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A Lazy Gene- Say It Isn’t So

I was chagrined to read a blurb in the August/September 2013 copy of the AARP
Magazine about “laziness.” I recognize that folks have differing motivations and mixed feelings about being active, but I have always stood firmly against using the negative term “lazy” regarding people who don’t take care of their bodies. And I still do.

From the AARP article: “A new University of Missouri study shows that rats with sedentary parents are less motivated to run on an exercise wheel.” And, “After studying their brains, we found that running was less enjoyable for these rats than for those with active parents,” says study author Frank Booth, Ph.D. Okay, so there’s a hereditary link toward or away from enjoying body movement—at least if you’re a rat. I’ll buy that there even may be a similar genetic inheritance relating to finding pleasure from moving your body in humans. But, why call it laziness?

Clients often complain that “laziness” prevents them from eating well, exercising or taking better care of themselves. These same people bust their butts dawn til dusk at work and/or with family and don’t stop for a moment. Not a one of them would ever be called lazy because they do so much for others. Lazy is a pejorative term which we hear starting in early childhood. We’re told never to be lazy before we understand what it really means. Growing up, lazy often means not doing something our parents want us to do, a something which may or may not be beneficial for or valuable to us. At a young age, we don’t know what’s good for us, but we do know that we don’t want to be viewed as lazy. Then we continue to use the term into adulthood to berate ourselves when we don’t do what we expect from ourselves or what others expect from us.

Consider this: If painting a picture fails to bring you pleasure and you don’t wish to paint pictures, does that make you lazy? Or if you don’t care to read about the Civil War, does that mean you’re lazy? These behaviors may indicate that you haven’t inherited artistic genes or the that you have other reading interests to pursue. But does any of that add up to lazy? How come we put the lazy value on some activities but not others? Reflecting on whether your parents were sedentary or not is fine. How much is genetic or from what they modeled—or how you rebelled against what they modeled or insisted on—we don’t know. No matter, please don’t call yourselves lazy. Better to understand your mixed feelings about doing or not doing an activity and resolve them. For more on resolving mixed feelings, read my book STARTING MONDAY—SEVEN KEYS TO A PERMANENT, POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD