Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What’s your weight story? Have you lost and gained weight over the years or is reading this blog your first attempt at losing weight? Have you been overweight most of your life or did you put on the “freshman 15” in college and watch your weight story go downhill from there? Maybe you gained weight when you settled down and got married or after you had a baby. Or, maybe you’ve been watching your weight for quite a while but just can’t knock off those last 10 pounds.

Whatever your story is, you need to examine your own weight history to see how you reached your present weight. At the same time, take a look at your family history — your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings — to identify any pattern you may be following.

Reviewing your weight history
Looking back can be good when you’re trying to lose weight. I don’t mean looking back and regretting every cookie you ever put in your mouth or remembering all the times you tried to lose weight and failed. Rather, take the time to look back for clues that can help you figure out when and how you became overweight so you can move forward without making the same mistakes you’ve made in the past. (For ideas about how to deal with old challenges in new ways, see Chapter 9.) If you’ve tried to lose weight in the past, figure out what worked and what didn’t work for you so you can focus on any tips and advice that helped you stay on track (see “Evaluating your diet history” later in this chapter to get started).

The skinny on fat cells
You may be overweight because you have extra fat cells in your body, or because the fat cells you have are jumbo size. When you overeat, you’re essentially feeding your fat cells. When you gain weight, each individual fat cell gains weight. When fat cells get to be around three times their normal size, they can split and you end up with more fat cells than you had before. (The point at which a fat cell actually divides varies from person to person.) This process of cell division wouldn’t be so terrible if fat cells died the way other old body cells do, but no.
Your fat cells live as long as you do.

Researchers once thought that people could only grow new fat cells during specific stages of growth, such as the first year of life and puberty. But it turns out, people can grow them as adults, too. If you’ve gained a lot of weight as an adult, you may be carrying around many more fat cells than you did when you were younger.

When you lose weight, your fat cells shrink and lose weight, too, but they don’t go away. Fat cells are evil. They hang around in your body, just waiting to fill up on more fat. They want nothing more than to sabotage your attempt to lose weight. Don’t give in! Don’t let them win! The only way to come out on top is to stop overeating and get enough exercise to burn away spare calories from excess food that may find its way into your fat cells.

Overweight babies often turn into overweight adults. If you were a chubby baby who turned into a chubby kid and grew to be an overweight teenager, then you’re probably an overweight or obese adult. If you were an overweight child, odds are that you may struggle with your weight as an adult. Don’t fret though. You have hope. The best thing you can do is be realistic. Accept the challenge you’ve been given and move on. (Check out the next section about how your family history can affect your weight.)

If you didn’t have weight problems growing up, losing any excess weight you’ve accumulated in your adult years may be easier, because your weight gain is probably circumstantial. You may have gained weight because you left home and freed yourself from your parents’ strict rules about what you could and couldn’t eat and started eating more junk food. Now you need to get back on track and make healthier choices. Or you may just need to discover a little more about how your metabolism naturally slows down as you get older and what you can do about it.

Examining your family history
If being overweight is a part of your family history, the bad news is that you may have inherited a genetic tendency to become overweight yourself. That’s the sad truth. When you inherit a tendency toward being overweight, it’s the same as having a family history of any medical problem. Although you may or may not be affected, you have to be careful and do what you can to prevent the same thing from happening to you. The good news: If you see that you’re starting to resemble the heavyweights in your family, you can do something about it. You didn’t inherit any actual fat, you only inherited a tendency to collect it. To a certain degree, you can control your tendencies and change your destiny.

If being overweight runs in your family, losing weight is probably going to be harder for you than for someone with leaner relatives. If you inherited bad eating habits along with a genetic tendency to gain weight, losing weight is even more of a challenge. You’ll be fighting your genes and trying to break a lifetime of bad habits at the same time. You can do it! (Check out Chapter 4 for info and tips on breaking bad habits.)

If you’re not the only overweight family member, you may be able to enlist the help and support of other relatives who are struggling with similar issues. If you live with family members who are overweight, you can follow these suggestions and make it a family effort:

  • Figure out how your immediate family members can help you and perhaps help themselves at the same time. The best thing you can do is employ practical solutions. Reading this book is a good start. No lectures,please!
  • Cook together or share what you know about low-calorie cooking. If your mother or significant other does the cooking in the house and you want it done differently, share a few low-calorie cooking tips. You can also spend time and discover tips together. (Chapter 5 is a great place to start.)
  • Go food shopping together. Make grocery shopping a family affair. While shopping, monitor each other’s choices as you walk up and down the aisles.
  • Exercise together. Get the family together for group exercises or at the very least, a family walk after dinner (instead of dessert).

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