Of all the topics I habitually write about, the only posts that generate more flak than the ones on Israel are the ones on dieting and weight.
I’m not sure why that is. But I’ve observed a very marked tendency (and now I’m talking about people in general, not just on this blog) not only for strong disagreement on the mechanisms of overweight and the remedies that might be applied, but for highly disapproving moral judgments on overweight people.
…]I]n a very narrow (pun intended) sense, fat people do take in more than they burn. But why? And how much is that? I know quite a few fat people who eat no more and are not less active than the thin people I know. I’ve lived with thin roommates who cannot put on weight no matter how much they eat, which is already quite a bit. I’ve lived with heavy roommates who eat 1200 calories a day and can barely lose weight.
Of course, there are fat people who eat a lot more than average. They’re the people you see featured on TV programs where you can watch them having twenty hamburgers at a sitting…Short of that type of true gorging situation, the subtleties of why people get fat…are not only subtle but also poorly understood (although we’re learning more all the time), complex, and powerful factors for most people in their own personal fat-thin equation.
I’ve already written about my own efforts in this direction. I’ll recap by saying I’m not fat. But, like so many women, I’d like to lose ten or fifteen pounds to look my best. But to lose that weight it takes cutting back to ridiculously low levels of food intake (and in case you’re going to suggest I go on a lo-carb or paleo or other diet of that type—I have, many times, and they don’t work for me, and I find them singularly unpleasant as well, and I’ve written about it before). I’ve also noticed that if I eat a lot I’m only about seven pounds or so heavier than if I eat very little. My range seems to be very narrow, because my body seems to defend a certain weight quite tenaciously. And that was even true when I was young. When I was a dancer, I had to keep my intake to around 1000 calories a day, day after day, despite intense exercise, to achieve anywhere near the requisite thinness.
“Like many other medical conditions, obesity is the result of an interplay between genetic and environmental factors. Polymorphisms in various genes controlling appetite and metabolism predispose to obesity under certain dietary conditions. The percentage of obesity that can be attributed to genetics varies widely, depending on the population examined, from 6% to 85%. As of 2006, more than 41 sites on the human genome have been linked to the development of obesity when a favorable environment is present….Numerous studies of laboratory rodents provide strong evidence that genetics plays an important role in obesity.”
And then there’s this.
As well as this:
“When the body needs food, rising levels of the hormone ghrelin, produced in the upper stomach and pancreas, signal the brain and trigger a desire to eat. At the end of a meal, specialized endocrine cells in the wall of the small intestine release other hormones (like cholecystokinin, glucagon-like peptide-1, and oxyntomodulin) that signal satiation. In obese individuals these signaling networks malfunctioned, Laferrère [an endocrinologist specializing in obestiy] knew, leaving them perpetually hungry.”
Perpetually hungry. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
And those are just a few random articles written for popular consumption. I could go on and on and on, and include the scientific literature as well. But I think the point is clear, which is that the “why” of obesity is not clear, for many if not most people suffering from it.
Maybe in the future, whenever I write about diet and weight, I should include a link to this post, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel. But I have little doubt that the disagreements will continue.
[ADDENDUM: To clarify another point, I'll add an excerpt from a previous comment of mine:
[T]he combination of the abundance of food readily available (a long-held dream of mankind, and much preferable to intermittent involuntary starvation) combined with our modern conveniences such as cars (not having to labor so hard being another long-held dream of mankind) most definitely has contributed to the growth of overweight in this country and elsewhere. But nevertheless we are living a lot longer than we used to—in part, perhaps, because mild overweight (the more common kind) does not seem to have the deleterious effects many people think it does.]