Why are we so fat? 

The diet industry tells us that 65 percent of the public is fat or overweight.  This is only according to heavily derived mathematical figures which have little to do with reality. The reality is about 15 percent of us are genetically obese and able to get to the point of "severe obesity" (BMI over 40) which then, is considered a medical condition worth treating in the doctor's office.  25 percent of us are somewhat fat (BMI 30-35) which is also considered to be a medical condition. The rest of us only FEEL we are fat - that's because we don't look super slim like the fashion models.

The fact is that most of the diseases "blamed on" obesity are actually caused (in part) by lifestyle (which also can cause obesity in susceptible individuals). (see McGinnis-Foege - 1993 "300,000 people die each year from diseases in which sedentary lifestyle and poor food choices are a factor") (1)

NY Times science reporter, Gina Kolata, found that some of the studies which found a strong link between obesity and illness or pre-mature death, were severely flawed and good research does NOT show a relationship between fatness and illness or pre-mature death.  (4)

After her studies, Kolata concluded (as other researchers seem to have) that fatness and height might be a factor in a society where the population is better nourished. (ibid)

Some of the physical factors thought to CAUSE obesity are:

Genetic structure - this is probably the most prevalent cause of obesity - regulating from 40-80 percent of the body-size (according to obesity scientist Dr. Rudy Liebel):

Physical damage to the body

Some of the lifestyle factors which don't necessarily cause extreme obesity but can contribute to it are thought to be:

and finally, last but certainly not least:

Most people do not know that being underweight is a serious medical condition, far worse than obesity nor are they aware of the fact that studies have linked cigarette smoking directly to lung and breathing disorders i.e. 95 percent of those with COPD are or have been smokers and heart disease (smoking hardens the arteries). This is because the medical profession, is pushy about losing weight but seldom more than mentions smoking as a real danger.

The risks of being clinically obese i.e. BMI over 40 and not exercising are about the same as being a light smoker states Dr Paul Ernsberger, an associate professor at Case Western Medical School. (Many people in our society are light smokers but I don't see widespread worry about the light smoking epidemic).

From a 48 year history of dieting, I have found there is only one way to force one's body to be at a weight lower than what the body wants to be and that is by calorie restriction.  Eating 1400 or less calories a day CONSISTENTLY may force the weight lower than the body's setpoint if you combine that with healthy food choices and daily cardio exercise. (Many people of "model size" eat less than 600- 800 calories a day) Unfortunately this type of calorie restriction can cause fatigue, ravenous hunger, immune challenge and more if not done very carefully with healthy food choices, which is why most people cannot do it.  It takes a daily war with the body to calorie restrict and for many people, "life is too short".  There is NO EVIDENCE that maintaining a slim weight through calorie restriction is healthy and some evidence that calorie restriction the way most folks do it, (not avoiding 'fun' foods and not eating a lot of vegetables and not exercising) may actually challenge the health and/or cause nutritional deficiencies in many people.  The Food Institute of the UK found that chronic severe calorie restriction (less than 1000 calories a day) can cause PERMANENT brain damage.

All the so-called successful methods of "weight control" such as surgery or diets, are designed to do ONE THING.  To make it uncomfortable physically or undesirable to eat much food in order to make calorie restriction (to force the body to a lower weight) easier to do.  Unfortunately with today's calorie packed and very delicious foods, Weight Loss surgery is only totally successful on the long run for 7 percent (see the Hebrew University Study of gastric bypass patients - 1993) although some 75 percent of weight loss surgery patients have been observed to keep off "some weight". (25 percent of gastric bypass patients re-gain back to original size) (2) In one study, at the 13-15 year point it was found that most gastric bypass patients still had weights in the "severe obesity" area of BMI (around BMI 35).  It also was found that many of these patients had plugging of the stomas, and involuntary vomiting (3)

Eliminating whole food groups or restricting oneself to low calorie bland tasting foods are other ways of helping some to practice calorie restriction.  Unfortunately these don't work for many people.  I've known fat vegetarians, fat vegans and even people who have gained 50 lbs or more on the Atkins plan.

The Atkins diet is one of the most controversial diets available (generally true of low carbing).  Many medical providers and nutritionists are against it and point out that not only does it NOT produce good long term results but may endanger the kidneys and other organs. Yet, low carbing (if you look on the web) has its share of ARDENT supporters.

Quick diets and liquid diets are highly controversial as well. Again the medical profession generally is against these diets (although some weight loss surgeons advise pre ops to go on a liquid diet to reduce the amount of fatty liver often seen in people who eat a lot of fatty foods regardless of weight) but people tend to like these diets because they produce quick short term results and nice losses on the scale. Unfortunately, a goodly amount of the weight lost on the quick diets (Medifast, Nutrasystems etc) is NOT fat but valuable healthy muscle and bone mass.  Things you do NOT want to lose.

I'm beginning to feel that "weight control" (by ordinary means) is something of a myth. We are told it's easy to maintain a "healthy weight" (the number selected according to the latest mathematical calculation having little to do with any kind of reality).  Just "eat less and move more".  But if that is so, why is it that 95 percent of diets fail?  Never-the-less because we WANT to believe, the diet and medical industries (sometimes indistinguishable in the field of "weight control") can continue feeding us that myth.  But for those of us like myself who have been working out DAILY for 1-2 hours a day cardio and journaling food, we know that this is not the way to force our bodies to what society feels is a "healthy weight".  It seems that the body is designed to automatically maintain a weight IT thinks is healthy and it seems that most bodies DO maintain that weight plus or minus 20-30 lbs unless we take extraordinary means.  In fact less than 5 percent of those who set out to lose a lot of weight, are able to maintain it for any length of time.  Weight Watchers, the only weight loss organization to show a net loss, showed a loss of 11 lbs over two years in the latest Heshka study.

Bottom line - understanding that fights against nature can be unpleasant with the body still winning.  Follow these rules and don't worry about your weight or your cholesterol (heart attacks happen EQUALLY in people with normal cholesterol levels) or other things and enjoy life because stress is STILL the biggest cause of all illness.  This is called "HAES" (Health at Any Size)  NOTE: doing the following below will render many people on the slim side unless they have physical or genetic factors causing obesity.  It will likely keep your BMI below 40 or 45 regardless of your genetics.

Often slimness as dictated by society or EVEN the medical industry is bought at the price of health, well being and quality of life.

It's a choice which few Americans make in full consent because the diet industry and the popular media withhold the facts.

by SueW


1. JAMA 270 - Nov 10, 1993 pp 2207-2212

2. Dept. of Surgery C, Soroka Medical Center, Beer Sheba (Israel study)
Harefuah 1993 Feb 15;124(4):185-7, 248 (article is in Hebrew)

3. Obesity Surgery, Vol. 11 No. 4 August 2001, pp 464-468

4. Kolata, Gina: RE-THINKING THIN (NY,2009)


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