I have not posted to DoctorPetty.com in a while, as I am finishing up my first book titled “65”. I literally cannot wait to get this book in front of the people who need it, therefore I am giving a little sneak peak. “65” is a book about the aging process that has been inspired by the thousands of hours I have spent with seniors. I have found that the best way to do well on this test called life is to study with those who have already taken the test. I hope to serve as many people as possible when the book is released. For now, I want to give you a little preview of a short “Quick Tip” from the book, and I hope you will give me some feedback. Thank you to any of you who take the time to read this….I appreciate you and hope this will be the start of something helpful to you and many others. God Bless!
(From the forthcoming book–“65” by Dr. Eric T. Petty)
“That’s just how God made me”
One of the most common excuses I hear people give for their condition is their “genetics.” “It runs in my family” or “That’s just how God made me,” are statements that I have become use to hearing from patients. What these patients do not realize, it is this type of belief that is moving them towards dependence. I agree that God made each of us different, and each of us have specific areas with our health for which we need to be more aware. However, when looking at certain conditions or diseases that we may be more susceptible to, we should not look at our genetic make-up as the cause for our negative conditions.
By definition, your genetics are your inherited characteristics. It is important to highlight that the word “characteristic” is a noun. In other words, there must be an action attached to these characteristics in order for them to actually be responsible for anything. My translation of the definition for genetics is: your genetics are a product of how God made you. With this translation in mind, you may be able to see why I cringe every time I hear someone blame their issues on their genetics—how can you blame a noun for an outcome without including blame for the verb that put the noun in its active form?
With all due respect to the late/great Whitney Houston, she is a perfect example of how your actions have total control over your genetics. Many of us will agree, Whitney Houston was blessed with one of the greatest voices of all time—her voice was a part of her genetic make-up. Early in her career, she treated this characteristic with care and, therefore, she became one of the most successful singers of all time. It was her actions that allowed her voice to shine. On the other hand, later in her career, we watched her actions change for the worse. Once Whitney Houston stopped nurturing her gift and allowed negative actions to take over, we all listened to one of the greatest voices fade into mediocrity. Did Whitney Houston’s genetics change? Or did her actions change?
“If someone made a mistake in this equation, who do you think it was-you or God?”
No matter what example you look at, it will be the actions that create the outcome. I sometimes like to compare nouns to a quadriplegic who is paralyzed from the neck down—similar to a quadriplegic, the noun cannot take action on its own, it needs help. Unless a verb comes along to help a noun take action, that noun cannot move. When it comes to genetics (a noun), there will always be at least two verbs involved: On the front end, for each of us, the verb will be “created,” which is God’s part. On the back end, the verb for genetics will require you to fill in the blanks. The verb that you put in the blank will let us know what you are doing with your genetics. I believe, it is this verb which usually tells the story of why people are in the situations they are in. If someone made a mistake in this equation, who do you think it was-you or God? Did God cause Whitney Houston’s voice to fade or did her actions cause her to lose her gift?
I often ask patients questions like: “Were you born with high cholesterol and high blood pressure?” The answer to this question is always “no!” Based on this conclusion, we would have to surmise that conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol are not conditions that we inherit, but rather conditions that we earn. I believe the evidence is very clear; it is not your genetics which cause you to suffer, but rather, it is your habits. While many people will proclaim that High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, or Cancer runs in their family, I would suggest that poor eating habits may also run in their family. For example, the family who is raised on eating every part of the pig should look at the data on how meat is digested and some of the parasites that can be found in various cuts of pork. I also suggest that you check to see if your habits are consistent with the risk factors listed for a disease before you proclaim that God simply decided to bestow High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, or Cancer upon your family tree.
My feelings about genetics vs. habits do not always go so well when I speak to patients in person. However, as the saying goes, “the truth sometimes hurts!” In the thousands of hours in which I have worked with seniors and their families, I have noticed that there are many instances where one family member breaks away from family traditions. This family member will be labeled as somewhat of a “black sheep”. In a few cases, this “black sheep” has been a twin or a sibling and was very close in age to other family members. In most cases the “black sheep” was viewed by the other members of the family as one who simply got lucky and did not inherit the genetics of the family. However, it was very apparent that the black sheep, almost always, walked a different path than their family members—they ate differently, they thought differently, they acted differently. I believe it to be obvious, these various “black sheep” did not just get lucky with their genetics, but rather, they took control of their destiny with their habits. Observing the behaviors of many fit and healthy individuals within families who struggle with obesity and health difficulties, has shown me that it is not about your genetics, it is more about what you do with your genetics.
I know I can go overboard with analogies at times, but I like to compare genetics to a car. If you buy a fancy car which recommends “premium gasoline only,” but you ignore this recommendation from the car manufacturer and repeatedly give the car regular gasoline, what do you think will happen over time? What if you take that same car and decide to ride through the rough terrain of a forest, even though you only have front wheel drive? What happens if you constantly slam on your brakes causing your tires to skid and your brakes to grind? What if you decide to skip most of the scheduled maintenance for this car? In the end, this car will not last you very long and it will likely run poorly based on how you take care of it. Now, you can take this car back to the dealer and tell him he sold you a bad car, but the truth is, you were a bad owner. Many people treat their bodies, just as I have described the treatment for this car! Then, once their body is all messed up, they want to blame the manufacturer and say “it’s the way I was made!” Is this what you are doing to your body?
“When you notice that a food causes your belly to swell significantly, will you stop eating it? If Colon Cancer or Heart Failure runs in your family, will you stop cooking with Grandma’s recipes?”
As you live your life, understand that each of us are different. Some can quickly metabolize certain foods that others will retain in their bodies for years. The person who metabolizes the food quickly may be able to continue eating that food. The person who retains that food will develop an increased risk for disease if they continue the habit of eating that food. (i.e. some cars need regular gasoline, some need premium, and some need diesel) Your body will give you clues as to what is right for you–the question is, will you listen? When you notice that a food causes your belly to swell significantly, will you stop eating it? If Colon Cancer or Heart Failure runs in your family, will you stop cooking with Grandma’s recipes? Choosing to ignore feedback from your body and taking the same path as those who came before you will likely cause you to suffer the same fate. This phenomenon of following in a person’s footsteps and getting the same result is not about your genetics!
In the end, you can choose what you will focus on in order to have a healthy existence: You can choose to blame all of your problems on uncontrolled variables, like age and genetics, as the reasons for you being powerless in the process of aging. Or, you can choose to focus on the controlled variables in your life (i.e. your habits), which are more likely to be guiding your path.
Ultimately, I suggest you take the time to learn about yourself and treat your body the way God intended. Trust, if there are errors that lead to your premature dependence or death, it is much more likely that those errors were made by you, and not by HIM.