"Obesity is hereditary." Sounds like a simple, box-like statement that would be easy enough to believe. After all, genetics play a role in a lot of things relating to our bodies. The color of our hair, the shape of our nose, height and bone structure, to name a few, are all genetic characteristics. Families tend to look alike, naturally, so it would only make sense that if one or both parents are overweight or obese, that their children would be also, right?
Yes - and no. There is no doubt that genetics play a role in obesity. We know this to be true. Children of overweight parents tend to be overweight, but not entirely because their DNA is coded that way. More and more studies are pointing to eating patterns, food choices, family relationships and unhealthy habits as culprits in weight gain and obesity.
The nutrition-related behaviors and habits we have today as adults were learned, or adapted, as children. Unless those actions were consciously changed moving into adulthood, it's probable that we still eat very similar to the way we did when we were kids. In some ideal world, all families sit down at a table where mom serves breakfast, lunch and a home-cooked dinner each and every day. Since that's nowhere near the norm of yesterday's or today's families, simply looking at the habits that went on inside the house around mealtimes could be very telling of how your body will manage the diet you eat today.
- Breakfast: Did you eat a nutritious breakfast then? Do you now? While you may not realize it when you're eating, breakfast helps set the stage for your body's blood sugar stability for the remainder of the day. Steady blood sugar means easier weight control. A high fiber breakfast with a moderate amount of protein (such as low fat yogurt with ground flax seed and berries, or two eggs and whole grain toast) can help you feel less hungry all day long. Different body types need different foods, but everyone should start the day off with something healthy.
- Rushed Meals: Were meals rushed then? Are they now? Not everyone has time to sit down to leisurely meals, but it is important to be somewhat conscious of the food that goes into your mouth. Digestion starts in your mouth, not your stomach. Give your body a break from indigestion by eating slowly. What's more, if you rush though a meal, you're more likely to grab for more food because you don't feel full...yet. There is a lag in communication between our stomach and brain when it comes to feeling full. Eat slower and you'll actually feel fuller by the end of the meal.
- Fruits and Veggies: Were fruits and veggies a common occurrence at the table growing up? Do they make an appearance today? Needless to say, fruits and vegetables are important to everyone. From a nutrient perspective, however, they're critical to our health and possess vitamins our bodies need to help stay healthy, vibrant and youthful.
- Unique Habits: Did you develop any less-than-desirable eating habits in your youth? Have they carried over into your adult life now? These habits aren't necessarily related to how we were parented, rather the choices we made through high school and on. Did you go for an extra cookie from the school cafeteria after lunch most days of the week? Do you find yourself always looking for something sweet after lunch today? If you find yourself saying, "I've been doing this for years" and you know it's not good for you, now is a good time to change.