Tackling a Weighty Subject

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I took my almost-16-year-old grandson out for a late breakfast Monday morning and watched in awe as he packed away a tall stack of pancakes, a milkshake…then another milkshake, a sandwich, onion rings, and a soda. I had an omelet—just an omelet—and was stuffed. I think if he’d managed to belch, he could have handled dessert. Or maybe dinner on top of the breakfast and lunch he ate at one sitting.

Grandson is so thin I don’t think he casts a shadow in the brightest sunlight. I can cast a shadow in the shade.

Why is it that some people can eat to their heart’s content and stay slim and others just look at food and it seemingly applies itself directly to their hips? And stomach. And thighs. And…well, you get the idea.

I have three younger brothers. All are tall and skinny. I’m neither. We all grew up in the same house and ate at the same table. And, trust me: We all grabbed as much food as we could as quickly as we could. It was either that or go without. Those were in the days when Mom cooked and the family sat down at the table at the same time and ate the same things at meals. When Ed Sullivan was on, we got to eat in front of the television set and dinner was a rare treat: hamburgers, fries, and a bottle of soda. Compare that to today’s lifestyle! Anyway, Mom and my brothers are thin. Dad and I are…not. (Thanks, Dad.)

There’s a book called Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss—and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata, who is a science reporter for the New York Times. Admittedly, I haven’t read the book (yet), but, as one reviewer writes, Kolata “argues that being fat is not something people have much control over…[remaining] stuck within a relatively narrow weight range set by their genes.”

I’ve often jokingly said that when my body wants to shed pounds, it will. And when it decides to pack them back on, ain’t nothin’ I can do about it.

Turns out that might not be a joke. An excerpt from Kolata’s book, printed in the New York Times (click here to view) on May 8, cites various research studies showing that people who lost a lot of weight had trouble keeping it off. Conversely, thin people who deliberately gained a lot of weight had trouble keeping it on.

“There is a reason that fat people cannot stay thin after they diet and that thin people cannot stay fat when they force themselves to gain weight,” according to the excerpt. “The body’s metabolism speeds up or slows down to keep weight within a narrow range. Gain weight and the metabolism can as much as double; lose weight and it can slow to half its original speed.”

Gee, I wish that message would get out to more of the world. Maybe it would help our self-esteem a bit. (And Jay Leno just told another fat joke. I’m no longer amused. Maybe it’s time we started throwing our weight around and letting people know how offensive—and demoralizing—it is to be ridiculed all the time.) Maybe it would stop naturally thin people from looking down their noses at us as if we do nothing but sit around eating bonbons all day long.

My endocrinologist once accused me of eating too many carbs, until I told him how much insulin I used to cover food each day, reminded him of what my insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio was, and told him to do the math. He then realized I really wasn’t eating that much.

One of the most disturbing things I read involved the attitude some fat people have about themselves. In a review of Kolata’s book, published in the May 6 edition of the New York Times (Click here to read), the reviewer relates the tale of a researcher who asked a group of formerly obese people if they’d rather gain back the weight they’d lost or be blind, or have a leg amputated. Eight-nine percent said they’d rather be blind and 91% said they’d rather lose a leg.

Has it come to this? Has society beaten us down to the point that we’d rather be blind or lose a limb than be overweight? Can’t we accept ourselves?

I’ll leave you with that thought, but I’m not through with the subject. One subject I’ve been avoiding addresses which comes first: Type 2 diabetes or weight. I think I will dive into those shark-infested waters next week.

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