We can thank
our prehistoric relatives for any problems we have with genetic
Our distant ancestors didn't show any obvious
genetic obesity. They got a lot of exercise and they ate mainly whole
plant foods. Sometimes they had trouble finding enough food.
came, some people starved and others survived. The survivors were the
ones who had genes for efficient fat storage. Maybe
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
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
addictive, we can eat a lot of them in a short time.
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
They do have a predisposition for genetic obesity.
But the early polynesians were not fat. When Captain Cook arrived in
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
suffer from genetic obesity? Far from it. The U.S. is
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
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,
beans, mesquite pods, and prickley pears. The Pima Indians in Arizona
would be thin too if they ate whole plant foods.
pears - a staple of the traditional Pima Indian diet.
Are there any
thin people left?
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.
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.
Traditional Ethiopian food is based on
vegetables, lentils, and a thin whole grain bread called
injera. It is spicy, delicious, and healthy.
you are wondering why
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
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
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 with wild rice and garbanzo gravy is a healthy
alternative. We make it for holiday meals and
other special occasions.
social pressure also affects our
food choices. We may feel that we cannot turn down food
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
ties you down and forces food in your mouth. Make the
decision to eat healthy vegan food and lose weight. You owe it to
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
will learn to love the foods that make you thin and healthy. We promise!