Growing up, I never really thought much about the environment around me. Mom was mom, dad was dad, and siblings were siblings. My parents, and most of my aunts/uncles/cousins are pretty heavy. Some more so than others. I always chalked it up to genetics. When I left home and went to college, the weight came on fast. It was alarming, but not enough for me to make major changes. Part of me figured that getting heavy was in my DNA. I had seen my parents lose and gain the same 10-15 pounds. Why would it be any different for me?
Life went on and I met a wonderful women. We moved in together. She’s a bit of a health nut, so she cooked most of the time and rarely keeps junk food in the house. She doesn’t drink anything sweet, and she doesn’t buy sweets. By her own admission, she can’t control herself around sweet things, so the few times she does buy junk food, she eats it before I can have much of it. I never craved sweets enough to go out and buy them on my own, so I just stopped eating them.
While living with her, I started changing my habits in small ways. I switched from regular soda to water with flavoring in it. I bought those packs of single-size chip servings, so instead of eating directly from a family sized bag, I grabbed a little one. I started counting calories. Not on paper, mostly in my head. Over the past few months, I’ve lost 25 pounds without significantly changing my diet. No Keto, Paleo, Whole 30 or Intermittent Fasting.
Recently, I went on a vacation with my family and my girlfriend couldn’t come. It was as if someone got three inches from my face and yelled “THIS is where you get it from!” It’s not meant to be a judgement, I love my parents and I wouldn’t change them for the world, but I realized why I am the way that I am. The week was full of fast food, doughnuts, and soda. The most glaring moment was when we were in the grocery store, getting snacks. I was eyeing some Little Debbie cakes. Inside, I knew they weren’t good for me. I wasn’t going to buy them. Then my dad came up from behind and encouraged me to get them. “You’re on vacation! You’ve done so well, what’s the big deal? A few won’t hurt you.”
I had said almost that exact same phrase to my girlfriend at the grocery store when she was eyeing sweets. I knew where my dad was coming from, and I also suddenly understood where my girlfriend was coming from too. Sure, those cakes wouldn’t hurt me, but I was proud of my progress and I wasn’t going to get them.
I realized why my family struggled with diets, why they lost, and regained the weight. Diets worked, but my parents always gave up things that they didn’t want to give up. The minute it was over, they were back to sodas, fast food, and all the other stuff they loved. I realized that there were things I could give up, without being upset about it. I don’t love fast food, it’s just convenient. I don’t love Little Debbies, they’re just easy. It’s not like I craved them. I would never go to the store just to buy some. So many of my food choices were based on what was easy, and somewhere along the line I started making choices based on what I thought was better for me. Little realizations hit me in waves throughout the entire trip.
I saw the decisions that my parents made and I realized that I am not doomed to my DNA. I am not doomed to diabetes like my father. I can change.