You can’t fight your genetics. You’re the recipient of what your mother and father gave you, for better or worse.
But you don’t have to settle for your genetics either.
Some people have less than ideal genetics when it comes to managing a healthy bodyweight. There’s more than a 75% chance children between 3-10 will be overweight if both parents are obese, and they’ll likely be overweight adults (see study). Those aren’t impossible odds, but they sure do suck. This means if your parents were obese you’re going to, quite possibly, be overweight and will have a tougher time losing weight than someone whose parents weren’t obese.
In this case, the odds are stacked against you, and you have your genetics to thank.
Allow me to tout my genetic advantage in this instance: my genetics are a contributing factor that make staying lean fairly easy. I don’t have to put as much effort into maintaining a lean body, nor must I be as strict with my nutrition, as many women I work with. Don’t hate me, because I had nothing to do with it — blame my mom and dad; it’s their fault. (It’s important to note I follow simple principles to ensure I stay strong and healthy. I eat well and train hard, and do these things consistently.)
Allow me to bring myself down a notch after flaunting my innate lean-maintenance advantage. Know what I’m not genetically inclined for? Big boobs. I know what you’re thinking: I could just buy bigger boobs, thus not settling for my genetics, and you’d be right. But guess what I still can’t get, even with a breast augmentation: cleavage. The way my breasts are mounted on my body, I couldn’t get cleavage even with extra cups sizes piled on.
I could go to the plastic surgeon, order the Dolly Parton Boobie Special, and even though I’d have voluptuous flesh mountains, newly discovered back pain from hauling my new boobie-boulders around, and the occasional black eye from jumping before thinking about the inevitable eye-bashing repercussions, I still wouldn’t have cleavage. This is one, of many things, I’m not genetically inclined for.
My fictitious holy hell these things might smother the dog! ta-tas aside, let’s get back to talking about your genetics. Maybe you have five-star cleavage, but your genetics make losing weight more challenging. So …
Your Genetics Suck. Now, Try to Get Over It.
You may have crappy genetics. Heck, you may wish you had crappy genetics — perhaps yours are extraordinarily crappy.
Telling you to “get over” your less than ideal genetics may be a bit abrasive, but complaining about how piss-poor your genetics are, thus making certain goals more difficult to achieve, accomplishes nothing.
You may be below average when it comes to the ability to lose weight, or even build muscle, get stronger, or display power. Perhaps you’re woefully uncoordinated.
Maybe you’re naturally gifted in the physical realm, but you may not be a quick learner and therefore must study more than some of your classmates; it may take longer to learn skills in general. (This is me: I’m not a “quick learner.”)
You may have something genetically working against you when it comes to physical health, learning ability, personality traits, or anything else. We all have shortcomings of some type sewn into the fiber of our DNA. No one is exempt. If someone claims to be exempt, they’re a liar, and probably an ass-hat.
You Don’t Have to Settle
But the truth remains irrespective of your genetic predisposition — you don’t have to settle. You can improve; you can get stronger; you can thrive; you can learn. Granted, you may have to work harder and possibly find creative ways to achieve similar results compared to other people, but you can make progress.
It goes without saying some things you can change, but some you can’t. You need to know, and accept, the difference. You can lose weight and improve your health, even if it’s harder for you than most. You can’t, however, alter your skeleton and narrow your hips or stretch your legs, or shrink your 9.5 size feet that are too big for your five-foot-six body. (During my teenage growth-spurt my feet didn’t get the memo that I’d barely reach five-foot-six, and just kept growing.)
Don’t complain about your genetics or how hard you must work to make discernible progress. This is fruitless. In the words of Seneca, the man ordered by Nero to commit suicide, “How does it help … to make troubles heavier by bemoaning them?”
Don’t complain about how hard or impossible it seems to lose weight, increase your knowledge, master a new skill, or achieve anything else — just do the work. And more, if necessary.
This — doing the work — is the only thing that will lead to results.
Complaining is excess baggage that weighs you down, and slows you down. Release it from your grasp, and never pick it up again.
We live in a world that praises those who seem to accomplish things with ease — raw talent is valued highly. If someone admits to working relentlessly and tediously, it’s seen as a sign of weakness, or being inferior to someone who makes the same task appear effortless. (It’s important to note that some people work brutally hard, but intentionally make it look like they achieved those results easily. Observer, beware.)
Hard work is not to be despised or dreaded. Good things do not come easy. Don’t fear effort or perseverance, or having to fight and claw your way toward a goal. Your genetics may give you an extra obstacle to overcome, but you don’t have to settle.
It’s Not All Bad News
This genetic discussion appears rather bleak from me saying your genetics may suck. It shouldn’t because, again, everyone has challenges. Regardless of your genetic endowments, or lack thereof, there’s a positive flipside to this “can’t fight, but don’t have to settle for your genetics” discussion.
Just as we all have shortcomings, we all have natural advantages. Might as well exploit them!
Strengthen your strengths — neutralize your weaknesses. Dr. Krista Scott-Dixon said this to me, and it’s been seared in my brain since.
What are your natural strengths, abilities, or just things you generally enjoy doing?
Maybe you enjoy getting stronger at the gym, but losing body fat seems like a painfully sluggish process. Strengthen your strength: keep training hard and continue improving your performance. Perhaps your weakness is nutrition; make one simple change you can adhere to long-term with your eating habits.
Maybe you want to learn a new skill or increase your knowledge, but you absorb new material slowly. You may have to read each chapter twice and take notes by hand to get the information to stick and make sense. (I did this in college — it was the only way for me to progress from rote memorization to truly understanding the material. I also recorded lectures and spent hours transcribing and studying notes.)
Strength training provides numerous magnificent benefits, and it’s a tremendous outlet for discovering your innate abilities. Everyone will naturally excel at certain strength training exercises due to their genetics (i.e., your anthropometry) and other lifts will progress more slowly. Personally, I’m naturally good at deadlifting, and the bench press is one of my stronger lifts too. Squats, however, have always been my weakest lift and progress slower. Adding five pounds to my squat is no small feat whereas dang near anything boosts my deadlift.
The lesson here: don’t hesitate to take what you’re good at/what you enjoy and become great at it. We can’t change our genetics. We don’t have to succumb to them, and we shouldn’t be afraid to exploit them either.
If your genetics suck, I prod you to get over it and do something. What else can you do anyway? If something is important to you, acknowledge you may have to work harder than most to achieve that goal. That may be your reality. Accept it, embrace it, and then get to work.