Is Obesity Really Caused By Epigenetics?

Jennifer R. Povey
4 min readOct 3, 2022
Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

The narrative we have is that obese people are lazy, make poor choices, etc. Fatphobia is rampant in our society and medical fatphobia kills.

My mother was obese. I don’t remember her being anything but fat and getting fatter. She blamed it on injuring her back helping a disabled person into their wheelchair, which didn’t exactly help her get exercise.

But I remember her golfing a round or two every weekend, walking significant distances…

…and still fat and getting fatter. Then she got diabetes, which turned as it sometimes does into a vicious cycle of the treatments making her fatter. Eventually it killed her.

My mother wasn’t always the best at eating healthy, but neither am I. Guess what? I’m not obese. I am a little heavier than I would like, which my doctor says is perimenopause related.

But I’m definitely not obese. And I’m getting, oh, about the same amount of exercise she did that didn’t help. True, her back interfered, but…

So, what gives?

There’s another possible explanation for my mother’s health issues:

It was a developmental disorder.

Epigenetics, Neurology and Obesity

As humans, we eat for two reasons. Homeostatic feeding is to support our metabolism. Hedonic feeding is to improve our mood and experience pleasure. Any time you reach for a bar of chocolate because you are bummed out, that’s hedonic feeding. In moderation, it’s just fine. In fact, your brain is triggering you to do it because a bad mood is a survival negative.

Best to just eat that piece of chocolate.

Our feeding behavior, our metabolic rate, and the mechanisms that tell us when to stop feeding are neurological in basis.

Obesity is caused when these things go out of whack. Yes, some people are fat because they can’t afford a good diet, which is another issue. A much smaller number are fat because they…oh wait. They are addicted to hedonic feeding.

Hey, that’s neurological too.

And it turns out that maternal overnutrition and undernutrition during pregnancy can cause obesity in the resulting child…

Jennifer R. Povey

I write about fantasy, science fiction and horror, LGBT issues, travel, and social issues.