Lilo asked me that last night. Now, it must be said that I have taught them that the word “fat” is descriptive, not pejorative, (although I have told her it is pejorative to many people and thus should be avoided outside the family, just in case) so she wasn’t being rude in any way. She just wanted to know.
I told her I wasn’t sure. That she had lots of thin people in her extended family and if she got their genes then she would likely be thin. If she got my genes, she would be more likely to be fat. I also told her that either way exercise and eating good food would be the key to being healthy. She seemed okay with that. Then she said, “I think I would rather be skinny.”
It breaks my heart to admit it but I hope she will be thin, too.
It’s for the same reason a multiracial friend of mine is guilty/pleased her daughter is so fair skinned … she knows that it will make things a little easier on her. You may hate the sociocultural forces, be it fat-hate or racism or misogyny, that make up reality and you may strive all your life to change them – but while they are in play you want them to effect your kids as little as possible. You want every advantage for your child, even if you know those advantages are based in bullshit.
There is very little I can do if any of my daughters have gotten my fat gene. The amount of your body fat is mostly locked down by genetics. Those few people (less than 2% in some studies and as many as 5% in others) who can maintain thinness against their genetic imperatives must make “staying thin their life’s work, becoming Weight Watchers lecturers, for example, and, always, counting calories and maintaining themselves in a permanent state of starvation.” That looks hella fun right there. Of course this is detrimental to their health, since dieting constantly with little 5-10 pound weight cycling is horrible for your health, but at least they will be perceived of as healthy in our fat-hating mythos.
The knowledge that fat is mostly genetic doesn’t seem to penetrate into popular culture. Even when articles admit fat is in your DNA it is downplayed. A study that shows that people with ONE particular fat gene are 27% less likely to be obese is touted as proof you CAN control your genetic propensities, without reference to any other attenuating factors in genetics, socio-economic poverty, childhood abuse, or sleep disorders (all of which are proven to effect weight) and without seeming to notice that 62% of individuals with the FTO gene who exercise are still obese. Exercise is great for you even if your ass remains fat, but that is NOT as important as the chance you may not be obese! Sure, it is a less than 1 in 3 shot to avoid obesity, but lets focus on the fat-shaming positive! Let’s have headlines screaming that the “Genetic excuse for obesity is a myth: Fat gene can be beaten … at the gym”! Way to obfuscate and overstate there!
I can’t even tell Lilo her odds. As much as “80 percent of the offspring of two obese parents become obese, as compared with no more than 14 percent of the offspring of two parents of normal weight” but I can’t find the data on parents like me and Sweet Babou, where I am fat and he is not. Is it 50/50? Less? More? Even if she has the gene is she in the lucky 1/3 in whom it does not guarantee obesity?
All I can promise her is that I love her, and that she is a wonderful kid who shows every sign of being a wonderful adult. All I can do to help her is give her a habit of exercising and choosing good foods, so that her weight will not be as important as her health. All I can do to mentally prepare her (either way) is make sure she knows the data and will therefore be less likely to judge herself, or others, for adipose tissue.
I am doing all I can do.