Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Bad news for fat people

posted by Rod Dreher

Well, this stinks. Excerpt:

But bodies don’t gain or lose weight indefinitely. Eventually, a cascade of biological changes kicks in to help the body maintain a new weight. As the JAMA article explains, a person who eats an extra cookie a day will gain some weight, but over time, an increasing proportion of the cookie’s calories also goes to taking care of the extra body weight. Eventually, the body adjusts and stops gaining weight, even if the person continues to eat the cookie.
Similar factors come into play when we skip the extra cookie. We may lose a little weight at first, but soon the body adjusts to the new weight and requires fewer calories.
Regrettably, however, the body is more resistant to weight loss than weight gain. Hormones and brain chemicals that regulate your unconscious drive to eat and how your body responds to exercise can make it even more difficult to lose the weight. You may skip the cookie but unknowingly compensate by eating a bagel later on or an extra serving of pasta at dinner.

So it’s not simply a matter of doing small things to cut calorie intake and hoping they add up over time. Biology conspires to undermine that strategy. More:

“We need to know what we’re up against in terms of the basic biological challenges, and then design a campaign that will truly address the problem in its full magnitude,” Dr. Ludwig said. “If we just expect that inner-city child to exercise self-control and walk a little bit more, then I think we’re in for a big disappointment.”

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posted March 1, 2010 at 5:56 pm

They could have found all this out just by asking an overweight person.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Yes, Larry, but no one believes overweight people. They’re overweight because they are moral slackers who lack willpower–it couldn’t be that it’s not their fault (sarcasm alert–not at you, Larry, but at those not asking the overweight people!).

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posted March 1, 2010 at 7:02 pm

To whom it may concern,
I’m so tired of hearing and/or reading stuff that is about weight loss. How about weight gain. Suffice to say, it’s not that easy to gain the weight. I know that exercise can add some weight, or by eating faster, but what else? I need a quick fix, so to speak. I’m talking about something quick to help me to gain healthy weight.
I look forward to your response.

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Erin Manning

posted March 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm

Amen, Turmarion!
This seems like a new “scientific” look at the “set-point” theory, a diet theory from as far back as the early 1980s that used to be laughed at (the notion that one of the big problems overweight people have is that their bodies are actually just extremely good at *maintaining* a new, higher weight–what would once have been the evolutionary advantage of efficient calorie storage is now, in times of plenty, an extreme disadvantage).
The truth is, there’s a big difference between weight *gain* and maintaining a stable, but too high, weight number. The first may involve anything from overeating to pregnancy to various medications to illness to unfortunate lifestyle changes (e.g., moving from a city where walking places is possible to a suburban area where everyone drives everywhere, etc.) to the slow-down of metabolism that hits most people somewhere around forty to some combination of all of those things; the second is an indication that the person actually isn’t gaining weight (hence the stability) and may be actively trying to lose it, with little or no success.
It is very possible for most people (a few medical conditions aside) to stop gaining weight. It can be mind-bogglingly difficult for many people to lose more than a few pounds, no matter how overweight they may be.
Of course, it would help if we had a more realistic idea of what a healthy weight is, or what a healthy body looks like. German ski champion Maria Riesch is about the same height (+.75 inch, give or take) as supermodel Gisele Bundchen–both are between 5’10” and 5’11”. Maria weighs 179 pounds, almost fifty pounds more than Gisele who weighs 130–but nobody would call Maria “fat,” as her excess weight is most likely composed of healthy muscle tissue. If we could, as Dr. Friedman in the article Rod linked to suggests, stop fixating on the numbers on the scale as our definition of “fat,” and start looking at a whole different set of criteria to indicate the overall health of each person, we’d all be better off.

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Anti Dhimmi

posted March 1, 2010 at 7:03 pm

This shouldn’t be news, the concept of a “set point” has been around for
a while, hasn’t it?
It’s more than just leptin, although that is important. Merely asserting that fewer calories == weight loss leaves out the kind of calories. If one is obtaining hundreds or thousands of calories a day from pure sugar, be it fructose, glucose or sucrose, the effects upon the insulin response is going to be different from obtaining those same calories from complex carbohydrates such as vegetables.
It isn’t as simple as cutting out soda pop but replacing it with juice bottles, because the amount of fructose in most juice is still quite high. It isn’t as simple as cutting out candy bars but replacing them with french fries, because the glycemic index of potato products is still high…not as high as candy, but still up there. Ditto for white flour products.
It gets more complex, beyond that. Exercise benefits extend beyond weight loss; exercise “runs” the lymph system, activates immune response, can activate heat shock proteins, is associated with less telomeric shortening. On the flip side, study after study shows that people who spend most of their time sitting are more prone to develop a whole host of maladies, from diabetes to heart problems to circulatory dementia. Exercising for an hour at the gym after sitting for 8 hours helps, but moving around once an hour helps as well.
PS: There is a growing body of evidence that visceral / abdominal fat is very bad for us. The presence of fat cells affects the “neighborhood”, increasing inflammation among other things.

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Larry Anderson

posted March 1, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Oh, for crying out loud. I am–at least, I used to be–one of those fat people who thought they just couldn’t lose any substantial amount of weight. It was very convenient, because then I was absolved of any responsibility for how I looked and felt.
Then I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I went completely off sugar, drastically cut my carbohydrate intake, limited myself to about 1800 calories a day, started walking religiously, and guess what? I’ve lost about 70 lbs. in seven months, and while I still have a ways to go to get to my goal weight (I was *heavy*, folks) I’m feeling great, looking better, and between the changes I made and the medication my doctor prescribed, my blood sugar, triglycerides, and cholesterol are all well under control. Even if I never reach my goal weight, I’m still quite pleased with what I’ve accomplished, namely changing my lifestyle.
The point is this–it can be done. It’s no fun at all, it’s terribly hard, you’re going to be miserable for a while, and our society gives you plenty of opportunities to cave in to your desire for the wrong stuff. But it can be done. Just because something is bloody difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 9:10 pm

Stress may play role in weight gain. Inner city kids have gained weight on diets of rices, tofu and vegetables.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 9:50 pm

Nice going. You’ve just given the obese another excuse. I was 30 pounds heavier when I was thirty than I am now at 51. I now have a BMI of 23. I stopped eating sugar and flour, and walk 20 minutes on a treadmill a couple times a week. Simple. Not easy, but really, really simple.
By far the hardest thing for me is finding un-sugared and un-floured food while traveling, but I do and it works.
No sugar, no flour, no excuses.

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What's Good for the Goose

posted March 1, 2010 at 10:02 pm

I don’t know why you say, “regrettably.” For people on a subsistence diet, that factor–the greater ease gaining than losing weight–could be a life or health saver. We shouldn’t judge everything by our own myopic situations.

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posted March 1, 2010 at 10:30 pm

good news for fat people…
when considered in the light of the previous topic of
Is America Going To Fall?
IF the American economy collapses,
healthy fat people will have a better chance of survival.
so, the big question today is:
How much weight should a person GAIN this year?
those of you who are underweight or even average (disclosure: I’m about average) should seriously consider putting on a lot of pounds.
of course, the above does say “healthy fat people”.
that isn’t always easy.
but I say eat lots of healthy food this year,
and exercise moderately.
can’t say you haven’t been warned.
abundance faith hope love joy peace to all…

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Rick Waters

posted March 2, 2010 at 4:23 am

Inner city kids can get obese on a diet of rice.
A cup of white rice has 43.3 grams of carbohydrates. And nobody eats just a cup of rice.
Rice should never be part of anybody’s diet. It has far too many carbohydrates and elevates blood sugar far too quickly.

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posted March 2, 2010 at 8:52 am

I have good news for the obese considering loosing weight: the early weight is the easiest to lose. But, particularly for people who have a very large amount of weight to lose, it appears for many people that no combination of manageable diet or exercise will guarantee that they can avoid a set-point higher (in many cases, considerably higher) than their goal weight. Even a very low carb diet cannot prevent this for many. I’ve learned this the hard way, and have had to come to a place of acceptance about it. And I swim 2K a day, do weights, walking: exercising anywhere from 90-150 minutes 6 days a week, keep a food diary, et cet. At some point for certain body types, a metabolic set point will arise that will test normal endocrinologically but be very slow, and will slow further if one cuts food even further.
This is a dirty secret of weight loss that even professionals avoid talking about for fear of de-motivating clients.
The solution is to do what’s right for your body but get detached from achieving specific results.

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posted March 2, 2010 at 9:24 am

Just because something is bloody difficult doesn’t mean it’s impossible.
I think the point of the article is that it is bloody difficult.

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posted March 2, 2010 at 9:45 am

Yes, a very part of this is understanding “nothing is impossible” in the Christian, rather than American civil religion, sense.

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Christopher Mohr

posted March 2, 2010 at 11:48 am

Rick Waters – Asians have been living off of the stuff for centuries, and, by and large, they are still mostly skinny. the carbs are not the problem, it’s what you eat with it and how much exercise you get. My wife eats considerable portions rice for almost every meal (Asian cultural thing), and she has yet to crack a normal weight. It wasn’t until I started cooking Western foods that she even cracked 90 lbs. she didn’t even want that. her diet of rice and sitting around doing nothing (and even with a normal metabolism like hers) still has had little to no effect on her weight. Perhaps for diabetics and the like, the blood sugar is an issue, but for most normal people, it just isn’t the way you think.
As to Rod’s post, some of us desperately wish we could gain weight. I’m one of them. As they said during military training, “Jesus, we could put 50 lbs. of ball bearings in your socks and you still wouldn’t be overweight!”

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posted March 2, 2010 at 12:04 pm

but for most normal people
I get the impression from the comments on this thread and from personal experience that there are no “normal people.” What helps one person lose or gain weight doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.

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Anti Dhimmi

posted March 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Christopher Mohr writes:
Rick Waters – Asians have been living off of the stuff for centuries, and, by and large, they are still mostly skinny. the carbs are not the problem, it’s what you eat with it and how much exercise you get. My wife eats considerable portions rice for almost every meal (Asian cultural thing), and she has yet to crack a normal weight. It wasn’t until I started cooking Western foods that she even cracked 90 lbs. she didn’t even want that. her diet of rice and sitting around doing nothing (and even with a normal metabolism like hers) still has had little to no effect on her weight. Perhaps for diabetics and the like, the blood sugar is an issue, but for most normal people, it just isn’t the way you think.
How old are you and your wife? You are aware that metabolism changes from anabolic to catabolic around the age of 30, right? It is true that different people have different gene expression, however it’s pretty common even in east Asia to see the skinny adolescent become the muscular young man who then becomes the portly middle aged man.
The calories matter. They may matter a lot, here is a possible link between
high consumption of fructose and a form of liver disease:
BACKGROUND/AIMS: While the rise in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) parallels the increase in obesity and diabetes, a significant increase in dietary fructose consumption in industrialized countries has also occurred. The increased consumption of high fructose corn syrup, primarily in the form of soft drinks, is linked with complications of the insulin resistance syndrome. Furthermore, the hepatic metabolism of fructose favors de novo lipogenesis and ATP depletion. We hypothesize that increased fructose consumption contributes to the development of NAFLD.

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Roland de Chanson

posted March 2, 2010 at 2:34 pm

This being Lent, I thought it would be the ideal time to go on a diet. Give up carbs, olive oil, wine, eat fish. Even better, go out into the desert and eat locusts for forty days and forty nights. Lose forty pounds and forty ounces.
But then the Evil One came and tempted me. He turned the desert stones into light flaky buttery croissants. He set me on the Pinnacle of the Temple, which is a very good restaurant with rave reviews in the Jerusalem Post, and he offered me all the menus in the world.
Suddenly I woke up in a cold sweat. It had all been a horrible dream. I went into the kitchen and ate a piece of leftover quiche and drank a glass of Burgundy. Then slept the sleep of angels.
I thank thee, Lord, that I am not like other men.

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posted March 3, 2010 at 8:11 am

Thanks for bringing a chuckle to me this morning. :)

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