- Reflect on the Big 3 in your life: behavior, environment, and genetics as they relate to you right now. Please describe how you plan to use each of these to further your health and fitness goals.
- Why is body composition a better indicator of health as opposed to BMI?
- What are the main factors associated with obesity?
- Explain in your own words the importance of both nutrition and exercise for maintaining and achieving healthy body composition. Why can we not isolate one from the other?
Out genetics influence the way we speak, we feel, and we look, but our behavior is not only bound to the four chemical bases making up our genes. The combination of genetics and environment shapes us to be the way we are and behave the way we behave. It has been scientifically proved that in the nature vs. nurture debate, i.e. genetics vs. environment, the first one is the greater contributor. I cannot argue that the opposite is true. However, I do not think taking control over yourself, despite your nature is impossible. Growing up, I have always been overweight among my two other sisters. Over the years I have heard a lot about how an exact replica of my mom, who got overweight after giving birth to a total of six kids. I got her genes and I just surrendered to the fact that this is how I’m supposed to look, this is who I am. Fast forward to my teen years, I got taller. Taller than my mom and every other female I know. I am only 165cm (5'5") but the average female height in Saudi is much less than that, despite what is reported on the internet! Anyway, getting taller meant that my body looked a bit different. But I was still overweight, and I looked bulky whereas everyone was short and petite. This along with the thought that “it was my genes and I was built this way” though really discouraged me from making changes. Moving to the US showed me that: yes, I still got my mom’s genes, but that’s not all. the relationship between environment, behavior, and genetics is not a linear causal relation. Rather than that, it is cyclic. It is true that genetics could impose some biological barriers to our health, but the idea that my behaviors actually influence my environment, and thereby my biology is empowering. With that in mind, habitual small differences could have the greatest impact on our health. For me, that started with consuming mostly fruits and especially bananas, cutting out oils and sugars as much as possible, and seizing the chance to be active. The purpose of these changes was not to lose weight or to be healthy. it was just the result of the drastic change I had when I move to the US. Understanding how behavior and environment interact is a game-changer for me.
The reason body composition is a better indicator for health than BME is that it is more detailed information about fat and muscle percentages. therefore, it offers greater insights into own health whereas BMI only gives a general indication of obesity risk.
Genetics remains the main factor for obesity. Eating habits including nutrient intake, and physical activity are other factors that are equally important. Though we limited control over our genetics, eating and physical activity come hand in hand. Food fuels the body so that it can utilize its own strength. Depriving the body of the right nutrition by following a strict poor diet for example also deprives the body of the ability to exercise properly.