Friday, July 18, 2014

Blame DNA for Our Desire to Eat and NOT Run

I blamed my parents and grandparents for my food cravings, believing they were imbedded in my brain and stomach when young, contributing undesirably to my health, well-being, waistline, and pocketbook.

A recent essay in The Wall Street Journal lifted a guilt-ridden chip off my shoulder.

Now I owe my relatives an apology.

I am weak, but realize it is not my fault.

DNA is the culprit.

Life was not easy for our ancestors. They could not drive to the nearest supermarket and pick up shopping carts full of ready-made, easy-to-prepare foods. 

They hustled for their nourishment, spending long hours hunting, fishing, and foraging for grains, fruits and veggies.

In cold weather they huddled in shelters attempting to keep warm. Arguments probably occurred over who was going to go out in the cold seeking food.

“We need more wood for the fire. Go get some, and while you’re out kill something for dinner.”
“I was going to paint with the guys. You go out and find some meat and kill’em. I’m staying here.”
“You‘re so lazy. I am sick of you spending so much time with your buddies painting graffiti on my cave walls…”
”OK, OK, I’ll see what I can find. Maybe I can coax a couple of rabbits out.”
“I am tired of rabbit. How about deer for a change?”
“I’m not traipsing through the snow stalking deer in this weather…”

Weather, disease, and man-made disasters led to unpredictable food supplies. Our DNA compensated by directing us to binge when food was available and then rest, storing energy until needed. Those reserves got us through lean food times, allowed us to outrun animal or human enemies, provided padding during long, cold winters, and met whatever other eventualities humans faced threatening their survival.

Our predecessors learned to farm and raise livestock. People enjoyed leisure time. Food consumption became a form of entertainment synonymous with fun, gratification, and good times.

An indulgence of the rich – having more than enough to eat - filtered down to the common man and woman.

Fast forward to the 20th century. Scientists began working miracles with food, producing such wonders as Wonder Bread, Oreo cookies, soda, chips, gummy bears, ice cream, chocolate kisses…

And the most wondrous of all, the invention our civilization will be known and praised for, a creation societies will duplicate throughout our world and possibly other worlds and pass down through the ages –

Fast food and the eateries pushing providing fast food.

The products of food science and fast food are a staple of many people’s diet nowadays, allowing populations of the developed world to transform into overweight, sedentary beings.

Studies detail the destructiveness of the modern regimen, and they have influenced the logical, left side of my brain. Indulging in sugar and fat is harming my body. Our car-centric lifestyles utilize minimal calories. We have to reach deep within our psyche to rouse ourselves and move.

But the goodies are so hard to resist.

And it is not my fault.

Our DNA rocks on, urging us to gorge and rest, while our intellect attempts to move us in a healthier direction.

So where does that leave us?

Fighting instinct, individuals fighting a war our culture is not yet winning.

But now I know who – or rather, what - to blame, and who not to blame.

Sorry, Mom, Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. It’s not your fault! 


  1. i knew there was a perfectly logical explanation.

  2. It is amazing how much our world has changed from the "old" days, isn't it? I fight the Battle of the Bulge every single day. And it's been ages since I've eaten in a fast food restaurant. Glad to know it's not my fault but my DNA's fault. Oh, wait... :-)

  3. Ahhh!
    We might have a cultural explanation for our cravings and habits; but we are still stuck with the consequences of our decisions. I blame the food industry for caring too much about their profits, and not the health benefits/liabilities they were producing. After all, they invented the perfect combination of fat/sugar/salt to stimulate our cravings for more and more...

  4. I like your analysis, but I wouldn't let mom and dad off the hook so easily. There are many reasons why we gain weight. I blame DNA, Mom and Dad, the food industry, my spouse, my dog ... everybody but me!