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Only 'Stooges' believe being fat is fate

Published October 02. 2010 09:00AM

In a classic episode where the Three Stooges masquerade as plumbers, they decide the plumbing doesn't work in a mansion they are working on because some of the pipes are filled with electrical wires.

So they remove them and hook those pipes to the water pipes. Shortly afterwards, the light bulbs in the kitchen fill with water, explode, and water flows from lighting fixtures as if they were fountains.

The cook slips and falls repeatedly as he tries to prepare a meal and finally leaves. He returns in rain gear, announces, "'Dis house sure gone crazy," and falls a few more times.

I'm not a big Stooges fan, but the scene just explained is so absurd that it makes me laugh. But not everything that's absurd is funny to me.

The growing belief that some people were born to be fat, for instance.

It produces something quite different than laughter in me.

It's called a column. One that explains why being fat is not fate.

The some-were-born-to-be-fat theory gained support in August after mainstream media reported a study done at Yale University and published in the National Academy of Sciences. A group led by Tamas Horvath, professor of neurobiology, obstetrics and gynecology at Yale, fed a high-fat diet for three months to two different groups of rats.

The first group was bred to be genetically predisposed to obesity; the second, to be lean. While it was no surprise that three months of a high-fat diet made the rats genetically predisposed to obesity obese, the researchers detected something else of note.

The brains of the rats genetically predisposed to obesity reacted differently to being fed a high-fat diet. The neurons in their brains that control overeating and when to burn calories were not as active as the neurons in the brains of the rats bred to be lean, a finding that caused Horvath to write that obesity is "less about personal will" and more about genetics.

While I have no doubt that the study is legitimate and that Horvath is a top-notch researcher, these findings still do not doom genetically predisposed humans to a life of obesity.

Rats can't keep journals. Rats can't keep reflective about eating experiences.

You can. Even if you are genetically predisposed to obesity.

And some of you are. That's a fact. What's also a fact is genetic predisposition is not destiny.

In fact, strong proof of this is found, ironically, in a report released by the CDC in August that chronicles adult obesity state by state. In it, the CDC states that in just one year the percentage of states with an adult obesity rate of 30 percent or higher tripled from three to nine. Furthermore, 10 years ago, no state had a rate of 30 percent.

While these stats are scary, they are also proof that you are not born to be fat, for if you were there could not be such a quick and dramatic increase. Instead, this increase stems from what the CDC calls our "obesogenic" society, a culture where overeating nutritionally void, high-calorie food and doing little exercise has become the norm.

But while genetics has not caused the obesity epidemic, it has exacerbated the problem for certain individuals who have fallen prey to it.

So what are you to do if you're the sort who seems to gain weight just by looking at the dessert cart? Recognize that fact and that there is a way to mitigate less-than-great genetics.

Endomorphs, people who gain fat easily also tend to put on muscle easily unlike their opposites, ectomorphs, people who struggle to add fat or muscle. Muscle burns calories even while at rest, and muscle needing energy accounts for about 90 percent of the calories you burn each day.

So if you're predisposed to gaining fat, your goal should be to lift weights and gain five pounds of muscle. While this might initially create an overall weight gain, it's the key to changing the composition of you body, a matter far more important than total body weight.

Extra muscle means you need more calories per day to maintain your weight. Some studies have five extra pounds of muscle burning as much as an additional 250 calories.

Now if you eat the number of calories you were accustomed to before the muscle gain, you lose body fat. When you reach the point where the body fat loss equals the muscle gain, your pants will be loose in the waist though your shirts might be tight at the shoulders.

Friends will notice. Enemies will notice.

And you'll be well on your way because the old cliché is true: nothing breeds success like success.

Even when you're battling bad genetics.

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