Sunday, 3 November 2013

Is It Your Fault That You Are This Fat?


Fact is: people are getting fatter and fatter. Obesity rates are on the rise and, in many countries, up to a third of the population are obese and over half are overweight. Whose fault is that? The answer to this question should be simple: It’s your fault. Because if you are fat, you eat too much and move too little! Simple really. However, before we can possibly agree on this, let’s just look at a few truths.
I don’t want to be fat, and I can’t imagine that there is anyone out there who does. Being overweight or obese makes so many aspects of our lives harder and is one of the major causes of global deaths. It is undeniable that being fat is bad for our heath, and I would add that it often knocks our confidence; makes us less productive; less attractive, and overall, less happy. So, if we had a choice, would anyone really choose to be obese? I guess not.

Everyone understands the principles though: we gain weight when we eat more calories than we burn; we loose weight when we eat less calories than we burn; we stay the same weight when we eat the same calories we burn. An average man burns about 2,500 calories per day. For an average woman this figure is around 2,000 calories.

We are obese if our body mass index is 30 or higher and we are overweight if our body mass index is 25 or higher. Our body mass index (BMI) puts our weight in relation to our height using the formula below (or you can use any of the online BMI calculation websites).

BMI = ( Weight in Kilograms / ( Height in Meters x Height in Meters ) )

This means weight-gain is caused by an imbalance of ‘calories in’ versus ‘calories out’. But is this the whole truth? Yes, and no. There are other factors that play a role and are often forgotten in the discussion.

If we take a sample of people, and all of them eat the same and exercise the same, some will put on (or lose) more weight than others. It is a simple fact of life that for some people it is easier to lose weight and keep it off than for others. For example, I know a number of people who eat a very unhealthy and fatty diet, never exercise, and still have a flatter stomach than me (Yes, that is annoying!). One reason for it is that we all have different metabolic rates; some store calories and consume them slowly; others burn them off quickly and efficiently.

Among our distant ancestors, people with slow metabolic rates were the winners because it kept them going for longer. It meant they could survive longer without finding food. Today, where food is available all of the time, slow metabolisms put us at a disadvantage because we gain weight more easily.

Another truth is that our body is programmed to seek out fatty and sugary foods, because way back in time it was good for us. Fatty and sugary foods would give us the energy to fight and hunt successfully. Unfortunately, evolution hasn’t kept up with the pace of change. Today, we no longer have the need to overdose on fatty and sugary foods, but our brain still tells us to do so. Some people are more disciplined and have more self-control, which means they can stop themselves falling for the temptations. Others haven’t.

A further truth is that food companies are often hiding the fact that their products are not good for us. Confusing labeling and the overselling of the ‘goodness’ in products can confuse consumers and trap us into buying and eating food that is described as ‘reduced calorie’ or ‘high in fiber’ - but is, in fact, full of fats or sugars.

We could all now dwell on the fact that this is so unfair, or we could just accept it. Some people will find it easier to stay at a healthy weight than others – in the same way some people find it easier to do math, sing well or run fast. So where does this leave us now? For me, there are two main conclusions here:

    We all need to accept that there are many people who are struggling to stay ‘thin’. For most of them, it is not a choice but a constant battle against ‘things’ like slow metabolisms; their inability to resist temptation and the ‘misselling’ of food by companies and restaurants.
    However, in the end, there is this undeniable truth: If you eat more calories than you burn, then you will get fatter. The very simple message here is: Fewer excuses, less calories, more exercise! And yes, some will find this harder than others but this is just the way it is (This conclusion is as much for me, as for everyone else. I keep fighting against my slow metabolism and against all the temptations – but I am not giving up!).

Do you agree or disagree? Maybe you struggle with weight, or you think fat people are simply lazy and don't deserve sympathy? Please share your views on the topic.

Written by Bernard Marr


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