Nature vs. Nurture

Nativism, which represents nature, is the idea that we are born with our thoughts, ideas and characteristics.  We can learn about ourselves by looking at our thoughts and feelings.  Empiricism, which represents nurture, is the idea that we gain knowledge through our experiences and that we are motivated by pleasure, not pain.  As a nutrition student we discuss both of these ideas in my classes when talking about why there is an obesity problem in the United States.  Some people think that they are overweight because they were born to be overweight, while others blame our experiences and our own choices as reasons for being overweight.  I personally believe that while both nature and nurture can contribute to being overweight, nurture is the bigger cause.

Regarding nature, I think that people can be born with certain characteristics that make them more prone to being overweight than others.  People are born with different numbers of taste buds, causing different tastes in food.  This can contribute to people making certain choices in what they eat.  I also believe that sometimes you are just not meant to enjoy eating a certain food.  For example, I tried a sweet potato as a child and did not like it.  To this day I still do not like sweet potatoes.

I believe that empiricism, or nurture, has a larger role in explaining why people are overweight or obese.  As children our parents feed us.  If they are feeding us fast food and sweets we learn to like fast food and sweets.  These foods bring us pleasure.  If our parents feed us healthy food and make us eat our vegetables, we learn to eat healthy foods.  We have learned, through experience , that packaged food and fast food are quick, cheap and easy so we fall back on these foods instead of eating fresh, healthy foods that may cost more and/or take more time to prepare.   If we decide that we want to lose weight and eat healthier, we can learn how to do this by our experiences as well.  If we go to the gym and lose weight we will gain knowledge about losing weight.

As a child my mom made homemade dinners most nights.  I had to eat vegetables, I ate wheat bread and I wasn’t allowed to drink pop (or soda for those of you who don’t say pop) on a regular basis.  I have always eaten wheat bread and I believe it is because I was given wheat bread as a child.  As I got older I ate more sweets, drank more pop, and ate more unhealthy food.  These foods tasted good so they provided me with pleasure.  When I decided I wanted to eat better and lose weight I started eating less junk food and working out more.  Through my experiences I learned that these were good ways to lose weight.  Losing weight also provided me with pleasure.

Amanda Riccobelli

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