it’s not my fault, I swear

During Day 2 of the massive 3,800 km road trip from Toronto to Las Vegas, I saw this billboard. I believe it was somewhere in Nebraska. But it may have been in Iowa.  Those two states were one big blur to me, thanks to a scorching sun beating down during my topless drive through the heartland.

obesity billboard

The billboard caught my eye, mostly because it gave me something to look at other than corn fields, and it was a diversion from the only other billboard that kept popping up along the route, one advertising an Adult Superstore. I guess there was only one in the general vicinity, so they had to get the word out early and often to give patrons lots of time to pre-plan for the exit (#159, for those so inclined).

I sat silently for a moment as I reflected on the message. And then I exploded with a verbal vomit all over Mr. Enthusiasm who, at first confused, finally caught up with the tour and allowed me to finish my diatribe.

Yes, I believe that certain people are predisposed to adding and retaining fat. We see evidence of this in the different body types (somatotypes): Ectomorph, Mesomorph and Endomorph. But whether you are born with a ‘fat gene’ or not doesn’t mean you are magically absolved of all responsibility when it comes to YOUR body and YOUR health.

This billboard pisses me off because it implies that genetics are the sole and determining factor as to why people are fat.



See, I’m getting mad all over again just writing about this.

Look, my genes may have predisposed me to storing more fat than the next guy, but make no mistakes: I was fat and unhealthy because I made bad choices.  I chose not to exercise. I chose to eat unhealthy foods. I chose to turn to starvation-like diets to solve my problems because hey, these are my genes and this is the hand I’ve been dealt.

Until I made a decision to hold myself accountable for my own life there is no way change would have been possible.

Sure, the choices I’m making now are hard. Working out every day is hard. Especially after 14-15 hours in a car three days in a row. But it’s what I need to do because I might have ‘the fat gene’. If I don’t want to be fat and unhealthy I have to work for it. The fact that other people are more genetically blessed and don’t have to work as hard …it is what it is.

Sometimes life isn’t fair. Deal with it.



There will always be excuses. There will always be something unfair to complain about.

Magic happens…change happens…when we decide to take control of our outcomes. And yes, that involves work. Get over it. Stop blaming your parents for your bad genes and start making lifestyle changes that will improve your life.

During one of our pit stops, at a Cracker Barrel in Omaha, NE, a father and young daughter were seated at the table next to ours. We were finishing our meal as they placed their order. The girl, around age 9 or 10, asked for “just Fried Apples and Bacon, please”.  My head spun around like little Regan’s did in The Exorcist. I expected, no hoped, that the dad would say something to encourage her to choose something a bit healthier. No dice. Oh, and she chased that breakfast of champions down with a tall glass of Coke. At 9:00 am.

Later that day, about 3 hours outside of Denver, we stopped in a Wal-Mart near the NE/CO border to grab some bottled water and fresh fruit. Mr. Enthusiasm caught the following exchange between a young couple, shopping with their 2 toddler-aged kids. “Fruit is SO expensive!”. He glanced at their cart, which contained: a case of Coke, a 12-pack of donuts, and several bags of potato chips.

Look, I don’t really care if there is a fat gene or not. When you make the choice to order fried apples, bacon and coke for breakfast or to buy donuts instead of apples, because they’re cheaper[!], that’s all on YOU. That’s got nothing to do with your genetic makeup and everything to do with your sorry-ass choices.

That billboard was full of shit. We all have the power to choose.

Stop making excuses.

Keep moving!

xoxo nancy

67 thoughts on “it’s not my fault, I swear

  1. hear hear!!

    with the exception of a tiny tiny percentage of people who genuinely can’t help it most of the time it is a choice!

    I am working hard to get over my bad choices and but they were my choices, I have no idea if i have a fat gene of any sort of predisposition…I do know that I made the choice to eat a truck load of sugar and pizza…

    The fried apple girl sadly thought it was a healthy choice…it was fruit after all :-S

  2. That billboard angered me too, and the story of the fried apples and donuts. Sure, it’s cheaper to eat poorly but it will be more expensive in the long run for these individuals and the government when they all have diabetes and heart disease. Ugh! This is why I love the show “Extreme Weight loss”, it takes these people and shows them how to cook healthier and get their butts to the gym! Good for you for staying on track when on vacation, I know that can be super difficult.

    • The only thing we have control over in life is how we react to our circumstances. I choose to hold myself accountable. Thanks for taking the time to comment. It means the world to me!

  3. Nancy,

    When I read that the obesity was changed from a condition to a disease I was livid. How much and what you eat is a choice. As a walker and hiker (no more running for my back) one of the things I have observed is you don’t see a lot of overweight people out walking let alone going for a hike….leaves me wondering why? (Sarcasm Alert) Maybe they are too busy in front of their TV downing those chips, soda and donuts for desert. Imagine what it is going to cost us to provide heath care for these people who make bad choices? Something is seriously wrong. Did you know that in Europe they have French Fry vending machines and they are extremely popular? I just finished my apple and I better get back to work. Thanks for the picture of the billboard. I will have to avoid exit 159 if I’m ever out that way.


    • As with many things in life, I suppose it’s easier to play the victim rather than admit your culpability. i.e. I’m fat because I have the disease. Not I’m fat because I eat potato chips every day.

      Admitting to my bad choices isn’t easy – but honestly, the most empowering day of my life was the day I decided to take control of my situation. I refuse to let my genes dictate who I am.

      Hoping your apple wasn’t fried. 😉 Enjoy your day – and thanks for taking the time to comment!

      • Blaming someone else for our problems seems to be the norm in our culture. Sad but true.

        The apple was in a natural state, juicy and crisp…not fried. But I do hate mushy apples.

    • Ooops…was I too harsh? Not my intent…not really, anyway. I guess I’m just done with this woe-is-me attitude and everyone (my former self included) looking for the silver bullet, the magic pill, the easy answer. Good luck on your trek! When are you heading to Spain?

      • HARSH? No way! I see the restaurant items all the time. OMG, the worst orders are by people that have to sit in two chairs. Ha. Bad Genes you know…….. The Bus leaves for Madrid in 27 days. Wahoo. I have been going to Physical Therapy for my bad genes. Not kidding. I have Duypuytrens (sp) Contracture on my left pinky finger. It is a genetic thing that people of Northern Europe decent are prone to get. That would be me. A couple of Surgeries and my pinky is sort of functional again. Anyhow, The owner of the Therapy shoppe is going to the Camino in two years. My Therapist wants to go and two PTA’s want to also.

        BTW, I grew up right across the lake from Toronto. I could see the top of the CN tower from the cottage on the lake. That was about 4 miles East of Youngstown NY. I was just a hick kid living on a farm. Couldn’t wait to leave. Now I have spent a lifetime trying to figure out how to get back. Ha , Go Figure !

        Buen Camino girlfriend.

      • That’s awesome that your pinky is getting better. I’m sure you’ll be needing all fingers and thumbs for your journey!
        What a small world! We live right on the lake, just east of the city – so I could probably make it to Youngstown in a jiffy (if I had a bridge!).
        Buen Camino!

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  5. This is awesome. Beautiful. Real. Well-written and thought-provoking. I absolutely love your posts. I’m thrilled/honored that something I wrote inspired you.

    I read this on my phone while taking a break from painting yesterday. It gave me something to think about as I faced the beautiful monotony of the task. I thought about the “fat gene” and self-pity and ignorance. *

    I had to ask myself if I had the fat gene. I’m pretty sure I don’t. I gain weight evenly so even my extra twenty pounds did not make me look super heavy. (Don’t hate on me. It just means my pile of shit to deal with is in a different place – and it doesn’t smell any better, I promise you).

    But if it’s all just genetics, then I probably have the “anxiety gene”, the “self-pity” gene, the “depression gene”, and the “pretty sucky childhood gene”.

    In a previous life, I worked for a cognitive screening company. We helped detect early signs of dementia. So I studied (and still love to read) books about the human brain. They make new discoveries every day. My favorite one is that we can change our brains. Yes, we have connections that “cause” us to do certain things. But we can weaken those connections and even change our genetic make up with new connections (I wish I could include a link with a reference here but if you do a lot of research on current brain science, you’ll find it),

    Have you seen that Ethan Hawke (and Jude Law and Uma Thurman) movie Gattaca? It is one of my favorites because it’s all about not letting your predetermined limitations keep you from your dreams.

    We are not our “limitations”. We are light-filled, thinking, moving, acting creatures who have the opportunity to make the world a better place. But we can’t do that stuck in our own little bubbles, blaming and whining about how we somehow got the short end of the stick.

    I’ve rambled long enough…

    That is my long-winded way of saying I’m very much on board with you on this. You beautiful, beautiful, bad ass of a woman. Thank you for writing it. I wish I could put it on a billboard. 🙂

    *I would have written a response last night but after a long day of painting outside, we went out and I know better than to come home and write after a few margaritas. Don’t drink and write, folks. I learned that one the hard way…

  6. Wowza! What a brilliant piece of reading to wake up to. Thank you, Ginny, for taking the time to add something so thoughtful and heart-felt here. I’m humbled beyond words.

    I haven’t seen Gattaca, but it’s now on my list. I noticed the quote you shared on one of your recent posts and it intrigued me then.

    I, too, am fascinated by the human brain. How we’re wired, and what we can do to ‘unwire’ ourselves. For me, it’s learning to reprogram those tapes in my head telling me I can’t do something physical (like running). Or dispelling irrational fears (like falling while I’m hiking). I’ve written about these matters on this blog, and it has helped immensely to just pour the feelings/thoughts out and work through them that way.

    Your post on the anxiety you feel before you publish pictures really hit home for me. Not specifically the picture-sharing, rather the sharing of anything real and of an exposing nature left me feeling so vulnerable. Especially because I have shared this blog with friends and family — something I didn’t initially believe I would do. It’s funny how we are okay sharing our shit with a million strangers [SNORT! I wish I had that many readers! But you get my drift…], but we’re averse to sharing any of it with those inside our own little worlds. I find this fascinating.

    When I made the decision to share my posts on facebook (both on my “year of sweat page” and also my own personal facebook wall, I knew that everyone in my life would have access to my deepest thoughts, fears and challenges. I have never felt so vulnerable.

    Do you know Brene Brown? She did an amazing TED talk that I referenced in one of my early posts: Her talk was on the “power of vulnerability” and it made a profound impact on me. Once I changed my paradigm to view the STRENGTH required to allow yourself to be vulnerable, it allowed me to open myself up in a way I never had before.

    Holy crap, Ginny, between your comment and mine, we have two brand new posts! 🙂

    Thanks so much for your support, lovely, smart and brave Ginny, my kindred spirit.

    Much love to you,

    • I am very familiar with Brene Brown. LOVE her TED talk (love TED talks in general but hers stands out as a good one).

      We are quite wordy…oh well. We can work on brevity together. Vulnerability first. Then brevity. 🙂

      Much love right back,

  7. Reblogged this on My Simplicity Quest and commented:
    I’m experimenting with my blog and I’m curious about what happens when I choose to “reblog” something. This is a post that really grabbed my heart. Nancy has such a colorful way with words. She is a true kindred companion in my quest for simplicity. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did/do. Cheers!!!!

  8. In spite of all this, I am really, REALLY hoping you will go to Bouchon and eat a whole chocolate croissant……….just for me………in my name………maybe the calories will somehow attach to my backside rather than yours. I’ll take them, because damn, that is one good chocolate croissant.

    • Oh you know it, girlfriend. I suppose I should also make it clear, in all my rants, that I’m a total foodie. The reason I’ve chosen to go so crazy with exercise is because I’m done depriving myself of the awesomeness of good food. I can eat what I want (within reason) as long as I burn more calories than I consume. So…exercise, I do. 😉

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  10. Hi Nancy, just had to throw my two cents of support in here for this post. Having many “genes” that come from Nebraska I can’t say that I’m surprised to see a billboard like that from that area of the country…sort of reminds me of the one I saw in Georgia that made it pretty clear I was going to a hot burning hell–but I digress…

    Anyway, I completely agree that our country/culture is sliding more and more into one of blame and victimhood. Blaming our genes for being fat is not much different than blaming McDonalds for forcing us to eat processed fat, sugar and salt and calling it food. But speaking of Brene Brown….she is convinced that anytime we use the victimhood defense it is because we are hiding behind shame and unwillingness to be vulnerable. I think I agree. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who was fat that really wanted to be fat. It’s likely all gravitate to any likely excuse we can to hide behind. The real power comes when we stop needing/wanting to use that tired old excuse and come out of the closet (so to say) and just admit that something has a BIG hold on us–be it food, alcohol, shopping, exercise or whatever. What I get from Brene Brown is that when we strip away the excuses we use to protect us from being vulnerable, chances are pretty good that the freedom and authenticity we’ll find there will make up for the sweat we put ourselves through.

    So good for you for recognizing your excuses and melting them off with a little sweat and a lot of openness on this blog! ~Kathy

    • Kathy, thank you so much for taking the time to post such a thoughtful comment. I agree with you on Brene Brown’s message. I keep thinking back to the day I decided to “go public” with my blog (to those in my ‘real life’) and how scary (and vulnerable) that left me feeling. “What will people think??” rambling in my head. I’m still not sure if that was my mom’s voice or my own asking the question. 🙂

      Thanks again for stopping by – and for sharing your thoughts. It means more than you know.

      xoxo nancy

      p.s. I guess I’ll be seeing you in that hot burning hell later. 😉

  11. I agree. It’s not a disease. It’s economics. You have to follow the money. Good food is NOT cheap. Crappy non-food is cheap. Why is it cheap? Because it’s cheap to make. Why would people make cheap crappy non-food? Because they want to make a buck. Who doesn’t? The ingredients are cheap. In fact, these cheap ingredients really don’t taste that good, so they add cheap fat, salt, and sugar to make it more like a drug that is addicting. The more we eat, the more we want. Then we start to justify our addiction by saying we can’t afford to eat the real stuff. Why are the ingredients so cheap? Because the government subsidizes them. Yay! Thanks, Government. Then they put up billboards that say “It’s not your fault. It’s a disease.” So then we can focus on a nameless disease instead of following the trail back to the real villain, the Government.

    • Hi Jean! Thank you so much for stopping by and for taking the time to share your passionate thoughts on the matter! At this risk of risking our brand new friendship by starting a fight 🙂 I’m going to take the contrarian view on this.

      While I do agree that crappy non-food is often cheap. I’m not sure that absolves the consumer of that food of all responsibility simply by blaming it on the economics. Yes, good (prepared) food is not cheap. But good (whole) food is, in my opinion, very affordable. I honestly believe it’s less about economics and more about convenience. It is not only cheap, but easy and fast to go to a fast food place for lunch. Or dinner. Or breakfast. [Or all your meals…shudder.] When you compare the cost of buying a dozen eggs, a package of sausage (or bacon, or whatever floats your boat) and a loaf of bread [which will give you numerous breakfasts] to the cost of a single breakfast meal at a fast food joint, I would argue it’s hard to use the economics argument.

      I guess, while I’m as gung-ho as the next guy to latch onto a good conspiracy theory, I just hate that as a society we always look to blame others for our lot in life. Even if McDonalds starting selling their burgers for 0.10 cents, it doesn’t mean I am forced to buy them. I make that decision. As I said in the post, life is all about choices. I choose how to respond to the body type I was given via my genetic makeup. I choose to hold myself accountable, regardless of what happens to be on sale at the grocery store (12-pack of Coke or a giant box of cookies or whatever local fruit is in season). When I know I’ve got a busy day ahead, I can opt for the convenience of fast food or I can preplan the night before and prepare something healthier. My two cents, anyway.

      Jean, I genuinely am so very glad you took the time to share your thoughts here. Every opinion is welcome — and I agree you do have a point. There is big money in fast food — and then there is even bigger money in the diet pill/detox/fitness industries. It’s a vicious circle… Only at the individual level can we make a decision to stop swallowing what society is spoon feeding us. Me? I’m no longer “lovin’ it”.

      xoxo nancy

      • Nice! And I am so glad you took the time to reply with such vigor! And instead did not brush me off as some newcomer to your blog. Don’t we get passionate about our food. A little background: I work at a food bank, and there is a lot of propaganda from all sides. I know real food is good for me, and I am all too often drawn to the dark side. Not by my economic limits, but by weakness, sure as anything. When I blue or angry, I head for the crap. I know this, and cannot for the life of me break it. Genetics? Doubtful, although my mother had the same issues x 3. I will not walk in her shoes, but am familiar with the path! Of course she taught me (quite subconsciously — she would never have meant to) to head to the cupboard when times are tough. So while my sturdy structure may have been genetic, it might appear the padding I wear is too. But no. That’s all choice. The problem is psychological, and therapy I can’t (won’t?) afford — and that may be argued as well.

        If you and I could solve it, of course we would and the whole world would be cured of this disease. HA! I guess we can agree on that, and what a great place for a friendship to start, eh?

        I am cursed and honored by your response! Write on!

      • Oh we are definitely friends now! I love, love, love this raw and real response! Thank you m’lady! Sorry for the brevity in my reply, I’m off to climb a mountain as penance for late night pizza after way too many vodka & sodas! 🙂

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  14. To me, we’ve become victims. There’s security in becoming a victim, because its implicit that we’re not at fault, and that we’ll be cared for. We need to replace the victim state of mind with the accountable state of mind. We’ll only be successful if we own it. GREAT post.

    • Perfectly stated, Rob. The victim state of mind is easy because it has the built-in ‘out’ for us to save face. i.e. I wish it wasn’t so, but…it’s not my fault…

  15. Reblogged this on my year[s] of sweat! and commented:

    Since my last post opened the door for some excuse-making, I’m counter-balancing it with a Throwback Thursday post from August 2013. Stop making excuses and start taking control of your choices. One of my biggest rants in the history of this blog. Enjoy.

  16. Well said, Nancy. I’ll throw in as well that Americans spend way less on food than folks in other countries. We’re really spoiled and deceived. Some argue we should be willing to spend more on food that’s responsibly produced/raised and good for us. I agree. Peace, John

    • You raise such a good point, John. It’s like we’re slaves to the notion that price should drive our food choices. Hmm… I can get a value meal at McDonalds for 4.99 or I can buy quality ingredients and make myself a sandwich…

      I get that times are tough and that people want to stretch their dollar, but at a certain point you have to ask yourself what your health is worth.

  17. Yes, it’s quite a rant! But it’s focused and to the point. Choices have consequences and it’s time to take control of them. I needed a good kick in the butt rant to get me going.

    • Totally, Kate. No one ever said it would be easy (especially the part where we have to hold up the mirror and face what role we have played in our own situation), but it’s so empowering to realize we have the power to choose differently. To choose better. xoxo

  18. “Who we are now is a product of what we once wanted.”
    ~ If we are fat and unhealthy, it’s because we make choices that pointed us in that direction.

    If, like NT, we are “lean, mean, fighting machines,” it’s because we STOPPED the excuses, the finger pointing, the blame game . . . and got moving!

  19. Absolutely the gospel truth, Nancy! People must be accountable for their own choices and lifestyles. Fat gene be damned. They may never be skinny, but they can be healthy, as we have reminded ourselves a lot lately. 😀 Keep on preaching, and I am glad you shared this again because it was before my time reading your blog…

  20. Wow, Ranty McRanterson! I love it 🙂 I was a little side-tracked in the beginning though thinking of you driving topless, but then I managed to focus and totally agree with the message 🙂

  21. Now that, Nancy, is an effective, wild rant, and I loved it. I’m sure there are people out there who are genetically disposed towards obesity, but I agree with you – it’s not that way for many people. It’s just something they’ve decided, whether they like it or not. It’s a decision, and decisions can always be changed.

  22. Oh, Nancy, this is a subject so near and dear to my heart. I know you’ve done an enormous amount to wrest control of your health and I find you an amazing woman with the strength of ten men. I applaud your efforts and mindset every day. And I use you as a personal head coach for when I’m doing my own daily exercise. You are a true inspiration.

    • I’m failing on the coaching front these days. Have been ailing since the night of the house move 13 days ago. Gallbladder attack, clogged bile duct, ERPC done early last week, stint inserted to keep bile moving along until my gallbladder removal surgery which is still TBD due to my awesome free healthcare system… 4 trips to the ER in less than a week. A bottle of percocet and a bottle of pill-form morphine my only consolation prizes. No exercise in 2 weeks. Then again I’m barely eating anything so I guess there’s that. Good times.

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