Are Fat People Destined to be Fat?
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to watch a most interesting segment on 60 Minutes Australia. If you happen to live in the US, chances are you might have missed it. I’m sure that I would have, if not for visiting one of my favorite blogs, Lynn’s Weigh. The title of the story was called ‘The Fat Gene’ (you can watch it here as well as read the transcript) and it reported on a weight loss study that was done in Australia about why fat people remain fat. Lynn was interviewed for the story.
A group of 50 Australians participated in this study; they were put on a 10 week diet. They lost a lot of weight. They were then given the tools they needed in order to keep that weight off in the form of advice about what to eat and how to exercise. Slowly, the participants regained the weight they’d lost.
According to the researchers, it wasn’t the lack of participants’ willpower but their body’s hormone chemistry that made these people regain their weight. Ghrelin, a so-called hunger hormone, rose 20% which in turn told the body that it was starving, even after the participants ended the diet. The researchers go on to say that our weight is predetermined in our DNA.
Liam Bartlett was the 60 Minutes correspondent. Summing up the researchers findings he said,
“The bottom line of this new science of weight loss is pretty harsh – fat people, despite their best efforts, will probably stay fat and there’s really not a lot they can do about it.”
Playing Devil’s Advocate, he then interviewed Dr. Rena Wing who is one of the researchers of the Weight Control Registry of which Lynn and 10,000 other maintainers are a part of in the United States (I am currently filling out my paperwork to join the study). She felt that Melbourne’s study was sending out the wrong message to heavy people. With the thousands of maintainers she keeps track of she stated that many people are able to maintain their weight loss. Lynn was featured as a representative to those of us who have been successful in maintaining their weight loss. She discussed how she’s been able to maintain her loss for the last seven years: keeping track of her calories and daily exercise. As a fellow maintainer who has also kept off 100+ pounds for 7 years I completely relate to what she said and I attribute my success to doing the exact same thing as she. It all comes down to one word: diligence.
But diligence is not the word that Professor Joe Proietto used. He was the team leader in the Melbourne University study. The words he used to describe maintainers like me were ‘obsessive-compulsive’. He went on to say this:
“These people weigh themselves every day and run marathons. What do you think they are?”
It’s not that I disagree with Professor Proietto’s findings. As a former heavy person I completely understand the frustration felt by people who, no matter what they do, regain some if not all the weight they’ve lost. I’ve been there a few times myself. What I disagree with is the way Professor Proietto presents his findings. In my opinion, he basically sounded as though he has no faith in overweight people; that not only is it next to impossible to lose weight and keep it off but in order to do so we sacrifice ourselves as sane, well-rounded individuals.
Labeling maintainers as obsessive-compulsive is a little over the top, in my book. If you watch the segment you’ll also hear words like ‘not normal’ to define us. But…what is normal? It seems like no matter who we are, whether fat or thin, we’re doing nothing but dodging labels (and you know how I feel about labels).
I could probably write another several lengthy paragraphs on this topic but I’m not going to. Instead, I’m going to sit back and read what you have to say on this topic, and end my post by borrowing a very eloquent, very beautiful thought by Lynn, who summed up my feelings in the most perfect way:
My former body and the me who occupied it continue to be the source of my determination. I would dishonor she who was me by giving up the fight, because she is the one who thought enough about herself to start that march down the scale.
Thank you for that, Lynn. And thank you all for reading today. Have you seen the 60 Minutes Australia segment? What are your thoughts on the findings of Melbourne University’s study?