Obesity. Are we getting it all wrong?

I’ve thought about fat and being fat a lot over the years, I’ve met lots of people who have made me think differently and who have made me question things I had taken as gospel.

I wonder if we as a society are approaching this whole obesity thing in the wrong way. I think we really need to study obesity and break the obese into their various groups.

We are not one big lump of people who all have the same story to tell. We are not all couch potato gluttons who never move and what is more important, we haven’t all always been like this.

I think (and this is just my theory thrown out there) that there are three different types of obese people.

Type 1 – People who are genetically predisposed to be overweight but can’t see a visible genetic issue. Think of the one fat person in a family of skinnies (like me). I have a huge family of skinny and I mean skinny people. My siblings are like streaks of lightening, tall, willowy, can eat anything they like and do nothing in terms of exercise and yet they never gain weight. My parents too. So we look to the extended family for a link and remember my great aunt Fanny three times removed who was fat and so I must be like her. This type is active, doesn’t eat differently to other family members, healthy and fit but is plagued by a weight problem which can be controlled by strict dietary monitoring, specifically of certain self identified trigger foods.

Type 2 – People who are genetically predisposed to be overweight and the genetic link is obvious i.e. overweight parents, grand parents, siblings. There are fat families out there who were not fat because of poor modern diets. I remember fat families, only a couple of them but those parents had like mine been war children, they had been deprived of anything fattening and had a very healthy largely vegetable based diet. Yet they were fat long before sitting in front of the TV and ordering a takeaway was imagined.

Type 3 – These people are those who were born slim who have no genetic tendency towards being overweight but have become overweight through lifestyle choices.

Are we wrong as a society to lump all three types together and expect a ‘remedy’ that fits all? Indeed are types 1 and 2 fighting a losing battle which is making them become obese?

I do seem to notice just from years of observation that those people who were not fat as young people, became fat and then shed the fat through lifestyle choices seem to keep the fat off better. Perhaps because they were never meant to be fat.

What if then the type 1 and 2 were naturally fat? What if they were meant to be overweight, what if there were genetically predisposed people who were meant to retain weight, going back in time to when a fat person would have ensured survival of a tribe during  a famine or illness, what if being fat is about survival? Because if there was a famine around here anytime soon, I’m going to be here much longer than Kate Middleton or Kate Moss, my fat ass is going to be living on days after their bodies give up. It sounds radical but what if?

OK so those of us who identify with Type 1 or Type 2 know we have gone way over being a bit pudgy and carrying a few more famine survival pounds, but what if we’re obese (and I know lots of us can identify with this) BECAUSE we were trying or being made to lose weight that we should never have been made to lose? The yo-yo cycle is always going to leave us fat, we know that and we know it doesn’t leave us fat it leaves us even fatter than the last time.

Society makes us feel like freaks, our families make us feel like freaks (sometimes) our peers make us feel like freaks, we feel we have to do something, there comes a time when we diet and so it begins, the battle to be something that we really were never meant to be and all that battle does is make us obese. Not pudgy famine survival chubbiness but unhealthy obesity, fueled by the self loathing that society/family/peers have embedded in us.

It’s worth a thought. It explains why some people (and I’m one of them) can be critically ill for extended periods of time, nil by mouth, near comatose and emerge still overweight when others going through the same situation arise as skeletal figures. I’ve seen it happen and it baffled me.

Type 1 and 2 can sometimes become slim with a whole shed load of effort but maintaining it is a battle it will never come easy if you are in this category. You know these are the type who look at a cake and gain a stone, we all know them, we are them.

Sometimes they can’t become slim, that explains why a dancer in a world touring show who performs twice a day and eats along with her fellow cast members can end a 9 month tour still medically obese. It explains why two of my friends in spite of gastric bypass surgery and strict adherence to healthy diets still wear a dress size 20 and can not get any slimmer for love or money.

Are we just getting obesity all wrong? Do we need to understand it better before we demonise fat people and blame Coca Cola and Microsoft for all of society’s ills?

I’m just throwing thoughts out there, I could be talking out of my posterior (shrinking posterior mind you). I’m trying to make sense of this and of myself. I’m on a journey and I’m not leaving a stone unturned, I want to understand this monster that has blighted my life and I want to beat it into submission. I’m not trying to find a get out clause for me to accept my state, I’ll never accept my state.

Surely at the very least we really need to be recognising the difference between the emotionally obese and the lazy, poorly educated in terms of health and nutrition obese.

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2 thoughts on “Obesity. Are we getting it all wrong?”

  1. I agree with you that there are different reasons why people weigh the amount that they do. I strongly believe genetics play a large role in how much we weigh and our body types. I will never be a long distance runner because I tend to carry my weight in my lower body, so it slows me down. Have you ever heard of set-point theory? Here’s an interesting article about it that you might like: http://www.bigfatblog.com/set-point-theory-explained

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    1. Thank you for this link. I have heard of it but didn’t realise that was what it was, probably because I had not seen it explained so well and concisely.

      I like the 4th comment down too which suggests that governments don’t want to acknowledge the truth about obesity because it would damage the weight loss industry.

      We kind of accept within society that there is such a thing as a person who is naturally thin, you know the type who try to gain weight and just can’t (I have a sister like that so reckon we got both ends of the gene pool in our family). But we feel sorry for those people, we’re encouraged to feel sympathy and share their frustration at their condition but when it’s the other end of the scale the story is very different.

      Discriminating, prejudicing, stereotyping and bullying fat people is one of the few remaining socially tolerated abuses. It’s fine for people to let their children mock a fat person or for someone to call out to a fat person with a horrid name or for a fat person to be considered stupid or dirty. To do that to other social groups can lead to criminal convictions, it’s termed hate crime.

      Now governments and media are really demonising fat people and sending out all of the wrong messages about what obesity is and why obesity is they are just giving licence for that behaviour to continue.

      I’m not saying it is OK to be obese, I know it isn’t if I thought it was I wouldn’t be fighting it and I wouldn’t have been fighting it for all these years but there needs to be a rethink on what it is and how we society can approach this problem constructively.

      Thank you for your comment and again for the link

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