By Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D.

If your mom and dad are apple-shaped, it's easy to say you're "destined" to have a tummy because of fat genes and use this excuse to eat fast food or skip working out. And while new research seems to back this up, I'm not so quick to believe it-and you shouldn't either.

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles fed a group of genetically diverse mice a normal diet for eight weeks and then switched them to a high-fat, high-sugar diet for eight weeks.

While the unhealthy feed caused no change in body fat for some of the rodents, others' body fat percentages increased by more than 600 percent! Having identified 11 genetic regions associated with the development of obesity and fat gain-so-called "fat genes"-the white coats say the difference was largely genetic-some mice just were born to gain more on a high-fat diet.

However, this isn't the first study on how likely it is that you'll end up the same size as your mom. In 2010 British researchers published a paper where they looked at the genetic profile of nearly 21,000 men and women. They determined that 17 genes that contribute to obesity were responsible for a mere 2 percent of the cases of obesity in the group.

The more likely culprit for why we are overweight isn't our genes but our poor eating habits (too many calories) combined with a couch-potato lifestyle. After all, as the UCLA researchers noted, our environment is the primary determinant if we eat a high-fat diet in the first place.

RELATED: Cutting out fat entirely won't help you lose weight. Instead be sure to include healthy fats that help you stay full longer in your diet.

So stop blaming your parents and follow these six tips to change your lifestyle and make healthy eating choices easier.

  • Remove all the red-light foods (the troublesome treats you can't seem to control your intake of, such as chocolate chip cookies) from your home and work area and replace the with easy-to-reach healthy foods.
  • Eat only at a table-never while driving, watching TV, or on the computer.
  • Eat off smaller plates and put your fork down between bites.
  • Order sauces and salad dressing on the side when you dine out.
  • Drink calorie-free beverages.
  • Eat a fruit or a vegetable with every meal and snack.

Nationally recognized nutrition, health, and fitness expert and published author Janet Brill, Ph.D., R.D., is the director of nutrition for Fitness Together, the world's largest organization of personal trainers. Brill specializes in cardiovascular disease prevention and weight management and has authored three books on the topic of heart health; her most recent is Blood Pressure Down (Three Rivers Press, 2013). For more information on Brill or her books, please visit

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