How to Fit Into Your Family Genes
By Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN
If you’re like me, and grew up in a home in which one or more of your family members were overweight (my mother and older brother both had weight struggles), you probably thought—and may still think—that losing weight and keeping it off wasn’t possible. At the very least, you may have resolved that even if you put your heart and soul into eating better and moving more, you still wouldn’t have the thin thighs, flat abs, and perfectly toned bum you longed for.
We all know that genes play a role in so many of our unique characteristic such as our eye and hair color, height, and body shape. And having an overweight relative definitely increases your risk for entering into your own personal weight war. According to researchers from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA, there are more than 6,000 genes that contribute to body weight.
The good news is genes tell only part of the story. The environment in which you live—the way you’re raised, your family culture and dynamics, your food and fitness habits and other variables—also plays a key role in the fate of your body weight. So what’s an overweight (or potentially overweight) family to do?
Here are 5 of my top tips to help you and your family fit into your genes.
1. Practice Positive Parenting
Research suggests that being authoritative—having high expectations for children but at the same time, providing them with support and structure and being responsive to them—may foster more healthful food and fitness habits and attitudes. Creating family food rules—for example, eating only in the kitchen, and keeping the kitchen a no tv/cell phone/computer zone—can minimize distraction, help families focus more on what and how much they eat, and feel more connected.
2. Divide and Conquer
Parents can make sure the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry are filled with healthful foods (for example, keep cut up fruits and veggies readily available on a refrigerator shelf). Kids of all ages can help plan menus and shop for and prepare meals. Having more family members involved in getting food on the table can help everyone save time and can also help kids eat healthy new foods.
3. Make Mealtimes A Priority
Studies show that as few as 3 to 5 family meals a week can contribute to healthier eating habits. It may even protect against disordered eating behaviors (like skipping meals), eating disorders, and use and abuse of addictive substances. Waking up 5 to 10 minutes early to fit in a healthy breakfast, comparing each family member’s schedule to plan weekly meals ahead of time, and taking shortcuts to buy and prepare foods can get everyone to the table faster and more often.
4. Move it!
Staying active helps you all have more energy. Put personal fitness time into your weekly schedule just as you would any important appointment. Find organized family activities to do like a charitable walk or engage in spontaneous activities such as tossing a ball, shooting hoops, or throwing a frisbee.
5. Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative
Try to speak about food, fitness, and every "body" in a positive, healthful way. Avoid being overly judgmental or engaging in fights over how much or how little anyone is eating. Focus on the positive and talk about how well your own or your child’s body moves and performs to reinforce more healthful food and fitness habits.
How are you managing your family genes?
To learn more about how to Feed Your Family Right! How to Make Smart Food and Fitness Choices for a Healthy Lifestyle, go to http://elisazied.com/home/books/feed-your-family-right/ or check out the book on Amazon.
Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian and award-winning author of "Nutrition At Your Fingertips," "Feed Your Family Right!," and "So What Can I Eat?!." She is also a past national media spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. For more information, go to www.elisazied.com, and www.nutritionatyourfingertips.com. Follow Elisa on Twitter (http://twitter.com/elisazied) and Facebook (http://bit.ly/3XQucL).