More than a dozen factors impact body shape and size, not just diet and exercise

#RealMeKC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What causes a person’s body to be a certain size or shape? It’s not as simple as diet and exercise. In fact, the National Center for Biotechnology Information says those are just two factors of the more than a dozen that impact weight.

The factors range from what your mother ate while pregnant, to viruses you may have caught in your life, and medicines you take. It all means what makes the “real you” has less to do with what you do and more to do with what you’re made of.

Humans aren’t one-size fits all species. Some are tall, others are short. Some have dark hair, while others are fair. A lot of that depends on your genes.

“Genetics – my parents, what size were they? That is the number one thing,” Jennifer Anderson, a registered dietitian, said.

“My kids are on the shorter side. My husband and I are also on the shorter side. We accept that when it comes to height, but we don’t accept that when it comes to size, which is strange.”

Genes play a major role in weight, but so does your access to food and whether you’re food insecure.

“There are going to be times when you’re not going to have enough food or you’re going to be afraid you’re not going to have enough food and, therefore, you’re going to eat more than you

normally would,” Anderson said.  

“You may not be able to follow your hunger and fullness cues.”

Whether you’ve experience trauma, even as a child, could play an impact. That, and depression or other conditions you encounter early, can set someone on the path to obesity.

“Anxiety, as well as ADHD or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is something a lot of people don’t think about as related to obesity, but more and more research is coming out and showing the link. And I see it in my clinical practice all of the time,” Dr. Amy Beck, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital, said.

Experts also say where you grow up and even your ethnicity can affect your body weight in ways many never think about. In fact, the highest rates of childhood obesity are in our more diverse communities.

“One of the concepts that I think is so important for people to know when thinking about obesity, and honestly health in general, is what’s called social determinence of health. It is basically the conditions that we are born, live, grow, worship and age in. And it’s this idea that our zip code can actually have more impact on our overall health than our genetic code,” Dr. Beck said.

Experts say we need to talk about all of these things more because the attitude toward body size needs to change.

“The myth of personal responsibility. It doesn’t mean we don’t have any control over our life,” Anderson said.

Experts acknowledge physical activity and eating, both quantity and quality, affect a person’s body size. So, this is not to suggest those things don’t matter at all, but the experts we spoke with want to make sure people understand those are pieces of a much larger puzzle.  

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