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We can thank our prehistoric relatives for any problems we have with genetic obesity


Our distant ancestors didn't show any obvious signs of genetic obesity. They got a lot of exercise and they ate mainly whole plant foods. Sometimes they had trouble finding enough food.

















Famine survivors

When famine came, some people starved and others survived. The survivors were the ones who had genes for efficient fat storage. Maybe they also had genes for a slow metabolism so they didn't burn calories too fast. The people who carried these "thrifty" genes lived to reproduce. They passed the traits on to their children.

So here we are, many generations later, wondering why we gain weight so easily. The truth is, we all have the potential for genetic obesity if we eat the wrong foods. Why do fatty foods taste so good to us? Our prehistoric relatives didn't have cream cheese or Godiva chocolates. But if they had a taste for high calorie foods, they might survive the famine.  

Nuts and seeds are a good source of concentrated calories. They are high fat natural foods. Our ancestors had to find nuts in season. They had to crack the shells before they could eat the nuts. We buy nuts all year, already shelled, cooked in oil, and heavily salted. They are so addictive, we can eat a lot of them in a short time.

nuts in shell

Some nuts are a good source of omega 3 fats. Walnuts are the best. Don't eat more than an ounce of nuts per day. They have a high calorie density.


The fattest people in the world

The World Health Organization keeps track of international overweight and obesity statistics. Most of the top "high fat" countries are Pacific island cultures like Samoa, Tonga, and the Cook Islands. The early polynesians migrated from one island group to another by canoe. The Pacific people share a common genetic heritage. They do have a predisposition for genetic obesity.

But the early polynesians were not fat. When Captain Cook arrived in Hawaii, he reported that the native Hawaiians were tall, strong and fit. They ate taro, breadfruit, seaweed, and tropical fruit. The Hawaiian royalty rationed fish so that fish stocks would not be depleted. The Hawaiians are now fat because they eat western food and they are sedentary.

The U.S. ranks in the top 10 countries for percent of obese people. Does the American population suffer from genetic obesity? Far from it. The U.S. is the melting pot of the world, and has been for over 200 years. The American people are now a "Heinz 57" mix of hundreds of ethnic groups. The people in the U.S. don't share common genes. They share a common diet.

As an example, the Pima Indians of Arizona eat the Standard American Diet (we call it S.A.D.!) They like meat, cheese, ice cream, and other popular American foods. The Arizona Pimas are obese. Many of them have diabetes. It seems that they are programmed for genetic obesity.

But the recent ancestors of the Pimas were not fat. Many of their close relatives in Mexico are slender and healthy. The relatives still follow the traditional diet of corn, tempary beans, mesquite pods, and prickley pears. The Pima Indians in Arizona would be thin too if they ate whole plant foods.

prickly pears 
Prickly pears - a staple of the traditional Pima Indian diet.



Are there any thin people left?

All over the world, people who once were poor can now afford to eat flesh foods and dairy products. People who were always thin, like the Chinese, are getting fat. 

The only place where all the people are still thin is in villages in sub-Saharan Africa. Most people there are so poor that they can not afford animal foods. Many of them are starving. We won't know if they have genetic obesity until they have unlimited access to rich foods.

Etiopian food
Traditional Ethiopian food is based on vegetables, lentils, and a thin whole grain bread called injera. It is spicy, delicious, and healthy.



Family traditions

If you are wondering why you and your family are fat while the next door neighbors are lean, there is another reason besides genetic obesity. Everyone in your family probably eats the same foods. We like the foods we learned to eat when we were children. They are the same foods our parents ate. 

When we leave our parents and begin to raise our own families, we feed our children foods that are familiar to us. If your family enjoyed going out to eat in restaurants, you will feel pleasant emotions when you dine out. The tastes from our childhood often have happy memories attached, especially the tastes of the rich foods we had for birthdays and holidays.

lentil loaf

This lentil loaf with wild rice and garbanzo gravy is a healthy alternative. We make it for holiday meals and other special occasions.

Family social pressure also affects our food choices. We may feel that we cannot turn down food our mother (or other caregiver) makes for us, even if it is rich, fattening food. Mother is hurt and offended if family members refuse her food. To her, it feels like we are refusing her love. So everyone in the family eats her cooking and everyone gains weight!

The best way to handle this situation is with honest communication. Tell mother (or whoever is the household cook) that you love her very much and you love the taste of her food. But the food is making you fat and you have to make some changes. 

Ask her if she would be willing to fix some low fat vegan dishes for you. Offer to provide recipes. If she refuses, be prepared to stand your ground. In your family, food may be a form of control. Nobody ties you down and forces food in your mouth. Make the decision to eat healthy vegan food and lose weight. You owe it to yourself.


Choose new parents?

Maybe you do have a predisposition for genetic obesity. So what? You can't choose new parents or grandparents. And you are not doomed to be fat. It just means you must always eat the right foods. Those of us who have extra "fat genes" must avoid the high fat plant foods. We can get thin and stay thin only by eating low fat whole plant foods. 

We can seldom snack on nuts or put avocado on our salads. We must avoid sugar and other sweeteners most of the time. We must re-train our taste buds to love salad without oily dressings, and to eat fruit for dessert. We must also move our bodies. That means exercise.

Yes, it will be a big change for some people. But the important thing to remember is that your tastes will change. The foods that seem boring today will some day be your favorites. As you lose weight, exercise will be less of a chore and more of a daily habit. Be consistant so you lose your addiction to rich foods. You will learn to love the foods that make you thin and healthy. We promise!

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