Why Thin People Aren’t Fat

      132 Comments on Why Thin People Aren’t Fat

You may recall that Gary Taubes recounted some over-feeding studies in Good Calories, Bad Calories. The upshot was that naturally thin people don’t gain as much weight or extra bodyfat from over-consuming food as the “3500 calories equals a pound of fat” equation says they should.  Their bodies adjust.  The same works in reverse:  people who cut calories often don’t lose as much weight as the calorie equation says they should.  Their bodies adjust as well.  The calories in affect the calories out.

Someone on YouTube suggested I watch this BBC documentary about a researcher who conducted a similar experiment:  a group of naturally-thin young adults doubled their normal caloric intake for four weeks.  Sure enough, some gained about what you’d expect, but others gained significantly less.  One barely put on any extra bodyfat at all.

Most of them reported easily losing the weight they’d gained once they stopped the experiment — and no, they didn’t count calories.  They didn’t need to.   Their bodies are geared to resist becoming fat, so they just returned to their normal eating behaviors and dropped the weight.  That’s what happened to Chareva after both of her pregnancies.  A month after delivery, you’d never know she’d been pregnant to look at her.

As if to demonstrate just how pig-headed people can be about this topic even after the evidence from a controlled study is presented to them, some genius left this in the comments section for the documentary:

this is the most moronic documentary ever.

eat more than your body burns = gain weight, vice versa

END OF STORY

The genius is probably one of those people who never gains weight and thinks it’s because of his superior discipline.  Or as I’ve put it before, he was born on the finish line and thinks he won a race.  (He no doubt believes he’s qualified to tell others how to win the race as well.  But enough about Dr. Oz.)

I trust you’ll come to a less simple-minded conclusion after watching.  Enjoy.


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132 thoughts on “Why Thin People Aren’t Fat

  1. Joe Dokes

    This reminds me of the British documentary “The Super Sizers.” The premise of the show is a British couple pretend to go back in time and eat like they did during a different era of British history. For example, one show has them eat as though they were royalty during the middle ages, another show has them eat as though they are a wealthy couple during the Victorian era.

    What is most interesting about the show is how little the diets affect either of them. Since the diets almost always are from the perspective of the elite they are meat intensive. As a result week after week the doctor announces that in spite of their eating 4500 Calories of various meats per day, their cholesterol is lower. As usual the doctor is astonished. Duh.

    From a historical perspective, the show is a lot of fun, they eat a lot of crazy stuff like stuffed boars head and eel. Much better than that other super “documentary.”

    Regards,

    Joe Dokes

    I’d like to be on that show. I’ve never had eel.

  2. john

    Popular fat gain ideas offer nothing more than, “Once you eat a certain number of calories, fat gain… ‘just happens…'” Personally, if I eat to appetite, I lose weight. I am strongly against “food reward” as an *explanation* to obesity because I see in myself that I stay lean despite a strong propensity to binge. You don’t resolve lung cancer by drugging the brain to remove cigarette addiction.

    This kind of overeating would be cool to see in some of the lean competitive eaters like Kobayashi. Gal Sone says that she has a very high ability to oxidize fat along with high bifidobacterium. In these people, with a large meal, heat production goes up, and they have very frequent bowel movements. I suspect they have healthy/diverse/lean-promoting biofilms in their guts (along with other helpful genetic traits).

    I’m sure there is more to it than fermented foods, but it’s interesting that traditional Japanese and French have low body fat and are perhaps the two highest consumers of fermented foods. Like Gal Sone, obesity resistant people will crank up fat oxidation soon after a high carb meal (obviously they do after high fat too), while obesity prone people will be stuck oxidizing glucose.

  3. greensleeves

    It’s just so clear that some people are born with awesome mitochondria, others with average mitochondria, and many people with sub-par mitochondria. There are also genetic differences in insulin control and muscle sensitivity. Some people win the genetic lottery and get all 3 in the superstar category. Clearly Chareva is one of these. Others of us just get the short straw and have not-so-functional genes.

    Why won’t doctors and scientists admit what they already know – human genetic variation is real and affects all aspects of health, including metabolism and weight management?

    Chareva’s dad (from whom she inherited the naturally-lean physique) is now a type 2 diabetic (and still lean), so she’s fully aware that lean doesn’t always equal healthy.

  4. bigmyc

    This outmoded equation is one piece of CW that I can’t seem to hold against those who profess it. After all, it does make some basic sense, whether it’s accurate or not and simply because it IS correct in an absolute sense aside from the mitigating individual factors. It is just not as efficient for weight loss as a hunter-gatherer diet. Personally, when I was eating carbs moderately, I wouldn’t have too much of a problem losing weight so long as I remained active, especially doing endurance cardio…now, that I have drastically curtailed carb intake, I have really shed pounds…and without a single long distance run since.

    Still, I remember feeling healthy and trim when I was actively running and consuming average calories even as half of them were probably carbs. Now, I can see that it was all relative. I suppose it’s all about bio-individuality but you wouldn’t get much of an argument from me about which direction one’s nutritional content should go.

  5. Alyssa

    Comments like that piss me off. I started gaining weight when I was 3, and I have a sister who ate the exact same food that I ate (all healthy home cooked meals, junk was not allowed), and she was always super thin. I was even far more active than she was. Now I eat around 1500-1800 calories a day. I’m also fairly active, but I’m also still 300lbs. If it were as simple as burning more calories than I consume, I should be thin. I’m not, and never have been. Even when I starved myself for 2 years and worked out for hours every day I never fell below 240lbs. My husband is 130lbs. His eating goes from periods of eating a lot, to eating not too much, and he never does any sort of exercise, EVER! His weight has never fluctuated from 130lbs. When he’s sick and not eating, 130lbs. After stuffing himself with food over the holidays, 130lbs. If I ate the same thing he did over the holidays, I would have gained 20lbs easily.

    When I was in high school, I knew two brothers born barely a year apart. One was fat, the other looked like a swimsuit model, all lean and muscular and ripped. The lean one ate like a horse. You can’t tell me the difference wasn’t in the genes.

  6. Jo

    I haven’t watched the vids yet but I will. I was smug at 20, just did a little bit of exercise and the weight fell off me. I sneered (not in their faces – I wasn’t that bad) at people who dieted when it was plainly so easy – just get a bit of exercise like I do. Well at the age of 26 I was forced to learn some compassion – LOL. Yep, I piled on the weight and have struggled ever since (now 49). Low carb has helped but it only went so far. I see morons like that quoted in comments all the time – you think they’d get bored of stating ‘the obvious’.

    I had a buddy in Chicago who was naturally lean and looked down his nose at fat people. It never seemed to dawn on him that when we had dinner together (which we frequently did — both bachelors at the time), he matched me burrito for burrito and beer for beer. He often had dessert afterwards, which I never did. We’d go the gym together and I out-lifted him by several plates per machine, even though I was a weak kid. I guess it’s a natural tendency to congratulate ourselves for genetic advantages.

  7. Joe Dokes

    This reminds me of the British documentary “The Super Sizers.” The premise of the show is a British couple pretend to go back in time and eat like they did during a different era of British history. For example, one show has them eat as though they were royalty during the middle ages, another show has them eat as though they are a wealthy couple during the Victorian era.

    What is most interesting about the show is how little the diets affect either of them. Since the diets almost always are from the perspective of the elite they are meat intensive. As a result week after week the doctor announces that in spite of their eating 4500 Calories of various meats per day, their cholesterol is lower. As usual the doctor is astonished. Duh.

    From a historical perspective, the show is a lot of fun, they eat a lot of crazy stuff like stuffed boars head and eel. Much better than that other super “documentary.”

    Regards,

    Joe Dokes

    I’d like to be on that show. I’ve never had eel.

  8. john

    Popular fat gain ideas offer nothing more than, “Once you eat a certain number of calories, fat gain… ‘just happens…'” Personally, if I eat to appetite, I lose weight. I am strongly against “food reward” as an *explanation* to obesity because I see in myself that I stay lean despite a strong propensity to binge. You don’t resolve lung cancer by drugging the brain to remove cigarette addiction.

    This kind of overeating would be cool to see in some of the lean competitive eaters like Kobayashi. Gal Sone says that she has a very high ability to oxidize fat along with high bifidobacterium. In these people, with a large meal, heat production goes up, and they have very frequent bowel movements. I suspect they have healthy/diverse/lean-promoting biofilms in their guts (along with other helpful genetic traits).

    I’m sure there is more to it than fermented foods, but it’s interesting that traditional Japanese and French have low body fat and are perhaps the two highest consumers of fermented foods. Like Gal Sone, obesity resistant people will crank up fat oxidation soon after a high carb meal (obviously they do after high fat too), while obesity prone people will be stuck oxidizing glucose.

  9. greensleeves

    It’s just so clear that some people are born with awesome mitochondria, others with average mitochondria, and many people with sub-par mitochondria. There are also genetic differences in insulin control and muscle sensitivity. Some people win the genetic lottery and get all 3 in the superstar category. Clearly Chareva is one of these. Others of us just get the short straw and have not-so-functional genes.

    Why won’t doctors and scientists admit what they already know – human genetic variation is real and affects all aspects of health, including metabolism and weight management?

    Chareva’s dad (from whom she inherited the naturally-lean physique) is now a type 2 diabetic (and still lean), so she’s fully aware that lean doesn’t always equal healthy.

  10. Per Wikholm

    Great stuff! Just looking at the first episode…and it is featuring professor Fredrik Nyström, my favorite swedish scientist who made the study that debunked “Super Size Me” and have been involved in other interesting studies like the peanut vs candy trial and a diebets trial comparing low fat vs high fat.

  11. bigmyc

    This outmoded equation is one piece of CW that I can’t seem to hold against those who profess it. After all, it does make some basic sense, whether it’s accurate or not and simply because it IS correct in an absolute sense aside from the mitigating individual factors. It is just not as efficient for weight loss as a hunter-gatherer diet. Personally, when I was eating carbs moderately, I wouldn’t have too much of a problem losing weight so long as I remained active, especially doing endurance cardio…now, that I have drastically curtailed carb intake, I have really shed pounds…and without a single long distance run since.

    Still, I remember feeling healthy and trim when I was actively running and consuming average calories even as half of them were probably carbs. Now, I can see that it was all relative. I suppose it’s all about bio-individuality but you wouldn’t get much of an argument from me about which direction one’s nutritional content should go.

  12. Tracey

    I remember watching this video and wishing I could be one of them. Mind you, I remember at one point in the doco a participant hadn’t eaten enough calories for the day so he was drinking a bottle of cream. I can’t remember now how they got their extra calories but maybe if they chose fat over carbs that could have influenced how much they gained. I was also amazed at the chap who hadn’t gained weight at all, but his body temp and metabolic rate increased so he was almost literally ‘burning’ the extra calories.

    Oh and I really really wish I’d been born at the finish line…but I guess you learn more when you are meandering around the track with a broken compass.

    If I’d been born on the finish line, I’d probably be much leaner but also nowhere near as healthy. Struggling to keep my weight down is what led to me care about diet and nutrition.

  13. Alyssa

    Comments like that piss me off. I started gaining weight when I was 3, and I have a sister who ate the exact same food that I ate (all healthy home cooked meals, junk was not allowed), and she was always super thin. I was even far more active than she was. Now I eat around 1500-1800 calories a day. I’m also fairly active, but I’m also still 300lbs. If it were as simple as burning more calories than I consume, I should be thin. I’m not, and never have been. Even when I starved myself for 2 years and worked out for hours every day I never fell below 240lbs. My husband is 130lbs. His eating goes from periods of eating a lot, to eating not too much, and he never does any sort of exercise, EVER! His weight has never fluctuated from 130lbs. When he’s sick and not eating, 130lbs. After stuffing himself with food over the holidays, 130lbs. If I ate the same thing he did over the holidays, I would have gained 20lbs easily.

    When I was in high school, I knew two brothers born barely a year apart. One was fat, the other looked like a swimsuit model, all lean and muscular and ripped. The lean one ate like a horse. You can’t tell me the difference wasn’t in the genes.

  14. Jo

    I haven’t watched the vids yet but I will. I was smug at 20, just did a little bit of exercise and the weight fell off me. I sneered (not in their faces – I wasn’t that bad) at people who dieted when it was plainly so easy – just get a bit of exercise like I do. Well at the age of 26 I was forced to learn some compassion – LOL. Yep, I piled on the weight and have struggled ever since (now 49). Low carb has helped but it only went so far. I see morons like that quoted in comments all the time – you think they’d get bored of stating ‘the obvious’.

    I had a buddy in Chicago who was naturally lean and looked down his nose at fat people. It never seemed to dawn on him that when we had dinner together (which we frequently did — both bachelors at the time), he matched me burrito for burrito and beer for beer. He often had dessert afterwards, which I never did. We’d go the gym together and I out-lifted him by several plates per machine, even though I was a weak kid. I guess it’s a natural tendency to congratulate ourselves for genetic advantages.

  15. Wolverine

    The one problem with the study was that they used young thin people. I knew many friends who were thin in their teens and twenties, but are quite large at middle age. I am 51 and still as thin as when in high school – I am a true freak of nature, Unlike those morons that wrote those idiotic claims, I do not boast that it’s because I eat less and move more.

    I have 3 siblings that are all obese. We were all raised on the same diet. They usually eat less than I do and are more active. It’s certainly in the genes for me. I eat low-carb just to keep a low blood sugar and triglycerides. Even if I chowed down on nothing but carbohydrates, I would gain only a pound or two in a year.

    I’m sure it has more to do with hormones and metabolism. I have a very fast metabolism, including a fast resting heart and respiration rate. My family all say that I burn millions of calories shaking my legs. I am very hyperactive and my legs rarely stop bouncing – it’s an annoying habit that I don’t realize I’m doing until someone points it out.

    Maybe one day they’ll study thin old people like me and come up with some answers, because I have no idea why I have never been able to gain weight.

    Lots of people undergo hormonal changes in middle age that encourage weight gain. Count your blessings you’re not one of them.

  16. Ed Terry

    Thanks for the video. When I married 15 years ago, my wife weighed 98lbs and had less than 10% bodyfat. She ate whatever she wanted and couldn’t put on any weight. Two years later, when she became perimenopausal at 42, every calories started to count even though she was eating the same foods and same amount of foods. She eventually developed Type II diabetes and started medication. She’s slowly accepting the fact that eating bread and rice spikes her blood sugar. Unfortunately, she still has a hard time giving up those foods, even though her weight has doubled.

    For a good laugh, check out the new “K-E diet”, which guarantess a 20 lb loss in 10 days. It invloves sticking a feeding tube through your nose and ingesting a liquid solution that is carb-free. I guess for some people, a low-carb approach is only acceptable if done under the supervision of a doctor who inserts a hose in your nose.

    I’ll skip the hose and just eat the food.

  17. Per Wikholm

    Great stuff! Just looking at the first episode…and it is featuring professor Fredrik Nyström, my favorite swedish scientist who made the study that debunked “Super Size Me” and have been involved in other interesting studies like the peanut vs candy trial and a diebets trial comparing low fat vs high fat.

  18. Tracey

    I remember watching this video and wishing I could be one of them. Mind you, I remember at one point in the doco a participant hadn’t eaten enough calories for the day so he was drinking a bottle of cream. I can’t remember now how they got their extra calories but maybe if they chose fat over carbs that could have influenced how much they gained. I was also amazed at the chap who hadn’t gained weight at all, but his body temp and metabolic rate increased so he was almost literally ‘burning’ the extra calories.

    Oh and I really really wish I’d been born at the finish line…but I guess you learn more when you are meandering around the track with a broken compass.

    If I’d been born on the finish line, I’d probably be much leaner but also nowhere near as healthy. Struggling to keep my weight down is what led to me care about diet and nutrition.

  19. eddie watts

    i remember it being on BBC actually, although i avoided it as i expected it to anger me massively and bang on about CICO etc etc
    maybe this was an incorrect assumption then!

  20. Johan

    This should definitively disprove calories in = calories out.
    Even with a load of sugar.

    I am left with some interesting questions though, because of two statements made:
    1) you can’t lose fat cells once you gain them, they can only shrink.
    2) you normal body fat % is set in stone, you can’t change it.

    The first is completely new to me, and requires some more research on my part, but the second i think has been described in some paleo books as possible, but i could be wrong on that one (so many books still to read)

    One thing not talked about in this study is that these lean people can probably still get diabetes, meaning lean isn’t the same as healthy per se.
    but that wasn’t the goal of this study.

    I’ve read that fat cells can die off, but it’s not common. That could explain why people who were fat kids have a more difficult time becoming lean as adults; they’re trying to shrink their fat cells below their natural size.

    We obviously can reduce our body-fat percentage, but it requires a change in the hormonal balance.

  21. Cate

    It would be really interesting to see this same sort of experiment done with a paleo/ LCHF diet. Feed them the same excess calories but without the carbs. I wonder what their bodies would do with the excess.
    Also, The Doc at Columbia near the end of the film that reduced peoples body weight by 10% then showed their brains wanting to gain it back was probably using a low fat diet on his test subjects. I wonder if he kept them low carb instead if they’d still want to gain the weight back. My guess is not. I’ve lost 50 pounds since going paleo/LCHF back in late November and I hardly ever thing about food. I certainly feel no need to try and put the weight back on.

    The same experiment with different types of food would be enlightening.

  22. Beowulf

    I remember watching that documentary last year. As a naturally thin person, it was an eye-opener (along with Good Calories, Bad Calories). I have no more discipline with my food than anyone else, and I have a good deal less than the average dieter. While I follow a fairly consistent paleo/primal diet, I don’t worry about the occasional scoop of ice cream and pie (homemade by Mom, mmmmm!). In me, it doesn’t cause weight gain. In contrast, I have a friend that gains weight so easily that we joke that he gets fat walking past a bowl of jelly beans.

    I’ve learned to have more sympathy for the overweight and less praise for the naturally thin. There is a smug superiority complex that naturally thin, particularly athletic individuals can have. I try to combat that in myself, and documentaries and books have given me information to challenge the notion in others.

    Chareva and my son Zack are both naturally-lean types. Zack couldn’t gain weight even when he tried over-eating to do so. Fortunately, they both have the intelligence to understand that they’re geared that way and don’t congratulate themselves on being disciplined. If they’re hungry, they eat, and they eat until they’re full.

  23. Daniel09

    As a naturally just-over-thin person, I can verify that there are days when I have eaten upwards of 5000 calories a day for a month (and I’m only 130 lbs, so by the equations, my daily intake is only around 1500 calories to maintain my weight). I gained maybe 10 lbs, and it dropped off as soon as I lowered back down to normal eating. When I was at my fittest during a lot of exercise, I didn’t eat nearly as much, but I ran 6 miles a day. I hovered around 115 lbs at that point. As a male, this is considered low, but I’m fine. I do want to stop eating so many carbs though, because though it seems like it doesn’t affect me now, I know that if I want to maintain this health into adult-hood, I should seriously consider changing things.

    Yup, you don’t want to end up as a thin diabetic either.

  24. Joshua Tenner

    Could any of this have to do with gut flora (remember the whole fecal transplant thing?)

    Perhaps. I think we’re a long way from identifying exactly what allows some people to stay lean without ever thinking about what they eat.

  25. Marilyn

    It would be interesting to see that experiment taken a step further — double everyone’s calories, but make one group’s diet low-fat, another’s high fat. . . .

  26. Wolverine

    The one problem with the study was that they used young thin people. I knew many friends who were thin in their teens and twenties, but are quite large at middle age. I am 51 and still as thin as when in high school – I am a true freak of nature, Unlike those morons that wrote those idiotic claims, I do not boast that it’s because I eat less and move more.

    I have 3 siblings that are all obese. We were all raised on the same diet. They usually eat less than I do and are more active. It’s certainly in the genes for me. I eat low-carb just to keep a low blood sugar and triglycerides. Even if I chowed down on nothing but carbohydrates, I would gain only a pound or two in a year.

    I’m sure it has more to do with hormones and metabolism. I have a very fast metabolism, including a fast resting heart and respiration rate. My family all say that I burn millions of calories shaking my legs. I am very hyperactive and my legs rarely stop bouncing – it’s an annoying habit that I don’t realize I’m doing until someone points it out.

    Maybe one day they’ll study thin old people like me and come up with some answers, because I have no idea why I have never been able to gain weight.

    Lots of people undergo hormonal changes in middle age that encourage weight gain. Count your blessings you’re not one of them.

  27. Ed Terry

    Thanks for the video. When I married 15 years ago, my wife weighed 98lbs and had less than 10% bodyfat. She ate whatever she wanted and couldn’t put on any weight. Two years later, when she became perimenopausal at 42, every calories started to count even though she was eating the same foods and same amount of foods. She eventually developed Type II diabetes and started medication. She’s slowly accepting the fact that eating bread and rice spikes her blood sugar. Unfortunately, she still has a hard time giving up those foods, even though her weight has doubled.

    For a good laugh, check out the new “K-E diet”, which guarantess a 20 lb loss in 10 days. It invloves sticking a feeding tube through your nose and ingesting a liquid solution that is carb-free. I guess for some people, a low-carb approach is only acceptable if done under the supervision of a doctor who inserts a hose in your nose.

    I’ll skip the hose and just eat the food.

  28. Walter B

    I noticed they did not go ultra low fat. I would like to see the experiment run ultra low fat, protein sparing.

    Perhaps such a diet where the carb calories come from fructose?

    If I were on the ethics committee I wouldn’t pass it, of course.

  29. eddie watts

    i remember it being on BBC actually, although i avoided it as i expected it to anger me massively and bang on about CICO etc etc
    maybe this was an incorrect assumption then!

  30. Jana

    It’s too bad they focused only on quantity of calories rather than on quality of calories. They would most likely have found that over eating carbohydrates easier than over eating protein or fat (especially fat). It’s also a shame that they did the same thing on losing weight, rather than seeing if you can reprogram your genes to be happy with higher quality food. I bet that Asian guy ate a lot more fat and protein in his calories than the others who gained more fat. Too bad they won’t look at that angle.

    It was a worthwhile experiment, but I’d like to see many more of them with different types of foods.

  31. Carolyn Gillham

    As someone who has been over weight all my life this is depressing stuff. I do question how the study would have gone if the participants had to eat the same amount of calories from foods other than sugar and starches.

    I am on the Smarter Science of Slim plan. I have lost 13 pounds. I am now at a weight that I usually plateau at on any weight loss plan. According to Jonathan Bailor I can change my body’s set point.

    The next few months will tell.

    Regardless, this plan has other health benefits and is extremely easy to stick to. So much so that I am planning on staying with it no matter what the fat loss is.

    It’s about health more than anything.

  32. Johan

    This should definitively disprove calories in = calories out.
    Even with a load of sugar.

    I am left with some interesting questions though, because of two statements made:
    1) you can’t lose fat cells once you gain them, they can only shrink.
    2) you normal body fat % is set in stone, you can’t change it.

    The first is completely new to me, and requires some more research on my part, but the second i think has been described in some paleo books as possible, but i could be wrong on that one (so many books still to read)

    One thing not talked about in this study is that these lean people can probably still get diabetes, meaning lean isn’t the same as healthy per se.
    but that wasn’t the goal of this study.

    I’ve read that fat cells can die off, but it’s not common. That could explain why people who were fat kids have a more difficult time becoming lean as adults; they’re trying to shrink their fat cells below their natural size.

    We obviously can reduce our body-fat percentage, but it requires a change in the hormonal balance.

  33. Cate

    It would be really interesting to see this same sort of experiment done with a paleo/ LCHF diet. Feed them the same excess calories but without the carbs. I wonder what their bodies would do with the excess.
    Also, The Doc at Columbia near the end of the film that reduced peoples body weight by 10% then showed their brains wanting to gain it back was probably using a low fat diet on his test subjects. I wonder if he kept them low carb instead if they’d still want to gain the weight back. My guess is not. I’ve lost 50 pounds since going paleo/LCHF back in late November and I hardly ever thing about food. I certainly feel no need to try and put the weight back on.

    The same experiment with different types of food would be enlightening.

  34. Ann Patterson

    Dearest Tom,

    Watched this a while back! Amazing how impossible it is to shift people’s thinking about this whole subject, and by the way, still wish that I had been born “naturally thin”!

    Recently, I spoke with a nurse in her mid-50s who has just been diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic. She was absolutely gorgeous, fit and charming. She has had celiac disease for years and never eats grains. Her brother, no celiac disease, has been diabetic for the past 16 years. Still, her focus was on the evils of fat and especially butter. She didn’t think for one minute that the absence of grains in her diet had contributed to her later diagnosis. She is a card carrying member of the ADA and an educated and experienced health care worker. UGH!

    There is just so much misinformation and money behind it that keeps people sick. Seems overwhelming at times. However, I just watched “Ingredients” and love the message in the film the people are beginning to be much more aware of where their food comes from….Sorry for the rant, and thank you again for all of your wonderful posts. XXOO

    I believe more and more people are looking to put real food back into their diets. Let’s hope.

  35. LCNana

    Very interesting, Tom. But these people were all young as well. Fast forward 30 years and we’ll see. I, too, was thin, and lost all pregnancy weight while under 30. Add in middle age, menopause and you’ve got 15 lbs around the middle which is harder to lose.

    I’m not complaining, mind you, as I know now what I have to do – i.e. intermittent fasting, reduced calories, and following the proper diet for my body.

    But all in all it is useless to treat everyone the same, and suggest that we should all follow the “food pyramid” – and to blame fat people for being fat, and lauding skinny people for being skinny.

    It would be interesting to see what happens in their later years. Dr. Eades told me he was one of those young people who ate everything he wanted and never put on any extra fat, but then in his 30s (I believe), he got fat all in one year.

  36. Beowulf

    I remember watching that documentary last year. As a naturally thin person, it was an eye-opener (along with Good Calories, Bad Calories). I have no more discipline with my food than anyone else, and I have a good deal less than the average dieter. While I follow a fairly consistent paleo/primal diet, I don’t worry about the occasional scoop of ice cream and pie (homemade by Mom, mmmmm!). In me, it doesn’t cause weight gain. In contrast, I have a friend that gains weight so easily that we joke that he gets fat walking past a bowl of jelly beans.

    I’ve learned to have more sympathy for the overweight and less praise for the naturally thin. There is a smug superiority complex that naturally thin, particularly athletic individuals can have. I try to combat that in myself, and documentaries and books have given me information to challenge the notion in others.

    Chareva and my son Zack are both naturally-lean types. Zack couldn’t gain weight even when he tried over-eating to do so. Fortunately, they both have the intelligence to understand that they’re geared that way and don’t congratulate themselves on being disciplined. If they’re hungry, they eat, and they eat until they’re full.

  37. Daniel09

    As a naturally just-over-thin person, I can verify that there are days when I have eaten upwards of 5000 calories a day for a month (and I’m only 130 lbs, so by the equations, my daily intake is only around 1500 calories to maintain my weight). I gained maybe 10 lbs, and it dropped off as soon as I lowered back down to normal eating. When I was at my fittest during a lot of exercise, I didn’t eat nearly as much, but I ran 6 miles a day. I hovered around 115 lbs at that point. As a male, this is considered low, but I’m fine. I do want to stop eating so many carbs though, because though it seems like it doesn’t affect me now, I know that if I want to maintain this health into adult-hood, I should seriously consider changing things.

    Yup, you don’t want to end up as a thin diabetic either.

  38. Joshua Tenner

    Could any of this have to do with gut flora (remember the whole fecal transplant thing?)

    Perhaps. I think we’re a long way from identifying exactly what allows some people to stay lean without ever thinking about what they eat.

  39. Emma

    What the hee-haw??? A virus might be the cause of some people’s obesity? So, does this mean that they can start testing the general population for this and possibly provide a solution for those who have this form of obesity? I mean, since antibiotics can’t get rid of viruses, what can be done? Apparently, it’s a long term type of virus, because logic tells you that if it were a short term virus, once the virus has passed (like a cold), the person who had it would lose their weight and go back to their normal size, but that’s not happening.

    There’s probably a drug being tested as we speak.

  40. Chris

    First, thanks for posting this documentary. Many good comments here. I think the comment by Cate about overweight people fighting the urge to eat after losing weight is likely true. Starchy and sugary carbs make you hungry. Human nature is to go back to you lifelong eating habits after you achieve your weight goals. Go back to moderate to high carb and the weight goes back on.
    As far as middle age folks, at least men, getting fat, it’s simple. When a man hits 28, he is usually at his peak skeletal muscle growth. From that point on he begins to lose muscle mass. This annual lose increases year by year. Muscle mass affects your base metabolic rate. Less muscle, the slower your metabolism, except in a small percentage of the population where genetics dominate. Why does low carb work? High protein intake tends to lead to lean body mass gain, even if you are less active.
    Another clue in this doc. All the extra calories came from carbs. No one sat down and ate a 3 lb porterhouse, half a ham, etc.

    That’s certainly part of it, but production of hormones that encourage fat accumulation also goes up in many people as they enter middle age.

  41. Dave, RN

    I’m confused. We all know that there are a lot more obese people than there used to be. When did more thin people start getting fatter to contribute to that if thin people stayed thin?
    It seems that thin people don’t always stay thin. Some of them are getting fatter and staying that way to contribute to the greater numbers of fat people.

    I believe most people can be pushed over a biological threshold that results in going into fat-accumulation mode. Lousy diets have pushed more and more people over that threshold, but some (lucky) people are still quite resistant to becoming fat.

  42. Emma

    I was thinking the same thing as I was watching the video, Chris…I wonder what the results would have been if the people were only fed meats/fats, vegetables, and fruit. It would be so interesting to see the results of that type of study.

  43. Tom C.

    Tom, I too have read that fat cells can die off, despite the common “knowledge” that they don’t. My personal theory (with no scientific backing) is that it’s probably a time related thing. The studies that say they don’t die off weren’t long enough. If a person can maintain a body fat % for a certain time, when the cell finally dies, it doesn’t need to be replaced. I think the “knowledge” is based on the problem that most people lose weight and regain it before that happens.

    Once again, just my personal theory, based on my own observations of my body composition and my struggle with weight.

  44. Marilyn

    It would be interesting to see that experiment taken a step further — double everyone’s calories, but make one group’s diet low-fat, another’s high fat. . . .

  45. Richard

    For me way back when I was a kid I was very thin, my parents actually thought I was dangerously thin.

    So they insisted I eat more (IIRC the more was more bread), then I gained weight and when I stopped being as active I gained weight really fast and was over 200lbs in high school.

    So imo some are born thin others get forced out of being thin and once you’re past some point it seems like the body just forgets how to crank up the metabolic rate.

    Then I have an older brother who has always been in shape so these people that can’t gain weight I think they have genes and luck too.

    What the rise in obesity rates suggests to me is that most of us can be pushed into fat-accumulation mode with enough lousy food. Some are more resistant than others.

  46. Firebird7478

    They absolutely vilified chocolate in this piece. Chocolate is calorie dense? Nope…the amount of sugar used to sweeten it, the amount of grains to make that muffin are the reasons, but we won’t mention that.

    Curious to see what would have happened if they made themselves the coconut oil/chocolate “Fat bomb” instead of eating the garbage they were eating.

    Totally reckless eating plan.

    Without the sugar, I predict many of them couldn’t have packed away the calories.

  47. Walter B

    I noticed they did not go ultra low fat. I would like to see the experiment run ultra low fat, protein sparing.

    Perhaps such a diet where the carb calories come from fructose?

    If I were on the ethics committee I wouldn’t pass it, of course.

  48. TonyNZ

    Apparently, People who love chocolate weigh less than other people!

    There are most things wrong with this study, as you will see. The most interesting comment, however, was “The researchers found that people who ate chocolate with greater frequency tended to eat more calories overall, including more saturated fat, than those who went light on the candy. But even so, chocolate lovers tended to have a lower body weight.”

    Well damn. Back to the drawing board folks.

    Sounds like the mirror-image of the observation that fat people are more likely to drink diet sodas than thin people. Of course they are. Fat people go on diets.

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