So I was bored at dinner and ended up watching a … documentary? Drama? Reality show? It was about the U.K.’s fattest man and the surgery he requires to save his life.
Now in this regard, I’m known by many to be quite ruthless and unrelenting. Yes, I understand there’s a psychological aspect that makes it difficult for people to “stop eating” or get into shape. Difficult, but not impossible. To me, it’s always an excuse. This morbidly (literally – he’s going to die) obese man lies there crying about how he hates himself and how he looks. Hmm. And then he says it’s not his fault he costs tax payers over 100,000 pounds a year in health care costs because “(he was) let down by the health system that allowed him to get so unhealthy”. Wow. Take some damn responsibility. This is why I’m particularly ruthless about health issues. People don’t want to take responsibility. Are you trying to say there aren’t people who have greater hardships than you? That you are the only person in the world who has any suffering, and therefore are excused for your actions? I was in constant pain from stomach cramps when I started cutting by eating only one small meal a day (and I was 98kg), but you don’t see me costing Australia $100,000 a year (or, to use the exchange rate, $151,807), nor crying about it on T.V., and least of all claiming that it’s somebody else’s fault.
Anyway, hate me or agree with me on that part. That’s my little rant. I’m not completely apathetic – I’ve helped a few people get into shape, improve their body image and boost their confidence. I enjoyed doing it because these people took responsibility for their lifestyles and had the motivation to change.
Rant aside, the show itself raised a few things about nutrition that are downright wrong, leading me to believe part of the obesity problem is not just overeating, it’s the fact that nobody knows enough about nutrition.
Now, a lot of this info I’ve said before in previous posts but this is a nice little list to summarise it.
1. Mr. Obese’s caretaker makes him three meals a day of anything he wants to eat. She says “it’s very healthy, hardly any fat in it at all”. Let me get one thing straight: fat is not bad. Saturated fat is bad, yes, but fat usually comes with both saturated and unsaturated fat components. You need unsaturated fat to improve your cholesterol levels.
Let me lay some academia on you. I’ll quote the first line of a Harvard study for you:
It’s time to end the low-fat myth.
Plain and simple.
2. Carbs (especially simple carbs) are your enemy. The full article (mentioned above), which I can no longer find but I used in an assignment for university, put up some interesting statistics. Some time ago (exactly how many decades I cannot remember) the US was consuming a much higher amount of fat but had a very low diabetes and obesity problem. The the whole “low fat” craze kicked in and a lot of fat was removed from the US diet, to be replaced by carbs. Simple carbs. Those of you who have read my other nutrition posts should know by now – simple carbs are practically the worst thing you can eat besides pure trans/saturated fat. Lo and behold, with a decrease in fat intake and an increase in carbs, the US now sits at a significant amount of type 2 diabetes and obesity cases. Why? Because fat isn’t bad. Simple carbs are, and too many calories are. Yes, fat has 9 calories per gram as opposed to 4 from carbs and protein, but you don’t eat as much fat as you eat carbs.
Plus there’s glycemic index to think of and the insulin response. Carbs are particularly responsible for diabetes because of the insulin response. I’ve mentioned this in more detail in another post if you’re interested in reading.
3. This one actually came out of the mouth of the doctor who was meant to operate on Mr. Obese. I don’t know if he was being melodramatic for the camera or genuinely ignorant (let’s hope not the latter – he is, after all, a doctor). Basically, he said that when someone got to Mr. Obese’s size, they couldn’t lose weight because “he can’t get out of bed so he can’t burn any calories and therefore anything he eats will already be too much”.
Let’s get this straight: you are always burning calories. Even when you’re sleeping, you burn calories. In fact, studies have shown that you burn more calories sleeping than you do when being sedentary (such as watching T.V.). I’ve heard people adamantly reject the idea that you can burn calories while just lying still, to which I yell “idiot” and direct them to a basic physics book explaining thermodynamics. Think of it this way, unless you stop every single organ in your body from functioning, they will require energy to operate. Your brain, in fact, consumes about 20-25% of your calories, and some have claimed that “thinking really hard” can increase the amount of calories your brain burns (though only by a little). It is interesting though because there aren’t that many overweight professors compared to skinny ones.
Anyway, to be more technical, the bare minimum calories you need to keep your organs operational and stay alive is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). A larger person will have a larger BMR. Therefore, Mr. Obese could lose weight by eating below his BMR, which is likely to be very high anyway. Apparently, he was consuming over 20,000 calories a day (I find that amazing because I was struggling to eat over 3,500 for my bulk). Not only is it annoying that I can’t even afford to eat the kind of food he was eating (for which the government paid whereas I have to work), but the simple medical fact is that if you wired his mouth shut and gave him only water, he would lose weight. Now that’s a bit extreme but the point remains, Mr. Doctor was wrong to say that it was impossible for him to lose weight and that the only possible option was a 50/50 surgery.
Then again, considering Mr. Obese’s personality and aversion to responsibility, it probably would have been very difficult to put him on a diet, especially considering he failed many diets in the past. I mean, it’s probably very difficult to stop a bed-ridden man from eating, right? He can only really reach whatever you lay in front of his face, but, you know.