Q: My older brother can eat whatever he wants, and I gain weight if I even look at a cheeseburger. This feels really unfair and I end up just eating out of spite. I have tons of friends like this, too. Why can’t I just be like everyone else?
A: Hi Michael, thanks for your question. This is a tough one, isn’t it? I would really like to be able to tell you this isn’t the case, that we’re all created equal biologically and you don’t need to be concerned about this. That’s just not the way things are, though, as you already know.
Genetics are largely responsible for our biological predisposition to adiposity (or body fatness) and muscle mass, just like they are responsible for eye color, hair color, height and the rest of our anatomical features. However, unlike our other features, we put pressure on ourselves to control and be responsible for our shape and body weight.
In many ways, this is silly and harmful to us. For instance, you don’t sit around brooding that you are only 6’0” tall (I hope) instead of 6’4”? Or that you have brown eyes instead of blue, do you? Likely you don’t because you KNOW that those were the genes you inherited and there isn’t much good that will come of brooding about it.
This is relatively the same with body fatness and shape. While it is in our control to make food and movement choices that help sustain us at our body’s healthiest and happiest weight, it is not in our control to regulate other parts of our shape and size. And so it does more harm than good to brood about it. I realize this is easier said than done, but you are still better served by focusing your energy on things that are under your control.
Try focusing on traits about yourself that you enjoy, ones that make you unique like:
- Great hair
- Nice skin
- Your height
- Your eyes
- Athletic ability
- A wonderful smile
- A good laugh
We all make the mistake of focusing on the traits about ourselves that we don’t particularly enjoy, and under-emphasize the traits that make us uniquely us. I encourage you to shift that mindset and try to list as many things as possible that you find positive about yourself. The more you practice this, the easier it becomes to access those positive feelings.
The truth is, you may not be someone who can biologically get away with eating as much of whatever they want and not have it show on your body in some physical way. Just like I am never going to be able to dunk a basketball at my height of 5’3”. If I wasted my energy being upset about never being able to dunk a basketball, I would not be able to put my energy into all of the things I have going for me.
I invite you to use whatever coping skill you have at your disposal to not give energy to focusing on this. Instead, focus on what eating and movement patterns make you feel powerful, healthy, excited, happy and encouraged. This is a better use of your energy because the more you focus on the positive, the more positive will show up in your life.
Also, learning early what foods and movements make you feel happy and empowered will just bring more of that positive mood and empowerment into your conscious awareness. This is a win-win.