Is your shape all down to your genes?
As stated in New magazine, most women don’t want to end up looking like their mother. However, with the discovery of the so called ‘fat gene’, you may not have much choice. Even if you’re not carrying the fat gene, you may have picked up bad eating traits from your parents, and as for your body shape – thats inherited, too.
So if your mother is overweight or has a larger than average bottom, then it’s likely you’ll follow suit. Take the Duchess Of York, Sarah Ferguson and her daughter Princess Beatrice. When the pair went jogging together in Spain recently, it was clear that Beatrice’s pear shaped figure has been inherited from her mum. On the other hand, toned Kate Hudson has been blessed with the athletic shape of her mother Goldie Hawn. And 45 year old Demi Moore’s daughter Rumer Willis has also developed her mum’s slim look. “We are all individual and have different genetic blueprints as well as inherited family traits,” says Lyndel Costain, a registered dietician and healthy writer. “As research progresses, it has become clearer that genetic differences can make people more likely to stay slender, or gain weight than others.” But it’s not just our genes that play a role. “Families usually share the same diet, lifestyle and cultural influences, and these habits persist into later life,” Lyndel adds.
The Fat Gene
Studies have shown that obesity tends to run in families. Children with two obese parents have about 70 percent risk of becoming obese compared to less than 20 percent in children of two slim parents. However, experts believe this can be explained by children’s diets being influenced by that of their parents. Studies have shown that adopted children have weight patterns similar to their natural parents, and scientists have discovered a ‘fat gene’ known as FTO. More than half the population carries a variant of the gene, making them up to 70 percent more likely to become obese. However, Lyndel says, “Even if people carried two copies of the variant gene, they were only 3kg heavier in average, so it is not the cause alone. But it may help to explain why in the environment we live in – where food is abundant and it easy to be inactive – some people find it harder to manage their weight than others,”
Eat like your mother, look like your mother
“Families usually share the same diet, lifestyle and cultural influences,” says Lyndel. “These habits tend to persist later in life. So if you were given sweets as a child when you needed comforting then it’s a safe bet you’re still feasting on them.” And Lyndel says as obesity has increased rapidly over the last 50 years and the gene pool has remains constant, it suggests that environment factors rather than genetics play a bigger role in obesity. A good example of this was shown when style guru’s Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine took a DNA test to see whether they had the fat gene. Stick-thin Trinny was shocked to discover she has it while the heavier Susannah does not. Trinny said “I was expected to be told that I don’t have the fat gene, so it was quite a surprise. I am a healthy eater, and feel it makes no difference to how I will maintain my figure from now on.”
Can you change your bodyshape destiny?
If you’re an ‘apple’ who needs to lose weight around your middle, there is some good news. Studies suggest that abdominal fat stores are especially responsive to regular physical activity, which gets your heart rate up like, walking, running, cycling, dancing, gardening and exercise classes,” Lyndel says. A US study among obese, middle aged women found that despite losing the same amount, women who dieted and used the treadmill for 30 minutes or work, three times a week, reduced the size of their abdominal fat cells by 18 percent. Adding in some regular resistance exercise such as weights may enhance the benefits too. Abdominal fat also has been linked smoking, drinking too much alcohol, stress and lack of exercise. Eat a healthy diet, restricting high-fat, processed and sugary foods and having plenty of vegetables, whole grains, fish and lean meat. Madonna’s personal trainer, Tracy Anderson is a firm believer that you can overcome your genes. The 5ft-tall dance guru, whose father is obese, believed she would grow up to be fat, especially when she gained weight in her twenties. But with a lot of hard work she now has an enviable, toned figure and a client list including the queen of pop herself and actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Brace yourself for some bad news. “Our basic body shape is inherited and cant be fundamentally be changed,” says Lyndel. “So if you come from a long line of ‘pears’, then losing weight will mean you will become a smaller, trimmer and healthier pear”. A ‘pear’ – where you tend to store fat on your hips, thighs and bottoms – and is considered to be a healthy shape unlike an ‘apple’, who stores excess fat deep below the skin the stomach area, increasing the risk of serious conditions such as heart disease, raised blood pressure, some types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. “When we lose weight, we burn fat stores proporionatley from all over our body,” says Lyndel. “This isn’t very helpful if you just want a smaller bottom”