Do you ever have those days when you feel like you’re too thin or too fat, and some days when you’re like, “Hell yeah, I’m just right!” How you answer this modern-day Goldilocks dilemma may have little to do with your body shape and everything to do with your genes, according to a new study. Who knew that compulsively asking “Do these pants make my butt look big?” could be an inherited trait?
Over 400 genes have been associated with weight, and depending on your unique genetic profile, your genes account for anywhere from 25-80 percent of your weight, according to previous research done by Harvard. But if the body positivity movement has taught us anything, it’s that how much you weigh is just a number—how you feel about it is what’s important. And after looking at data from over 20,000 people in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health, the researchers concluded that genetics don’t just influence a person’s weight. They can also factor into how they feel about it.
The findings, published in Social Science & Medicine, reported that on a scale of 0 to 1, with 0 being no genetic influence and 1 meaning genetics are totally responsible, “feeling fat” ranked as 0.47 heritable, meaning that genes play a very significant role in body image.
“This study is the first to show that genes may influence how people feel about their weight,” said lead author Robbee Wedow, a doctoral student at Colorado University-Boulder, in a press release. “And we found the effect is much stronger for women than men.”
This is important, Wedow added, because attitude is everything: How people feel about their health in general can be an important predictor of how long they will live. If you’re convinced you’re too thin or too heavy, then you may give up trying to improve your health. Whereas if you can recognize those feelings as a genetic quirk, you can take steps to deal with them and move on.
“One’s own perception about his or her health is a gold standard measure—it predicts mortality better than anything else,” said co-author Jason Boardman, a member of CU Boulder’s Institute of Behavioral Science. “But those who are less flexible in assessing their changing health over time may be less likely than others to make significant efforts to improve and maintain their health.”
In other words, when it comes to health our weight is important—but perhaps not as important as how we feel about it. So even if your genetics are making you feel a little funky from time to time, it’s important to remember that at the end of the day you are in charge of your emotions.