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Do fat mothers make for fat daughters?

Is your mother a good few dress sizes above that worn by an average woman, and has she a body shape made up of rolls of fat? And if so, what are the chances that you will also end up fat and caught up in a life-long battle with the flab?

According to research, you are 10 times more likely to be chronically overweight and in an ongoing struggle to lose weight than a girl who has an average-weight mum.

Studies have found that girls whose mothers are clinically obese, and boys whose fathers are similarly unhealthily overweight, are more likely to follow suit and put on an undesirable amount of weight and at a very young age.

However, and very interestingly, the UK EarlyBird Diabetes Study found that a similar correlation does not exist between mothers and sons, or between fathers and their daughters.

So, does this suggest that obesity comes from learned behaviour, with girls copying their mum's poor lifestyle choices, eating as she does and doing little or no exercise? Are boys similarly adopting the destructive living habits of their overweight dads?

Obesity would not seem to be down to inherited genetic factors because fat mothers are no more likely to have fat sons and fat dads do not, in general, have fat daughters.


The EarlyBird Study tracked 300 children over 12 years in the hope of discovering why diabetes -- which in the case of Type 2 is associated with obesity -- is on the increase in youngsters.

The data collected by the researchers found that 35pc of eight-year-old girls whose mothers were classed as obese were also obese, compared to 8pc of the daughters of women who were overweight and 5pc of girls whose mothers were classed as normal weight.

Meanwhile, in the case of the boys, 17pc of those whose fathers were obese also suffered with the condition, compared with 5pc of the sons of overweight men and 3pc of those with normal weight fathers.

The study concluded that the daughter of an obese woman is 10 times more likely to be obese than a girl with a mother of normal weight and that the son of an obese father is six times more likely to be obese than the son of a normal weight man.

The study also concluded that the days of blaming being fat on your genes are gone. Genetic inheritance is no excuse for being fat, because children's weight problems bear no relationship to obesity in their opposite-sex parent, the research scientists found.

The study's director, Professor Terry Wilkin, stated: "The clearly defined gender-assortative pattern which our research has uncovered is an exciting one because it points towards behavioural factors at work in childhood obesity.


"These findings could turn our thinking on childhood obesity dramatically on its head. Money and resources have focused on children over the past decade in the belief that obese children become obese adults, and that prevention of obesity in children will solve the problem in adulthood.

"EarlyBird's evidence supports the opposite hypothesis -- that children are becoming obese due to the influence of their same-sex parents."

In other words, fat mums influence their daughters' lifestyles, in terms of food intake and exercise, and this influence often results in their daughters making unhealthy choices, and also ending up several dress sizes bigger than the average woman.

Better nutritional education and more emphasis on exercise are considered to be the best way to break this link. With genetic predisposition not playing a large role in determining your overall appearance, it means you yourself can control the type of body shape you end up with.

A good starting place is to begin to track the foods you eat throughout a day, including portion sizes, for the duration of one week. And ask yourself how your current eating habits reflect what you ate as a child. For example, did your mum snack throughout the day and have a large dessert after dinner each evening, and are you now eating food in the same way, and without questioning the effect such habits are having on your waist?

At the end of a week of tracking your diet, you will be more conscious of the amount and types of foods which you are eating and will see where your calorie intake is largest and most lacking in nutrition.

The following week, you can aim to add more fruits and vegetables than the previous week, and cut back on portion sizes so that you are eating less calories.

Another area in which you can easily make a change is exercise. Again, look at the amount of exercise you get weekly. Are you, perhaps, and just like your mum, spending most of your free time sitting in front of the telly, computer or chatting on the phone. Going on a 30-minute walk each day of the next week would make a huge difference to your weight and to your outlook on life.

By exercising more as part of your lifestyle, and in conjunction with eating more low-calorie foods, you will begin to see improvements.

You could also go to the gym and do cardio exercises to burn off the extra calories, or work out with weights to develop lean muscles and improve your chances of achieving a slim physique.


In other words, a daughter need not end up fat like her mum. You can start to make easy changes to your lifestyle that will help you to build muscle, eat better and create the body that you want, rather than following in your mother's footsteps.

Saying that you are genetically predisposed to being fat is no longer a viable excuse for being overweight.

Instead, an increasing number of studies show that weight gain is down to adopting your overweight mother's lifestyle choices, and has nothing to do with genetic inheritance. So weight loss is down to living a more healthy lifestyle than she does -- or better still, persuade your mum to ditch the junk food and sedentary lifestyle and join you in losing weight and taking regular exercise.