weightloss is impossible, or that weightloss is impossible without giving them money - is that not everyone who is pre-disposed to obesity will become obese, and that our environment - in collaboration with our genes - impacts whether or not we're going to become obese. 

In truth, as I was researching this topic I wanted to focus specifically on genetics and obesity sans the environmental contributions. However because the environmental aspects are such a huge driver on what role our genes are going to have on our weight, it was near impossible. Or maybe I just could have tried harder. 


Either way as a species our genes don't change that quickly, and we're built to survive times of famine. Combine this with our golden age of processed food - which according to the Cleveland Clinic can "spike your blood pressure, hijack your brain chemistry and drive you to seek out more" - how can we not succumb to our predisposition for obesity?

Controlling Obesity 

In their article "Genetics and Obesity", Tirthani et al reference 4 interventions that have been demonstrated to modify the epigenome - the chemical markers that tell our genomes what to do - to the benefit of obese people including:

  1. Bariatric Surgery
  2. Regular Exercise
  3. Fasting
  4. Use of Pro-biotics, pre-biotics and fecal transplant

... What does that even mean? It means that the 4 interventions listed can actually changes how your body responds to a DNA sequence. That's pretty incredible.

Now personally, number 4 is not something I've looked into or considered and number 3 does not play nicely with my binging tendencies, but taken that there are four different options that exist that can help control the influences of genetics on our weight it should begin hopefully painting the picture that achieving a healthy weight is achievable.

Yes it's harder for some people. Yes that sucks. But, hopefully, some things comes easier to you than they do other people. It's a trade off, albeit one we don't get to choose.

Since starting this blog and the associated Instagram page, I've come across so many people who are doing amazingly with Bariatric Surgery or by finding an exercise they love. I know for me personally, hard cardio reduces my appetite - weightlifting makes me hungrier later in the day or the next day - but what matters is finding a rhythm that works for you and if you fall off the wagon, pick yourself up and start again. 

We've so many things working against us that it can seem so easy to give up on the process. It's important to remember it's a marathon not a sprint so be kind to yourself. You're worth it 💛