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YOUR GENES ARE RUNNING THE SHOW
If you're anything like me, I know you're champing at the bit to get going on Diet Evolution, but hold your horses. I've found that most of us can stick to a program only if we understand how and why we got to our present state of affairs. The next four chapters will do just that.
You can thank Mom and Dad for your beautiful baby blues, as well as your hair color, height, and build. All these traits were encoded in copies of their geneshalf of them her's, the other half histhat now reside in your body. Any children you have will in turn have copies of half of your genes and half of your partner's, and so on through generations to come. Determining our appearance and myriad other characteristics is just one way in which our genes rule our lives. As you'll soon learn, they also play a more clandestine role.
The answer to why almost all attempts to lose weight fail resides in your genes and the lies they've been feeding you. Once you understand how genes behave, and how their behavior controls your behavior, you'll be rewarded with an understanding of how you can lose those extra pounds, regain your health and vitality, and set the stage for a long, vigorous life. I'm sure you have heard that if you feed your genes right, all your health problems will disappear. But here you are stuck in the same old rut. I'm going to prove to you that you're in poor health and overweight because you're feeding your genes exactly what they want. Let me assure you, your genes are using you for their health and longevity, not yours. In fact, your longevity stands in their way. So sit back, open your mind, and be willing to suspend everything you've ever known about yourself. But first let's get down to basics.
GENES AS MICROCOMPUTERS
I've found that it helps to think of genes as tiny computer programs. On your computer, the letter A, for example, is "coded" as 1000001. Whenever I strike A on the keyboard, this code of 0's and 1's tells my computer to make an A appear on the screen. Think of your body as a computer and your genes as its operating system. Genes are pieces of information composed of hundreds or even thousands of sugars and proteins arranged in sequences that "spell out" the process the gene wants a cell to perform. They contain all the information needed to tell each cell what to do, but in this case, the keys that turn genes on or off are circulating hormones, neurotransmitters, and numerous other information carriers, particularly compounds in food. To continue the computer metaphor, these codes work much as typing an Internet address into your Web browser "tells" it what information you want.
Your genes are totally dependent on your body to protect them and house them until a new computer, in the form of your offspring, can take on these tasks. We need our genes as much as they need us: your body only works when its operating systemyour genestells it what to do. Over millions of years, the communication between our genes and the human body has undergone continuous improvements and upgrades, all to ensure perpetuation of the genes. Despite myriad improvementsmuch like Vista replacing Windows, or Panther replacing Tigerthe basic operating system of your genetic program remains the same.
Okay, you head-shakers, if all this just seems too fantastic to believe, let me ask you why you have no trouble accepting the fact that you can watch Oprah on your cellphone, thanks to invisible electrical impulses from outer space that communicate with cell towers to activate tiny computer programs in your handheld appliance. An invisible but equally powerful, comparable process also happens in our bodies. Why do you think that after two months female dorm mates find their menstrual periods have synchronized? Their hormones sent messages through thin airrather like text messagingfor them to ovulate at the same time. Hormones or plant chemicals stimulate genes to either switch on or off, determining what's going to happen in each cell, each part of the body, and each person.
YOUR GENETIC AUTOPILOT
Indeed, whether you realize it or not, your fate is being controlled by a hidden system that runs most of your cellular, hormonal, nervous system, and aging processes without your conscious input. It does this, so that the "thinking you" doesn't screw up the process of moving genetic material forward in time. If you've seen Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which intergalactic astronauts travel in a spaceship autopiloted by a computer they nickname "Hal," you can envision what's going on in your body. Hal takes care of running all the spacecraft's functions with minimal human input, but when the astronauts try to take over the vehicle, they realize that Hal is in total control and they're just along for the ride. When they attempt to thwart Hal, he tries to destroy them! Your autopilot is usually invisible, but I'm convinced that we constantly receive warning messages from it when processes head in the wrong direction.
For example, right now you're breathing without thinking about it, but the moment you do, you become conscious of your inhalations and exhalations. Now, let's do a quick test. Stop reading and time yourself as you hold your breath as long as you can. Were you able to go for two minutes? Up to three minutes? Or were you gasping for air at thirty seconds? You mean you were forced to take a breath? How can that be? Aren't you in charge of your body? I ask you to perform a simple task such as holding your breath, and now you're telling me that it was not under your control. Congratulations, you've just met your autopilot, your second self. This mechanism is there for a very important reason: to keep your genetic code from being wasted, in case you get the crazy notion to stop breathing when you're asleep or unconscious, among other things. That's just one of many examples of how Hal's mission is more important than yours!
We now realize that this operational program is far more than a second nervous system over which we have little or no control. Rather, it's a highly sophisticated system of specialized cells and the genes within them, including those that produce and sense hormones, govern your immune system, line your gutall in constant communication with each other without your conscious input. If you're still having trouble with this concept, consider the autopilot program on an airplane. Once the human pilot inputs data about the destination into a computer, the autopilot controls direction, speed, thrust, flaps, pitch, and yaw. The autopilot doesn't "see" where the plane is going, doesn't "feel" how fast it is flying, but based on information sent from sensors in the plane or bouncing off satellites, it pretty much "knows" where it is in space and time, allowing it to "fly" the plane and land safely. But input the wrong information and the autopilot will dutifully fly you directly into a mountain, because that's where you told it to go. You'll understand more what I mean by this in the next chapter, when I'll explain how your current way of eating is giving your autopilot the wrong information, programming you for disaster.