Weight Loss
Moderators: spoiled_candy, coach_k, Mollybygolly, devilish_patsy, nycgirl


Fat Genes, Obesity Surgery and Responsibilty?


Quote  |  Reply
Okay, I have to get this off my chest.

I'm hearing more and more about how common obesity surgery is becoming, along with justifications for morbid obesity (because of one's genetic make up and slow metabolism for example).

It makes me feel hopeless and resentful. I'm still severely overweight myself, and I've worked very hard to get from 240 pounds down to my current 194. I am not a candidate for obesity surgery, despite struggling every day with food and weight. Most of my family members are quite overweight if not obese.  It is my opinion that we all got fat because we OVER ATE. I know I over ate a ridiculous amount and have some very strong food addictions  and dysfunctions that I need to deal with.

So today, I read an online article talking about the discovery of a so-called "fat gene" and under the article were all kinds of comments from obese people feeling vindicated- saying things like, "I knew it wasn't my fault", and "I knew it was all in my genes" etc. One woman said she was about 250 pounds and ate less than anyone she knows and goes to aerobics classes three time per week etc etc etc. etc. Then I read stories on the Obesity Action site, and everyone on there had had, or was planning to have lap band surgery.

So here's my reaction. I don't believe that this "fat gene" is actually responsible for anyone's morbid obesity. In the article, it said that people with the obesity gene weigh, on average, 3 kilograms more than a person without the fat gene. THREE KILOGRAMS. Not 300 kilograms. Just 3. That's a little over 6 pounds. At the same time, people who gorge themselves and become morbidly obese are pushing for obesity to be labeled a disease, and pushing for insurance companies to pay out for surgery, justifying it because there's a "fat gene."  I can understand doing the surgery to save someone's life, but for most people, it starts to feel like they just don't want to have to work at changing their own attitudes.

I guess I'm angry about this. The vast majority of obese people got that way through their own behavior. I sure did. I was in denial for YEARS, partly because I was afraid that there really WAS a debilitating fat gene that would make success impossible.

I am sick of this unempowered attitude. Do people just WANT to be absolved of all responsibilty??? Am I being harsh because I too have a fat history and it makes me angry to see people refusing to acknowlege their problems?

What's your opinion of all this?






31 Replies (last)
i wouldnt say everyone is in the same boat but even if you have other contributing factor diet and fitness have something to do with HOW MUCH weight you gain.

I don't really know about the "fat gene" but I do believe some people are predisponed to easier weight gain and certain body types... but it's all how you manage it. Everyone needs a specific eating and exercise plan thats right for them. Not everyone is the same so you can have 2 babies grow up and do and eat the same exact things and one is bound to be bigger than the other. thats a fact, whether its the gene or metabolism i don't know the science.

Growing up until last year i was on and off prednisone. This medicine DOES CAUSE WEIGHT GAIN. It made it difficult to lose weight becuase it was a vicious cycle of taking the medicine BLOWING UP, getting off the medicine... not having much time to lose all the weight before going BACK on the med.

It stunted my growth (i am 6-7 years behind my real age), My hormones, and a lot of other stuff. My body doesnt function the same now as others who did not have to deal with this harsh medicine all their life.

Anyhow...  I know i didnt always eat right and didnt exercise much because my asthma was always the real problem. So all the little factors added up.

Last year i finally got off the drug... (a little over a year now) and I decided it was a good time to try to take off the weight that i had gained.  being a chubby/fat girl all my life made this decision easy.

so now 10 weeks later i've lost 52 lbs but... i know that it was NOT all my fault that i gained weight. there were other factors.

so i think its different for every person...

There are medical reasons for unexplained weight gains and an inability to lose the weight through normal reasonable methods.  Thyroid problems are probably more of a cause than the "fat gene."  And there is likely a long list of other issues with which I am not familiar (I am overweight because I ate too much and never moved ...)  but I firmly believe that this "fat gene" is present and causitive in a VERY small percentage of overweight people.

I do think the discovery of the "fat gene" may be a catalyst for morbidly obese people to abandon all hope of conquering their weight issues without surgery, now that they have a scapegoat.  I'm afraid for them to lead even more unhealthy lifestyles.  At the office where I worked for almost nine years, for a short time we had health coverage that paid for obesity treatment, up to and including lap-band AND gastric bypass surgery.  Three or four ladies at my office had the bypass surgery.  One has maintained her weight loss and keeps very fit, another has maintained her weight loss but has a host of other medical issues going on (she had MAJOR complications with her surgery) and, to me, looks less healthy now than she did when she was overweight.  A third lady lost well over 100 pounds after her surgery, over the course of about a year, and over the next two years put every bit of that weight back on, possibly more.

So the sad fact is that people who do have the surgery, which they think is going to fix it all, are going to have to be even MORE responsible with their eating and lifestyle AFTER the surgery than before.  And a lot of overweight Americans are simply not up to the task.

Ugh, this topic makes me insane. Americans are flat out pigs. As I have mentioned before, my husband is Australian. I was with him the first week he visited America. He was SHOCKED at what portion sizes are in our restaurants. Shocked to the point he took pictures of food and send it home so he and his family could all be aghast. For an entire week I listened to "OH MY GOD you'd NEVER see this in Australia"
I read an article recently that said american children get 1/4 of their vegetables in the form on chips and french fries. 1/4!!!!!!! Children are naturally drawn to foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. If they aren't made to try other foods, their taste buds never develop beyond an infantile state, and you get people who hate fruits and vegetables and live off of high fat, sugar, and salty foods. When these people try to diet later in life, they are unhappy and unsatified because they never developed a taste for healthy food.

Also, states with higher numbers of fast food restaurants had higher numbers of obese people. Go figure.

I don't know much about "fat genes," but I do know we are programmed to seek out the highest amount of energy for the least amount of effort. This is true with every animal. A tiger doesn't go after the really fast gazelles, he goes after the sick or injured ones. They are easier.
I am also a strong believer in you are what you make yourself out to be.  This may be intentionally or not.  I have a hard time blaming a "fat gene." Both sides of my family have weight problems, but I will not settle for that.  I'm working very hard, and it's paying off.  I do agree everyone is different and the same thing may not work for everyone.  But excluding those with medical problems, eating right, watching your calories and exercising should work.  Nobody said it would be easy, but challenges truely worth acheiving never are. 

Good luck to all those on the journey of achieving great health and a nice figure to go along with it:)  

I guess that I believe that life is what you make of it.

Say you have a fat gene. It's not a curse, it's an obstacle to overcome. People are genetically inclined to be a certain way... But how many brunettes do you hear say "Oh well, my genes say I'm going to be a brunette, so there is no point in dying my hair".

And as for the obesity surgery, I think the efficacy of it depends on the person. If they want a weight loss tool to help them lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle, then that's what they will get. But if they go in with the attitude that it's going to fix all their problems, they'll get a big surprise. They will have to deal with issues of withdrawl when they can't eat. They will have to deal with their emotions instead of eating as a coping mechanism. And, if they don't, they will likely will turn out like the woman mentioned earlier on this thread -- gaining it all back.

I am quite insulted by that blanket comment about Americans being pigs.  My father is American, and I mean born in 1940, a post-war boom-time child in a country that at the time was successful and prosperous.  He's never been an over-indulgent person, never had a weight problem, OR credit problems, OR drinking OR gambling OR drugs or ANY OTHER excessive behavior.  And he has never, NEVER, been a pig of ANY kind, weight-wise, money-wise OR attitude-wise, especially to the point of negatively categorizing an entire population of people.

And I tend to think there is SOMETHING to the genetics.  I wish I'd inherited my dad's "skinny" gene.

first off i have to agree that portions here in the states are larger than any other country i've been to, and i've travelled since i was child.  when i was younger i thought it was ridiculous that if you go to a restaurant in thailand, australia, india, italy, etc., you'd get this tiny plate...it was until i got older that i realized that as a whole the populations in other countries were thinner.  of course, this is a generalization, and there will be overweight/underweight people everywhere, but it is a fact that the u.s. is getting fatter.  I live in MI, and it is slowly becoming one of the fattest states in america.  and it is also a fact that if you go anywhere else, you don't see supersized food, X-large EVERYTHING, half-pound burgers, etc.  even our sodas are gigantic.  try getting a pepsi in another country and you'll get a tiny cup, not a monstrosity that barely fits in your hand.

i have an M.S. in genetics.  the fact is, yes, certain conditions can affect the *ability* for you to lose weight.  as someone else mentioned, it is a predisposition.  there is no "fat" or "skinny" gene, and i wish the media would stop calling it that.  your body/appearance is a combination of nature vs. nurture.  you can be born w/ a thyroid condition, put on meds that make you gain, and all that, but with the proper education and knowledge you can keep your weight under control.  it may harder for you than the person next to you, but it is possible, and it is NOT an excuse nor a reason to be obese. 

you can definitely inherit body type, which also affects your weight.  i inherited genes from my dad's side; all the women in his family are pear shaped, so we definitely have bigger bottoms than my mom's side. 

but i agree.  blaming genetics entirely for obesity is completely incorrect and scientifically inaccurate, and ppl need a reality check.
I saw a program about one of these genes.  The gene controlled leptin receptors (leptin is a hormone that is related to the hunger sensation).  People with the gene did not respond to leptin, so they never felt satiated after a meal.  And, as a result, they overate.

Whose fault is this?

Personally, I think a little knowledge can be very empowering.  In this example, people who didn't realize that they couldn't trust their own hunger sensations learned how to calorie-count instead.  It gave them a tool to respond to their biological condition.  I think that's a great thing.
lysistrata:

that's actually really interesting, i didn't know that.  i wish that the media would explain that rather than just calling them "fat" genes...because i think that terminology makes overweight people think, oh, i must have that gene, as opposed to really understanding what is going on.
I have to wonder why someone would have such very strong feelings directed at other people and their weight issues.

Are you angry at fat people or at yourself?

Are you angry at fat people who lose weight with surgery or at yourself?

What do you think is really behind all that anger?

Do you feel that anger, in general, is a helpful or productive way to react to yourself or others?

I can't answer any of those questions for anyone else. 

I am not angry with others and no longer angry with myself.
yeah.  i'm angry.  at people who don't try and jump straight to surgery because they think they are "genetically incapable" of losing weight.  at least give it a shot.  that's all.

I for one am angry with the media and with our medical community for giving people the misguided impression that drugs and surgery are the perfect solution.  Gastric bypass is MAJOR, it is not like having your tonsils removed!!  And there are people who need it, whose are so obese that other body systems are failing and perhaps they do not have enough time before they DIE to lose the weight through conventional methods.  But this is NOT the norm, it is the exception.  And for people who have gained weight due to non-medical reasons (that being, who are morbidly obese because they eat 10,000 calories a day and never get out of their chairs), where is the rationale for thinking that a surgical procedure is going to automatically equip them with the willpower to manage their diets for the post-surgical lifetime?

I don't think Americans are necessarily pigs, but we do tend to be "instant gratification" junkies.  We want it NOW.  And it is unhealthy and potentially dangerous to expect restructuring your body and your lifestyle to work like popping a bag of microwave popcorn.  And the medical community does little to dissuade this way of thinking.  To me that is irresponsible and wrong.

Not that I'm a huge Michael Crichton fan but IIRC he wrote an article in one of the early issues of Wired magazine talking about the media.  He asserts that many journalists don't have enough knowledge of virtually any area that is reported on and this causes all sorts of problems.  Silly things get overblown (Bad Science had a good one about a newspaper reporting an 'huge' increase in Autism based on two studies that measured completely different things), lame questions get asked ("Do you consider this policy to be racist?").

If you read medical information in a newspaper or on tv.  Listen or look for the university and/or the researchers names.  Then get on the internet and at least read the abstract for yourself.  Reporters aren't necessarily any better at math than you. :D 

nomoreexcuses....yeah I freely admit it....I do feel anger at some of the stuff I read online, and at attitudes I encounter in life, especially if the person I'm talking to is trying to convince me that I have NO chance of losing or maintaining  because it's all in my "genes." I've had overweight friends try to sabotage my weightloss by telling me it's hopeless and if I lose the weight it will just come back plus more, so don't even TRY because it will make everything WORSE. Someone actually suggested that I wait a year or two until I got big enough to qualify for surgery and then do that instead. 

Yes, the helplessness angers me. The "It's so hard I just can't do it. There's no point in trying because it's all in my genes. YOU couldn't possibly understand what I go through with food!!!" thing. I CAN. I have SERIOUS food addiction issues and I know how hard it is to stop a 10,000 calorie binge, but I'm in recovery and I need to believe that this is possible.

I'm not about to start blaming everyone and holding everyone else accountable, and demanding that society give me a free pass to thinness. It's like saying "Pity me! I am incapable of taking care of myself! I refuse to listen when doctors tell me that it is my habits, issues, and lifestyle that made me this large because I don't want to even consider that it is my fault. It is your duty to fix me now free of charge!" 

Do you know what I mean?
Jennifer,

well, I would agree with you that neither hopelessness nor seeking an easy out are the most productive or the best approaches to the problem.

But I don't feel angry about where other people are in their process of overcoming obesity.

The hopeless person - I feel sorry for.  This person is going to continue to be miserable until they've either A. made their condition much much worse than it had to be or B. died.  You know, hopelessness is one of the classic symptoms of depression.  I know that not all obese people are depressed, but I wonder how many are and are not diagnosed.  It is not possible for a person like this to sabotage me, so I have no reason to feel angry.

The person who wants the easy-out via surgery... this person is in for a surprise.  Supposing the best case scenario, their surgery goes well, they follow doctor's orders, they lose ALL the weight the need to lose, they have no health complications... they may STILL be dealing with their issues.  I saw a stat somewhere that said something like 3/4 of women who get gastric bypass surgery find themselves addicted to something else within a year of losing weight (alcohol, sex, gambling, etc)  So these people I also feel sorry for because they are eventually going to have to deal with the emotionally painful process of confronting their addictive/compulsive behavior and whatever is behind it.  No reason to feel angry with these people either.  In fact, I very much hope that they will get therapy along with their surgery so that maybe they won't have to ruin their entire lives before they get help.

Yes, I agree with you that people should learn to take full responsibility for their lives.  I just don't see how being angry helps accomplish that.

And I would also add this. I see people discussing on this site how obese people overeat quite frequently.  Often people discuss it as if the obese person were making a calculated, rational choice to slowly kill themselves with food.  Some obese people DO need education.  But I think that also, recent research (and my own experience) sheds light on the body's hunger-feedback hormonal signals.

We tell obese people that they just need more will power.  We find fault with them for not being "stronger".

I am beginning to think that this is unfortunate and wrong.  I have lost 20 lbs since the end of May.  Did my will power suddenly improve?  No.  I started a diet given to me by an integrative medicine doctor and after maybe 3 days on the diet, I just stopped having cravings.  omg... I couldn't believe it.  When I stopped eating foods that my body can't digest properly, I stopped having cravings.  I just eat according to my plan and that's that.  I don't spend hours and hours each week obsessing about what I'm going to eat.  It's finally just food to me.  And what my doctor explained is, that with those problem foods out of the way, now my hormones can work the way they're supposed to - suppressing my appetite and using up my stored fat.

The sad thing is, an integrative medicine doctor is not easy to find. They aren't covered by most insurance. And because there's no one-diet-fits-all, it's really difficult for the persistent obese person to figure out what works for them (what foods might be causing the problem for them) without the help of all the tests that this doctor did on me.

But, sometimes you just need to vent....  :)

*hugs*
I am quite insulted by that blanket comment about Americans being pigs.  My father is American, and I mean born in 1940, a post-war boom-time child in a country that at the time was successful and prosperous.  He's never been an over-indulgent person, never had a weight problem, OR credit problems, OR drinking OR gambling OR drugs or ANY OTHER excessive behavior.  And he has never, NEVER, been a pig of ANY kind, weight-wise, money-wise OR attitude-wise, especially to the point of negatively categorizing an entire population of people.

You are taking that statement way too seriously. I'm sure your father is a great man. The issue is that is the impression many foreigners have of America (look at other forums with large non-American user bases) and you know why? Here's one reason. Look at this list of fast food dollars spent:

  1. United States. ? US$148.6 billion (64.8% of top 10 country fast food sales)
  2. Japan ? $13.9 billion (6.1%)
  3. Canada ? $12.7 billion (5.5%)
  4. United Kingdom ? $12.1 billion (5.3%)
  5. China ? $9.8 billion (4.3%)
  6. South Korea ? $9.3 billion (4%)
  7. Germany ? $7.4 billion (3.2%)
  8. Australia ? $5.7 billion (2.5%)
  9. Brazil ? $5 billion (2.2%)
  10. India ? $4.9 billion (2.1%)
You do realize that giant portion sizes and McDonald's all over the place didn't happen because one guy is a pig. We're a nation of over eaters. We can keep talking about other things like oil usage but that's for another time and place.

There may be a 'fat gene' that makes it easierfor some people to become overweight or obese than others, but ALL traits, physical and psychological, exist on a continuum. That is, no one has no degree of one trait or another; we all have some degree of all traits (e.g. caring, jealousy, ambition, depression, ability to easily gain weight etc.).

And as others have posted here, as with all of the traits that we might possess a bit too much of (e.g. too easily get angry), we need to learn to be aware of it, manage it, feel it when it's coming on, and use good behavioral skills to reduce the damage that it might cause. 

I am a deep believer  in personal responsibility in being honest with one's self and with living a non-violent life. I made myself fat - absolutely no one else did. I ate ridiculous amounts of unhealthy foods, knew what I was doing, but did nothing to stop it until the day I realized that I not only had high blood pressure and high cholestrol, but had also developed diabetes. All of this was due to my bad behaviors - no one else's. It was that day that I decided that enough was enough and I had many good years left to live...

I too believe that it is much healthier to concentrate on what is good for you, for your physical and psychological health, than being angry at others for their bad behaviors as well. When I feel 'anger' toward another obese person, I completely understand that it is because I am still angry with myself for having system-atically ruined my body for so long. I realize that I can only take responsibility for myself, for no others, and that it is up to each one of us to work toward being the kind of person we want to be in this world. My 'anger' dissipates very quickly and turns into sorrow for what s/he is doing to him/herself. But it is their life and their decision, not mine.

As to the surgery - to me this seems to be an extra unnecessary complication, when in the end the weight and health difference will only remain if the person makes a life change - no surgeon's knife can accomplish this alone.

I have lost over 22 kg so far and have another 15 kg to go. I have moved from being morbidly obese to severely obese to moderately overweight. My current goal is to reach the normal BMI range for my height.

I do not think that losing the weight is the toughest part. Keeping it off and not moving back into the bad behaviors will be much more difficult. I most probably have more of the 'fat gene' than my thinner friends, due to my physical and psychological make-up, but I also know that I have a great deal of commitment and love of self that can help me through the tough times. For me, this is a better use of energy than having anger at others who, for whatever reasons, have trouble truly being good to themselves...

my best to you in your continued work toward a healthy life.

I believe there is way too little known for anyone to take a position of hard line debate.

I beleive in my own ability to overcome my genetics, but I also acknowledge that my ignorance contributed to my condition.

If I had known that there was such a thing as yo-yoing the first time I lost 50 pounds, I would have paid strict attention to the maintenance of the weight loss. I didn't.

What science is just starting to uncover, is that the more we lose and regain, lose and regain, the harder it is to lose and maintain. Regardless of how much or how little we eat.

This does not mean we shouldn't try, it just means we need to arm ourselves with the very best information available and disregard those who would attack us, whether they have 'been there' or not. And we'll probably need to accept that we may be in for a lifelong struggle to keep the weight off.

I think there are scientific reasons why some people are naturally larger than others, but genetics is not to blame for the obesity epidemic.  We've had these genes for quite a while, so why now would it be expressing?  Obviously, something in the environment has changed. 

A rather simplistic explantion is this: okay, so someone is genetically predisposed to being tall.  They've got the 'tall' gene, but if they aren't fed well and do not have a good environment, they aren't going to be as tall as their genetic potential says they are. 

So some people are genetically predisposed to being larger.  Well, we're smart people and we can change our environment so it DOESN'T HAPPEN. 

I'm a big fan of personal responsiblity.  Perpetual victims bother me.  To me, it's a choice you have to make.  No one can change you but you.  You can blame weight gain (or your bad credit, or your failing friendships, or the past that you are ashamed of) on someone else or something else.  You can let it rule your life.  You can say "it's not my fault, it's genetic!  it's not my fault, it's the fast food place! it's not my fault, it's the crappy situation I'm going through that's making me eat and eat and eat"... OR you can own the situation, you can take charge of it and you can make the changes that will change you. 

Oh, believe me, I lived in victimhood over my weight for a while, or rather, I ignored that there was a problem.  I made a change.  I'm probably one of those people genetically predisposed to being larger through whatever combination of genes I've got in my body, but I don't have to stay that way.  I decided that I loved myself enough to do something good for me.  I've lost 80lbs now. 

I fear that all this "fat gene" announcements in the media will just encourage people to live in the victim's mentality.  It's a hurdle to overcome, not an excuse not to do anything. 

My two cents. 

31 Replies (last)
Advertisement
Advertisement