"Genetics" have become a scapegoat for all sorts of diseases - obesity, cardiovascular problems, digestive problems, allergies, arthritis - basically, if you can think of a disease, it is likely you have heard someone refer to it having a genetic link. Genes are really just the coding of our individual bodies. Of course, some of this information is passed from generation-to-generation. This is obvious when comparing a newborn child to his/her parents.
While it is possible to share some of this "code" for diseases, in a vast majority of cases your genes do not define your performance in life. Just because your father and your grandfather have had histories of heart disease, does not mean you have to carry the torch like an Olympian. Most illnesses that can be chalked up to genes and "cured" by a doctors prescription are entirely avoidable through simple lifestyle changes.
As a species, we have become very comfortable, and even lazy at times, with answers to difficult questions that allow us to remove our own actions from the equation. I admit, it is far easier to blame many of life's woes on "genes," because for some this can translate to mean...
I don't have to be responsible for my actions, my diet, or my sedentary lifestyle...
Now, I am not looking to judge anyone who has managed to get themselves into a mess of diseases due to how they were brought up and decisions they have made. My perspective has changed over the years since I adopted a whole food, plant-based diet just a few years ago as I struggled with many health issues - most noticeably being significantly overweight.
In some ways, I could trace my overeating to certain events in life that just left me completely drained. As some of you may know, I built my house from scratch after buying the piece of property it currently exists on. But, not many know that I had to endure through this process twice over as when I was near completion on the house, a freak fire burned the whole thing to the ground. But, this is just a material thing.
More impactful as it pertains to this topic was the passing of my father at a relatively young age. I could continue to talk about the many other events in life that fueled the fire of bad habits. I am sure you could do the same.
Unfortunately, we never tend to just manage one health condition at a time either - instead for me, becoming overweight became paired with depression and other health challenges, which makes it far more difficult to get out of the rut. This may be a feeling you are all to familiar with.
Given that I have come out on the other side, where the grass is visibly greener, it is hard to ignore how much of the changes in my life and the removal of disease was rooted in simply changing my diet and starting to be more active. This revealed to me that these diseases were not just a hereditary thing, and that the sins of my father did not have to be passed on to me.
Understanding that disease is not in your genes should be a motivator to get you off the couch and starting to take your health into your own hands.
While we all will suffer with some degree of illness that cannot be avoided given that we all age and can expect to lose our physical bodies at some point, a lot of what we do can reverse current conditions and prevent future disease, which will no doubt impact the quality of life you have going forward. The key is treating yourself in the here-and-now as if you are alive - that is really the only way to better your health.
It is very important to know that by following a better diet and making some simple (but not always easy) lifestyle changes, you can see significant changes to your well-being in a relatively short period of time. As I have shown, age is not a factor in making this change, either.
By taking responsibility for your health - you have the capacity to reverse symptoms of the poor family traditions of passing on the seeds for an array of diseases. By plucking these "weeds" out of your body, you will inspire and help enable family and friends around you to do the same. One of the best motivators to better a life can come from seeing someone else do it that you are close too.
Your health is no longer just about yourself - but about everyone on the planet as we are all interconnected in one way or another.
My decision to change my diet and lifestyle is shared with you, and maybe this will inspire you to change yourself and help influence those around you, too.
From the way this sounds, health changes are less about the abstract genetic code passed from one generation to the next, but a personal experience that can bloom into a social one.
Feel free to comment if you need some words of encouragement to push through towards better health, or have any questions about how I made these changes in myself!