26 August 2009

Sister act

This is the story of sisters, a family affair which isn't particularly important, but I find it interesting and a wee bit perplexing.

It starts a few generations back with my grandmother and her sister, my great aunt. There may be a similar story going back further. I wouldn't be surprised if that is the case but I just don't know. As with many siblings, my grandma and her sister were alike in many, many ways, but that wasn't the first thing you might have noticed about them. You see, like Jack Spratt and his wife, they differed quite noticably in appearance. I can only guess that they differed in the types and the amount of food they liked to eat, but I don't know that for a fact as I wasn't really close to my great aunt. My grandma was a loving, smiling, cuddly lady. A great cook (oooh, just remembering her shortcrust pastry makes my mouth water!), who always had a fig biscuit nearby. She was warm and wonderful to snuggle up against but not resembling anything you might call skinny. My great aunt, from what I remember of her, was built like a sparrow.

Then came the next generation, with two girls - my lovely Mum and her younger sister. A few rare photos of them in their teens show two sisters of not too dissimilar size, although my mother was always the smaller one. But as the years went on, my mother remained small (in fact she's got very much smaller, and worryingly so, in the last few years!) but my aunt grew rounder and heavier. Again, a lovely person to cuddle up against, she hated being the fat one and was often quite upset about her appearance. She would pick similar clothes to my mother's then detest the way she looked in them. But she was a wonderful, kind lady and, as she worked in a sweet shop for many years, she always had a treat in her handbag for a little niece.

A few years on and we get to my sister, who is a few years older than I am, and me. As kids, again not too dissimilar. Both active, as kids naturally are, and eating the good wholesome food our mother made for us. But in later years, the differences began to emerge. In my teens I had a decidedly obvious roll of belly flab, which everyone decreed was just 'puppy fat' and would disapper 'in time', but my sister was always skinny - all bones and angles. As adults, I turned into the fat lass, while my sister had to make her own wedding dress as dress patterns didn't go down to the tiny size she needed! Over the years she's put on a bit of weight and become oh so slightly more rounded... she's still very, very slim though, and is even now only a UK size 8 to 10! Me? Well, you already know that tale.

There are a couple more sisters - my two nieces. Until recently, they were quite similar in appearance. Both slim, trendy and neither carrying any significant excess weight to speak of. But I've seen a slightly worrying trend. Yet again, the younger of the two is getting concerned about the weight which she has begun to put on, and she's started on the diet trail (not a great plan as I know to my cost). Meanwhile, her older sister is, apparently, quite unchanged and unchanging.

So, can anyone tell me what's going on here? Is there a genetic element to the skinny and fat sisters story?

I guess what I want to know is whether there was more to my weight gain than just lifestyle choices. I know I can't sidestep all the guilt (mea maxima culpa), but it'd be nice to know if just a little of the blame wasn't mine to shoulder. Were the cards truly stacked against me and was I 'destined' to get fat easily, as I believed for so long?

Whether that's the case or not, I now know that I can choose to do something to make sure I don't get fat again. But, as many folks will understand, putting this into practice comes at a price. Plenty of hard work and constant vigilance. My call to make!


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