When fat things happen to good people. On being thin, fat, and your false assumptions.

"Such crazy thoughts in that Aussie article!"
Do you think that if only you do the right thing—eat a healthy diet, exercise, get enough sleep—then you will achieve your dreamed of weight, live free of disease and live happily ever after? This, dear readers, is a fairy tale. 

If you believe that eating nutrient packed, low calorie foods is solely responsible for whether or not you get cancer, or arthritis or MS, think again. And don’t be fooled by the preaching of Dr. Fuhrman in his book, Eat for Health, that health equals nutrition divided by calories, period. Health is not such a simple equation. And no, eating whole grain, veggie packed meals won’t protect you from an eating disorder either. 

If you think that eating 'right' ensures thinness, as was recently emphatically suggested in a popular newspaper article in Australia, it is yet another fantasy.

And if you torture your overweight self with the belief that you must lose weight--at all costs, and that your inability to reach target goals based on BMI charts is your personal failure, you’re wrong again.

“What is she thinking?” you’re thinking? Let’s start from the top. 

Eating healthy equals health

Yes, diet can impact many, many health measures. And I certainly encourage a balanced, varied diet filled with a complement of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and an appropriate level of fiber, to name a few. Yes, there are correlations in populations that have higher intakes of alcohol and saturated fat, for instance, with increased rates of cancer and high cholesterol, respectively. And a nutrient-rich diet chock full of antioxidants and lycopenes, like those found in tomato-based products, may help stave off such conditions as Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other diseases. But eating a proscribed diet will not guarantee your health. Nor will it ensure happiness, which is not to say I don’t encourage making healthy choices—I surely do. But do not, for a moment, think that if you are fortunate enough to stay healthy (or unfortunate enough to become ill) that it is solely by your hand. Credit your parents for their genes, to start.

Fallacies about thin

And do you know what? Eating well does not ensure thinness either. I see my share of patients who choose the most wholesome foods, but eat in excess—even those nutrient rich, heart healthy foods, like avocado and almonds, lean protein and kale. By excess I mean frequently eating without regard for hunger, and eating past a point of comfortable fullness. And eating well—high quality, nutrient-rich foods—even eaten mindfully and intuitively—may not keep you slim. Yup, it’s a sad truth that many of you don’t want to hear. And in fact, the very act of pushing your body to be a weight it is not meant to be, may put you in worse shape—both physically and psychologically. Just wait until you hear about these studies!
Stay tuned. That’s my next post, based on fascinating research presented at the Renfrew Conference I attended last weekend.

And those who are thin do not necessarily eat well and are often hardly fit by any standard. Do be careful about equating weight with health because they do not always pair up as you’d expect. Individuals may be thin because they are genetically predisposed to be, or they may be thin because, in contrast to what journalist and dietitian Susie Burrell believes—that they “know what to do to control their weight”—they may fall quite short in controlling it appropriately. They may be no better than someone who binge eats for emotional reasons at knowing “how to cope when things are tough”. Don’t be fooled into assuming that thinness is simply a lifestyle choice, a moral higher ground.

And I’d caution her, and you, not to overgeneralize about thin people’s skill at “assuming responsibility for self”. Just spend a few hours in my office; even those without eating disorders may allow anxiety or depression to stand in their way of eating enough. How responsible for self is the person who denies herself nourishment when low energy or headachy—hunger gone too far—or pushes herself to exercise even when she reports constant fatigue, or pain? 
Eat when they are hungry, stop when they are full? Some thin people may. But overgeneralizing about a segment of the population isn’t too intelligent. 

No, I didn't leave the rest over, for the record.
Thin people may self-regulate just fine. Or they may deny their hunger and fluid load or rely on high volume low calorie foods. They may eat nourishing foods, or a diet of junk—just not excessive in calories. Or they may compulsively exercise, hardly resulting in mental health, potentially leading to loss in muscle mass, heart problems and a range of symptoms if accompanied by undernourishment. Really, the only thing you can generalize about thin people is… that they are THIN. You can’t assume they are healthy, or happy, or good at self-care or self-regulation.

And of course the reverse is also true. The only thing you can tell by looking at a fat person is….? Yup. It’s that they are fat. You cannot predict their lipid levels or their blood pressure. You can’t tell whether they’ve never exercised or they exercise too much. And you can’t determine the quality of their diet.
My own parents are perfect examples of this, as I’ve written about previously. 

The mere suggestion that health is 100% in our hands I take offense to, as would the rest of the population which struggles with MS, and cancer, and ALS, and type 1 diabetes and arthritis and, and and… And I can say the same thing about a target weight or size. I hate to break it to you, but even if you do all the ‘right things’, you may not achieve your desirable, fantasized-about weight. And you know what? It’s not your fault.

Stay tuned for part two, (which I hope to get out within the week), which will address obesity, weight loss, and the risks and benefits of change.

Did this post push your buttons? Did it challenge your thinking? Did it offer some relief? Do let me know what you’re thinking! 

Thanks for reading, and if you liked this post, please share!

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