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Death, Taxes, and Body Shape

Just as death and taxes are inevitable, some aspects of your body condition are inevitable, too. You cannot change them, but you can make the best of them. They seem like barriers to achieving your ideal size, but they don't have to be. They are as follows: aging, genetics, hormones, menopause (for women), middle-age spread (for both men and women), and childbirth (for women).

The Aging Weight Myth

There is a popular myth about aging and weight that goes like this: as you get older, you get bigger. It's only a myth. You don't need to get bigger as you age. Plenty of older people have great bodies and enjoy eating and stay at their ideal size. Remember, all you need is one example of a myth not being true to know that it doesn't need to be true for you.

Does age affect body size and shape at all? Of course. In general, as we age, our metabolism naturally slows down. A slower metabolism means we burn calories more slowly. So, eating less food helps to avoid weight gain. But you can also keep your metabolism high through strength training and eating well nutritionally. We'll cover this in much greater detail later in the book.

Your Genes Don't Come from a Designer

You'll have to be content without designer “genes.” The genes passed down from your ancestors through your biological parents are yours forever, good and bad. You cannot change your genetics. But you can learn to make the most of what you've been given. (Yes, researchers are seeking the “fat” gene, but they still haven't found one that absolutely predicts obesity.)

Some aspects of heredity affect your body shape, but your genes alone can't make you fat. They determine your basic shape and height as well as your musculature. But heredity is only one of many factors that affect your shape and size.

An old adage tells us: if your parents and relatives are overweight, you will also be overweight. If you come from a “large” family, this can seem to be true. However, think back for a moment to how your family ate. What size portions did they expect you to eat? Were you required to clean your plate before you ate a treat, meaning dessert? Did the family center all celebrations around food and lots of it? Were you taught at an early age to seek out food for solace, celebration, and reward? Maybe it's not your genetics dictating your size but your family's attitude toward food and eating.

Behaviors in “fat” families are more likely to predict overweight offspring than genetics. You can, however, learn new eating habits. You can leave food on your plate; you can become a picky eater; and you can send your leftover food right down the garbage disposal. Isn't that what a garbage disposal is for?

In How to Avoid Holiday Overeating, you'll learn how to eat at family gatherings and have fun without overindulging … all while staying at your ideal size.

Aagh! Those Raging Hormones!

Hormones often get the blame for everything from obesity to thick thighs. Have you ever said to yourself, “If it weren't for my hormones, I would be able to lose this weight?” You're right in part, but only in part. Hormonal systems that are out of balance can wreak havoc on your weight-loss dreams. You could experience a slower metabolism, weight gain around your midsection, insulin resistance, and water retention, to name a few.

Lean Lingo

Hormones are made within the body to stimulate and regulate cellular and glandular functions. Perimenopause is the 10-12 year transition leading up to menopause. During this time the body's hormone production and metabolic rate slow down.

You have, however, considerable power to change your hormonal balance. A combination of proper and delicious nutrition, specific exercises, and plenty of sunshine on a regular basis can help keep your hormones in balance while freeing up excess stored fat.

You may have hormonal imbalances due to the surgical removal of glands such as the thyroid or ovaries. Replacement medications help. Work with your doctor to adjust your dosage so that you feel your best and have the most energy possible. Hormones definitely affect your weight, but you are not stuck with “bad” hormones. Your lifestyle makes a big difference.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss © 2005 by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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