“If you want an idea of what you’ll look like when you get older, guys take a peak at your parents’ brothers and girls have gander at their sisters,” my sixth grade science teacher sang excitedly as she taught us about genetics.
I gulped, as my eyes grew wide. This wasn’t because my aunts aren’t beautiful, because I’d be the first person to brag about how fabulous my aunts are, but because I have a couple of heavy-set aunts who struggle with health issues in which their weight play a large role. For those few weeks that we explored genetics I learned how great an impact DNA could have on a person’s health and future and I was a bit mortified.
Although sixth grade feels like ancient history now, that particular lesson never left me. As the years rolled by, this simple science lesson became more and more of a reality for me. Witnessing my aunts suffer from sicknesses such as diabetes and hypertension was troubling, but experiencing the death of my very vibrant twenty-eight-year-old cousin — who was also overweight and who died as a result of complications stemming from diabetes — served as the ultimate wake-up call. I didn’t want this to be my fate.
As I matured I realized that this didn’t have to be my story. Yes, genetics play somewhat of a role in future development, but so does free will. Once I reached this revelation I was determined to break the cycle. I refused to fall victim to my family’s poor health history knowing I possessed the power to change it.
I was aware that my naturally thick thighs and curvy hips, which seemed okay for the moment, had the potential to become out control in the future. So, my pursuit for a healthier lifestyle began. At first, I became extremely fixated on not becoming overweight and was on any and every crash diet one could imagine. I eventually saw the error in my ways and realized that my family was not sick because they were overweight.
It was my aunts poor diet and nutrition habits, which made them overweight and contributed to their health issues. Being content with the number that you see on the scale doesn’t equate with good health. Coming to this realization was when my quest for healthier living truly began.
I began to educate myself on the effects that physical inactivity had on human health and pushed myself to become more active. I read up on the effects that poor diets had on the health of women of color in particular and decided to do something about it by pushing myself to eat better and learning to prepare healthier dishes.
I made sure that I was mindful of staying on top of yearly health screenings and alerting my physician of my family’s health history.
A healthy lifestyle is still a journey that I have yet to master, but it is something that I will continue to work at not just for myself, but also for the future generations to come.