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Downingtown Nutrition & Weight Management Center

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

When "Being Fat" Runs In Your Family

I work out most days of the week depending on my work schedule, eat a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables, and make sure I get all the recommended preventive screenings. Yet even with that healthy preventive routine I still fight the "Battle of the Bulge". Recently, at my annual doctor's wellness visit, I was told I have Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD), pre-diabetes and high cholesterol, a major change from my normal numbers 6 months ago. My stomach hit the floor. Do you know what the main treatment is for it? Diet and exercise! My doctor said he will give me another 6 months before we talk medicine intervention. I cried to my husband, feeling frustrated that the main line of defense of diet and exercise wasn't keeping me healthy.

What puts us at-risk for these type of health conditions? Age. Can't change that! Gender? Nope can't change that either! Diet and Exercise. Yep doing that! Alcohol. Mostly on vacation or once on a weekend, non significant. Family history and genetics. Yep that was my issue. A long line of family genetics of diabetes, cancers, obesity, NALD and high cholesterol. So basically I have put off my genetics for as long as I can, at age 39, my family medical history has caught up to me. I started thinking back to Sunday dinners at my grandmom's house in South Philly. No one had a body mass index under 30 (which is clinically obese). In fact, I recall people literally breaking chairs on Sundays as we sat down for our traditional Sunday Italian dinners. But then there was my grandmom. Always a healthy weight. Always ate fruits and vegetables, mostly vegetarian. She walked every where, probably logging 6 miles a day going to the produce stands and doing her errands. She always had a model physique. She never smoked or drank alcohol. I remember those Sunday dinners, she never had bread on her plate or large portions of pasta. Half her plate was always dark leafy greens. She always ate a small dessert, sometimes just fruit after dinner. My grandmom lived until the age of 97, with not one of these chronic health conditions that the rest of the family experienced. Maybe she didn't have the "bad genes". Maybe she did and her healthy lifestyle won out over those chronic health conditions.

My grandmom with myself, my oldest daughter, and the iconic family dinner table in the background. This was her at 97.

All of my friends are extremely healthy. They exercise and eat balanced, rarely dine out, and they do not smoke. I often feel jealous when we are at the beach and I see their six pack abs. We eat and work out pretty much exactly the same. Everyone has a set point with their weight. I have to realize that I'm at my set point. I continue to strive for defined abs every summer, only feeling disappointed every year. Now I realize, its my genetics. No one has abs in my family, in fact I should be content that I'm able to maintain a healthy weight. Don't get me wrong, I'm not overweight or obese. But I work extremely hard at keeping that way. Being around people who look like they should be on Sports Illustrated is tough. It's tough not to compare yourself to others around you. BUT WE NEED TO STOP. We are not like are friends or our neighbors. We have our own unique body and genetics that define what we look like.

I've retired the idea of abs. Now I want to change my lab results. Inner health is more important now so I can play on the beach with my future grand babies at my retirement beach home (hopefully that happens!). I encourage you to go to the doctor annually for prevention. If I didn't do that, I would be in bad shape. I have a new focus now. I'm exercising more consistent and my diet has shifted to more plant based, working to decrease animal fats in the diet. I feel better. This new focus of diet and exercise, might be the intervention to push those genetics a few more years away.

Do you battle the bulge? Do you have a horrid laundry list of family illnesses? A registered dietitian can personalize your meal plan so that you can be the healthiest you can be. We even offer a genetic test to help us define what you should eat. Check us out at


The Dieting Dietitian

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