Once in a while, I’ll hear someone mentioning “it’s genetics” as the end-all reason for something—especially for strength, health, and physical fitness.
The funny thing was ten years ago I was the same way. I blamed genetics for everything I was frustrated by.
I thought I was skinny genetically, and that I’d be skinny forever, just like my skinny uncles and my skinny grandfather.
Then I gained over 51 pounds at my heaviest, settling down at 40 pounds heavier than I thought was “genetically” normal for me. When I gained 28 pounds in one month, it shattered my perception of “genetics.” I had been suffering from chronic tendinosis in both arms and alopecia in my beard—problems I thought I would face forever—now cured as my journey to being healthy continued.
Going through that process ended my “fixed mindset,” where our abilities/talents/interests are fixed and you’re born with them.
And it taught me the “growth mindset” and that we can choose to change.
I see it everywhere now. In fact, I’ve been trying to apply this type of thinking to nearly every problem I’ve faced and the problems that my clients have asked me for help with.
Here are some fun ones to think about when it comes to genetics and health and fitness.
Is bad eyesight genetic?
- “2016 study: “Increased UVB exposure associated with reduced risk of nearsightedness, particularly in teens, young.”
- Low-level laser therapy (a wavelength found in the sun) fixes age related macular degeneration, visual acuity in those with cataracts, etc. (2008 study)
- One of my favourites is a 2013 study where researchers made little chicks nearsighted or farsighted just by changing the colour of the lights they were raised in. Red lights made them nearsighted, and blue lights made them farsighted. “Manipulation of chromaticity may be applicable to the management of human childhood myopia.”
Is balding genetic?
- Why is hair loss linked to having an itchy scalp or dandruff (study.)
- Why is vertex baldness linked to heart disease in young men? (2013 study).
- Why does chlorine cause hair loss in mice? The same chlorine we swim and wash our hair in?
- Why does stress cause hair loss? (2004 study)
- Why can many men regrow hair by using low-level laser therapy (LLLT), which is just using a wavelength found naturally in the sun? (2013 study)
Is depression genetic?
- “2017 study: Major Depression Prevalence Increases with Latitude in Canada.” And Canada is way above the 37th parallel—also known as the vitamin D border.
- 2018 meta-analysis: “Fifty-four effects were derived from 33 randomized clinical trials involving 1877 participants. Resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms with a moderate-sized mean effect”.
- 2013: “normal adults tend to exhibit elevated serotonin levels in the late summer and fall, and reduced serotonin levels in the spring—likely in relationship to available sunlight.” And more: “an association between sunshine and serotonin is likely. Given that the relationship between sunshine and serotonin is probably a multimediated phenomenon, one contributory facet may be the role of sunshine on human skin.”
Are crooked teeth genetic?
- 2007 study: Over double the amount of crooked teeth since the 14th century in Norway.
- Dr Weston Price, a dentist, detailed his findings of studying pre-industrial versus industrial societies, and those in the pre-industrial societies all had perfect teeth with wide faces and were lean and healthy. (In one of our other articles, we talked about mouth breathing and tongue placement as a likely cause of crooked teeth.)
I could go on and on with examples, such as nutrient deficiencies like vitamin K, copper, zinc, and magnesium, which cause heart disease, lower testosterone, etc.
Genetics Do Matter
Anyways, I’m not saying that genetics don’t matter.
I will never be able to deadlift 1,104 pounds like Hafthor Bjornsson. But I have increased my deadlift by nearly 500% and now I’m way stronger than the average man, when I was previously way weaker than the average man.
I can’t remember the source, but a researcher was asked which plays a bigger role: genes or environment? Their answer was: “yes.”
Genetics x Environment
The example given, is when drawing a rectangle, genes are the “width,” and the environment is the “height.” They both play off of each other.
Genes matter. But so does environment, and we can choose to change the environment.
That is why I dislike the attitude that when it comes to nagging problems, that the case is closed and filed away in the genetics cabinet (which I bought into for the longest time.) No, sorry, you’ll always be in pain, that’s just the way it is. No, sorry, you’ll always be fat/skinny/insert-state-here, that’s just your genetics.
In our True Gains program, we try our best to tackle the big issues that cause stubborn belly-fat and makes the process of building muscle unnecessarily difficult. Fixing these issues will finally allow someone to become strong and lean.
This is why we cover issues like sunshine, nutrient deficiencies, and being sedentary in a “get big, get lean” program. They don’t seem directly related, but the effects are huge. It’s why we discuss screens and artificial light at night, and how it wipes out your recovery efforts, so you show up to your next gym session without getting any stronger (or worse, you got weaker.)
There’s a quote attributed to Henry Ford, which I love.
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”
There’s a good chance you can make huge improvements in whatever you’re facing, should you want to. But we’ll need to take personal ownership. We can’t lay it at the feet of our primary doctor, our mentors, or our friends.
Wishing you continued health, strength, success, and peace as we find our way through the year.