Genetics and Fatlogic

DNA representation

It is generally accepted that about 2% of obesity is caused by a pre-existing genetic condition that a person can’t do anything about. (As contrasted with a “condishun,” the Reddit discussion website’s term for cop-out.) There is a wide gap between that figure and the approximately 2/3 of Americans who are overweight.

But what about all those new discoveries? The two most recent posts of Childhood Obesity News have outlined many of the advances in genetic science as it relates to obesity. Maybe when all the evidence is in, genetics will be found to be responsible for far more than 2% of obesity cases. For example, addiction seems to be genetically determined, so it could be argued that the number of food addicts alone would dramatically raise the proportion of genetic obesity victims.

Indeed, one Reddit correspondent contends that food craving is a function of heredity, adding:

I feel that perhaps there is an element of predisposition in how people crave food. So maybe it isn’t quite wrong for a fat person to contend that some of their obesity has to do with ‘genetics’ if it’s a lot harder for them to stop eating than another person.

Then another user steps in to rebut the suggestion:

Hormones like Leptin and Ghrelin have a genetic component. The thing is – Alcoholism, by all modern accounts, is also an addiction with genetic components. But the fact it’s harder for an alcoholic to moderate drinking than a normal person does not excuse or make alcoholism acceptable. The same is true with Obesity. Genetics may load the gun, but you fire it.

A person called “teckreddit” talks about growing up with everybody telling him he looked like his grandfather, Piggy, who died of a heart attack at 53. Consequently, the grandson always believed that his own large size was inevitable. But swearing not to pass on the myth to his kids, he writes:

When I look at my son and see that he’s not “big boned” or “heavy set” or any of that crap, it really made me wonder how much of my youthful overweightness was a result of simply accepting the genetics fat logic that my parents let me believe…. Fat logic is a scourge upon mankind.

Another story comes from yet another person who is still upset because his parents told him that being overweight was genetic,  and therefore not his fault. A certain kind of kid might interpret this as a get-out-of-jail-free card, the perfect justification not to try for a normal weight. A different type of kid might catch a case of terminal hopelessness, and end his life. The anonymous writer says,

I wish that they would have raised me with better eating habits, it would have saved me from a lot of hardship in my life. I wanted to be just like my dad as a kid, so this included over eating and not any exercise…. I was big because my dad was big, but genetics had nothing to do with it.

A person called “under_analysis” enumerates all the obese family members who assured her that her little-girl chubbiness would naturally melt away. Time passed, the “baby fat” stayed, and she was told that the family’s heredity just made everybody big, and it had to be accepted, until…

…I started losing weight in college and realized how easy it was. My mom’s parents died and we went through their things, and I saw pictures of my great-grandparents and none of them were overweight, not at all. Funny how those “genetics” suddenly mutated out of nowhere with my grandmother, huh?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Philosophical question about genetics / fatlogic from a skinny person,”, October 2014
Source: “Genetics and my fat-logic parents,”, October 2014
Source: “I’m a pe teacher who needs advice about a morbidly obese student,”, January 28, 2014
Image by Andy Leppard


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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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