Weight Gain and Genetics
By Kelly Songy Nelson
I am a Cajun from New Orleans, so I know what good food tastes like! I grew up there and partook in all of the yumminess the city has to offer. I knew five food groups: carbs, fried, fatty, battered and buttered. New Orleans is a very culture driven city; lots of amazing chefs are from New Orleans, yet we don’t know how to feed our children things that will actually keep them healthy.
I have to start out by saying that I was better off than most kids. My Mom is an AMAZING cook and we had home cooked meals EVERY DAY. Eating out was considered a treat and was usually a family outing to Pizza Hut for report card night. I have a twin sister and we were sick growing up (had a skin disease that affected our muscles). We were very tiny and my Mom said she did whatever it took to get us to eat and put on weight. I remember going through a stint where, probably late elementary school, my Mom would make my sister Campbell’s Chicken and Stars soup and I would eat a little fried chicken sandwich that came prepackaged in a little box (I’d ask for mayo and cheese on it!)…for breakfast.
I asked her about it years later when we were having a conversation about healthy food choices and she said she fed us whatever we asked for so we’d eat (and put on weight). As a parent in the 80s, she was doing what she thought was best for her family. This was before things like high fructose corn syrup, MSG and trans fats were considered unhealthy ingredients. (I remember my Mom having a huge bottle of MSG to sprinkle on the steaks we’d have every Saturday night!)
I grew up around obesity. So for my sister and I to be underweight growing up, it made it that much worse. A majority of my family was (and still is) overweight or obese. So it was the norm – and Kasey and I were the exception. I was very active. I danced six days a week until I graduated from high school. And I danced 3-4 days a week in college. My diet, however, remained unchanged and actually got worse as I got older. Since I was so active, I never worried or gave any thought to how I was fueling my body. In college, I ate at Chick-Fil-A several times a day, drank Dr. Pepper (no water) and loved my chocolate! (Side note…one year for Lent, I decided to give up Dr. Pepper. Instead of turning to water, I switched to Coke….Still shaking my head at THAT Cajun logic!!!)
Fast forward to post-college Kel. I entered Corporate America as an Executive Assistant and sat at a desk for 8 hours a day. I wasn’t dancing and I was still making the same poor food choices. After a particularly stressful morning, I escaped to Sonic for lunch. I ordered a chicken fried steak sandwich on Texas toast with fries and a Diet Coke and I ate the entire thing. I remember just sitting in my car devouring it like a crack addict and almost feeling ashamed, but I continued to shovel because it made me feel good.
It should have come as no surprise that being far less active, I began to put on weight. 30 pounds to be exact. I was tired and my clothes were getting snugger by the day. There was one day when I was sucking in as I zipped my jeans and thought “OK Kel, it’s time to go buy some bigger pants. This is just the way it’s going to be.” WOAH…What!? What a HUGE lie I had planted in my OWN head. There was absolutely no reason that had to be the case. I AM IN CHARGE OF MY LIFE (well…God is, but I have the power to make healthy choices). The muffin top that kept hanging over my jeans was NOT in my genes. Obesity is not genetic. Sure, some families may be larger boned than others, but quit lying to yourself by thinking that YOUR weight problem can be blamed on Grandma.
I BROKE THE CHAIN of obesity in my family.
Has it been an easy, quick, overnight fix? Heck no! It started with small steps, slowly changing my eating habits, learning about portion control, learning how to workout and, most importantly, surrounding myself with a supportive community.
One of the first things that I had to work on when starting my health and fitness journey was getting my mind right. I grew up very closed minded. I’m not sure why. But I never started on working to better myself because I just assumed I was supposed to be fat and it was OK to eat crap. Everyone else does.
As I dig deeper, perhaps I was afraid of failing, so what was the point in starting? I have succeeded in almost everything I’ve done, so becoming so open and vulnerable to failure was HUGE, but it was something that had to be done if I wanted to avoid following the trend of my family. I also had to adopt the mindset that making good choices WILL make a positive difference. A difference that I may not be able to see right away, but that would soon become apparent if I remained consistent.
Taking the first baby steps of starting a workout program (Power 90), having an accountability partner (my husband, Jimmy) and following the Power 90 food guide were easy in and of themselves – because they were small steps. I wasn’t trying to look like Shaun T from the cover of Insanity on Day 1!!! Once my body started changing for the better, out came the nay-sayers. ”Oh, she must be anorexic” (remember that I’m a very small build); “WHAT is that on your plate?” (freshly baked salmon!!!); “Why aren’t you eating any fried fish and french fries?”.
I still get comments like that to this day, almost 11 years into this journey. Had I not been introduced to the supportive community at Team Beachbody, those kinds of comments could have easily thrown me off the workout wagon and back on the path to things like heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and cancer.
I realized that I am the one taking a different path than others in my family. And each time I’m around them, all I can do is continue setting a good example in hopes that I can break through to just one person.
If you are of the “it’s genetic; I’m predestined to be fat” mindset, quit lying to yourself and know that YOU CAN break the chain. All it takes is one simple step in the right direction and surrounding yourself with a supportive environment.
The Nelsongy Fitness team is committed to helping guide you in the right direction. We can help with that first baby step in the right direction or help to plug you into our incredibly supportive community. Leave a comment below if you’ve been in the “that’s just the way it’s going to be” mindset and let us know if that’s still something you struggle with. We are here to serve you and here to help you feel the best you possible!