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Fighting Genetics

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I am the oldest of 5 children. From our father’s side of the family we received genes for hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes. Strokes and heart attacks are common in the older generation. Our mother’s side has also has a few incidences of type 2 diabetes.

Most of my family lives very close to the home place. Sundays after church and at least once a month in the evening everyone gathers for a meal consisting of good, old-fashioned food – country fried steak and gravy, fried okra, mac and cheese, banana pudding, chocolate pound cake, broccoli casserole, biscuits. The closest things to healthy are the green beans and sliced tomatoes served fresh in the summer when the garden is producing. After the meal, everyone watches TV or naps. Everyone eats out a lot – usually buffets or fast food.

My father was active for years – playing softball, hunting, fishing, gardening. This helped keep his potential health problems at bay well past the age when his siblings had bypass surgery. However, slowed by an old injury, the Southern cooking finally caught up with him. He was diagnosed with high blood pressure and diabetes and required a bypass.

My mother, who does the cooking, has been overweight for years (by at least 100 pounds). At age 70, her blood sugar and cholesterol crept into the unhealthy range, and she was told to change her habits. She changed them long enough for the re-check and went right back to her old ways.

One sister was told that she has a 40% blockage at age 47 and that she needs gastric bypass surgery; another is having chest pains. The youngest sister is having blood sugar issues, and my niece had gestational diabetes. One of her daughter’s first words was “bacon.”

My family thinks I am odd or obsessive when I visit. I exercise each morning before breakfast, and I cook at least one healthy dish for each meal. My mother keeps telling me that I need to gain 5 pounds (my BMI is 21). My sisters have been complimentary, and they plan to start a healthier lifestyle “soon.” Only my brother and sister-in-law seem to be concerned about their health. They have been making more of an effort to watch their food intake and to be more active.

I love my family, but I do not want to emulate their habits. I like the way I feel - the increased mobility, flexibility, and energy. I want to keep up with my grandchildren (OK – there is only a grandchild right now, but I am hopeful). I also want to be around to watch them grow.

This year, I will turn 50. My weight is good (thank you SPARKPEOPLE!), and my cholesterol and blood sugar are optimal. I exercise regularly and generally eat foods that are healthy, hoping to short circuit the genetic minefield. Now, if I can just drag my family with me (probably kicking and screaming)!
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  • ARCHIMEDESII
    Unfortunately, we can't change our family, we can only change ourselves. They're adults, they know they need to make a change, but they aren't ready yet. Maybe they're scared. Maybe they just don't know where to start. Maybe they're looking for a magic pill. For whatever reason, they have to make that decision for themselves. You can't drag them kicking and screaming, they'll just make you miserable if you try.

    I know, been there, done that. As Kayotic noted, all you can do is set the example. Don't try to reason with them. Don't try to beg or explain. Don't try psychology. Don't nag either. When your family members are ready to make the change, you can be there for them.

    For now, you have to do your own thing even if that means you have to sit on the sidelines watching them making unhealthy choices. I hate it. I want to be able to do something, but my own family members aren't ready yet either.

    So, you do what's best for your body even if that means your family makes condescending remarks. When one of them bottoms out, then you show them how Spark People.

    I have an aunt who just recovered from two strokes. Like your mom, ate healthy for a while then went right back to her old eating habits. You'd think two strokes would be a wake up call, nope, she's just too set in her ways. Which may be part of the problem with your family i.e. they may think they're too old to make any changes.

    It's a tough call.

    -- karen



    3828 days ago
  • KAYOTIC
    Lead by example...that's probably the best you can do. And you should be able to thwart your genes w/ a healthy diet and exercise for the most part, just keep at it, and get a physical exam w/ blood work to check on your success.
    3828 days ago
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