Myth: Fat Always = Overeating

[This was originally some rambling from the Susie Orbach post that I felt wasn’t entirely on topic.  ]

Recently I’ve become aware of several tenets of our culture that so many people believe, but few people articulate:

  1. Everyone will naturally have a “normal” ratio between their height and weight.  (Example: BMI 25-29.9)
  2. Anyone who has a greater or lesser ratio than “normal” is doing something (overeating, not eating, not exercising, overexercising, whatever) to make it happen. 
  3. Therefore, anyone who has a greater or lesser ratio than “normal” should just stop what they’re doing and then they will be “normal”. 

AKA, I weigh 400lbs, which is way out of normal ratio to my height of 5’9″.  Therefore, I must be doing something to keep my weight at its current level, such as eating much more than my body wants all day every day.   Therefore, if I would just eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full, I’ll lose weight.  Right?  (No.)  

This cultural belief also has a corollary: Overeating is morally wrong.  Different reasons are given for why it’s morally wrong, but they often include: overeating is an expression of greed; overeating prevents others from eating; overeating is wasteful; and overeating is unhealthy.  (Of course, there’s also the expectation that one will overeat at certain celebrations.  See also the various religious cycles of fast-feast-fast-feast ;) 

The problems with this are many.  

The natural variances are far greater than is posited by #1, so if you are naturally fatter or thinner than normal you may just be naturally fatter or thinner than normal.  I’ve had Overcoming Overeating recommended to me numerous times; I did not finish the book, but I read enough to realize that it is not about me.  Like many teenagers who grew up being told they were too fat, I assumed I was a binge eater, because I wanted to eat more than any diet allowed.  I even found myself “binging”, or rather, eating a larger than average dinner, after skipping breakfast and lunch.  It was only as an adult that I realized being overly hungry after not eating for 22 hours is not binge eating disorder, that’s natural reaction to not eating.  

Once I quit skipping meals or otherwise trying to keep myself from eating, I didn’t binge.   Funny that. 

On the other hand, if you are actually “doing something” that changes your body (dieting, bulimia, steriods, antidepressants) it may not have the desired consequences.  Long-term, dieting can result in weight gain and raising the weight setpoint. In the end, your body may have changed its natural weight range to something that it wasn’t before, which prevents #3.

I think this is why some people seem to see me as being fat at them.  Obviously if I weigh this much I must be eating 10,000-20,000 calories a day every day, right?  Well, guess what – I don’t.  The last time I tracked my food intake I was between 1800 and 2400 calories a day, which according to various diet calculators means I should be losing weight at the rate of several pounds a week.  And that’s  assuming I undercounted my calories a couple hundred a day.  Yet my weight is relatively stable.  Funny that.

52 thoughts on “Myth: Fat Always = Overeating

  1. I had the same experience the last time I tracked my caloric intake. First, I was surprised to find that when I didn’t consciously restrict food, and occasionally ate fast food or whatever, I was still always (concidentally the same as you) between 1800-2400 calories a day. After decades of being told my normal eating habits were binging, this was an incredible shock. According to the diet diary program I was using, I should have been losing at least 1 1/2 pounds a week. Naturally, I did not lose an ounce. So I cut my intake to 1500 calories a day, and then to 1200. Still nothing. And after I stopped restricting at 1200 calories a day and went back to my normal 1800-2400, I gained 15 lbs.

    Hundreds of thousands of people must have this experience, many of us multiple times throughout our lives, and yet, we still collectively believe that this is our fault and not just the way the human body works. Sometimes I am amazed at how willfully ignorant the medical community is.

    • Hundreds of thousands of people must have this experience, many of us multiple times throughout our lives, and yet, we still collectively believe that this is our fault and not just the way the human body works.

      Linda Bacon has a great rejoiner for this:

      [P]erhaps we hadn’t failed. Maybe, I said, we had successfully tested many weight-loss regimens and they had failed us. Had it ever occurred to them that maybe we did everything right, but the techniques we tried just weren’t capable of delivering on their promise?

      It’s from the intro to Health at Every Size – a PDF is here.

      I was surprised to find that when I didn’t consciously restrict food, and occasionally ate fast food or whatever, I was still always (concidentally the same as you) between 1800-2400 calories a day.

      Me too… until I found myself “rebelling” against the idea that I should only eat a certain amount or whatever. That’s when I ended the experiment.

      • Me too… until I found myself “rebelling” against the idea that I should only eat a certain amount or whatever. That’s when I ended the experiment.

        I should add that I started tracking as a way to keep track of sodium, which a nurse practitioner recommended I reduce because I have hyptertension. I didn’t start out trying to diet (yet again). And I felt no difference between the 2400-calorie days and the 1800-calorie days–I was just eating what I wanted, when I wanted.

        But damn, that diet diary program, it just kept telling me I should be losing weight with that caloric intake, and I got pulled in yet again, and tried to reduce. And I definitely felt the difference between 1200-1500 calories and 1800! That was deprivation, and it lasted all of four months with absolutely no weight loss before I got angry and gave up. And that’s when I gained 15 more pounds.

        I’m currently around 300 pounds, although I don’t know for sure because I no longer weigh myself, and no longer allow myself to be weighed at the doctor’s office, either. I am slowly introducing my doctor to the idea of HAES (he is open to the idea, but not educated about it yet). I haven’t bought Linda Bacon’s book yet, but I will in the near future, and am considering buying a copy for my doctor, too.

  2. I think sometimes fat people (well, probably women, period) can have a skewed sense of what a binge is. For a long time I assumed that, when I would eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting, or eat six cookies in a row, or have three slices of pizza, that was a binge. I would even consider things like having a big salad with blue cheese and walnuts a binge, if I had it at night! I assumed that since I was fat, and since I was eating more than the teeny, tiny portions I assumed I should be eating, I was binging.

    Then I lived with a friend who was bulimic, and my sense of what a binge was changed entirely. Six cookies or a pint of ice cream would have been just a tiny, tiny portion of what she would eat during a binge. Seeing somebody actually engaging in compulsive and unhealthy eating behavior was kind of a wake-up call to me that, while self-control might not always be my strong suit and I may indeed sometimes eat more than is strictly necessary to keep me satisfied (which I think is perfectly normal when living in a society where food is abundant), I was not a compulsive or binge. Just seeing somebody eating when she did not want to be eating but truly could not stop, things she did not want to be eating but couldn’t not eat, in amounts that literally made her sick, made me realize that there is a world of difference between the kind of overeating that I and I think most people occasionally engage in and truly disordered behavior.

    • By the wacked-out definitions most American women adhere to every day is one long binge for me. I don’t normally count calories, but at one point I did an estimate when a friend expressed shock over how much chocolate I eat.

      It’s about 600-800 calories a day, just chocolate.

      I’ve also had American friends go “ooh, look at you splurging today!” when I eat the bread that Italian restaurants bring you before your meal. OMG, two whole pieces of bread, what a binge!

      It constantly amazes me just how little a lot of women eat, and what pitiful little quantities of food they consider to be binges.

      • Yay! So glad I’m not the only person who regularly eats a lot of chocolate. I really thought it was just me.

        Although since I’ve decided to just eat it whenever I want it, I eat it less (although still a lot, and still often!)

        Gee, who ever would have thought that could happen?

        /snark

        • Nope! I actually get pissy when there’s no chocolate avaliable. I do think not thinking of it as forbidden makes it easier to just have as much as you want of it rather than eating every bit you have because you’re not sure when you’ll be able to have it again. Restricting any food just seems to make people obsess about it in wierd and unhealthy ways.

      • When we moved offices, my team ended up in a little area all our own. No incidental traffic, just us.

        One my team members brought in an empty bowl and put Hershey’s kisses in it. As a result, the co-workers who interact with us are more likely to walk over, say hi, and have chocolate. We have better relationships with our coworkers and, yes, they occasionally contribute to the chocolate bowl too.

        We generally get individually-wrapped things like Hershey’s minatures, kisses, Andes mints, or “fun size” or “mini size” Snickers, Kit Kats, and so forth.

        I usually eat between 0 and 4 pieces a day … not exactly huge ;)

        • I always have chocolate on my desk, and in several jobs it really has been helpful in bringing coworkers together. It’s sad, but it seems like a lot of women feel like they need permission to eat candy. Plus, having it right there always gave me a good opportunity to interrupt people’s “candy is sinful” talk with “no, chocolate is not a sin, it’s just food”.

    • i’m a fat person who is a binge eater /compulsive overeater and you’re right that it’s so much more than just eating a lot, or a lot more than diets suggest. it sometimes feel as though i have no control over my body, eating food when i’m not hungry or even craving it but for some reason i can not stop eating. eating 3000+ calories in one sitting, eating after i’ve already eaten enough to make me physically ill. binge eating is a very very serious thing, and you’re right that it IS more than just eating 6 cookies at a time one day.

  3. Oh, and I had a similar calorie-tracking experience. I’m 5’8″ and when I was nursing my son, I weighed about 30 pounds more than I do now. I tracked my diet for a nutrition class I was taking (an academic one, for a life science requirement for a grad program I thought I might apply for), and according to the calculations (based on my age, height, weight, and the fact that I was nursing), I should have lost about 80 pounds in a year. I didn’t lose a single pound the entire time I was nursing. I now eat the same amount, about 2000 calories a day, and have a BMI that stays between 29-31.

    The thing I did find interesting about tracking calories, and that I’ve found when I’ve done it since then, is how consistent my calorie intake is even when I feel like I’m really over- or undereating. Days when I felt like I ate a ton and thought I was a huge pig? I might have eaten 2300 calories. Days when I felt completely famished and like I barely had enough fuel to keep going? I might have eaten 1700 calories. There wasn’t the massive variation in calories that I felt there must have been. My “huge” meals weren’t as huge as they felt to me, and my “light eating” days weren’t as light as they felt to me.

  4. “Like many teenagers who grew up being told they were too fat, I assumed I was a binge eater, because I wanted to eat more than any diet allowed.”

    I assumed I was a binge eater *because I was fat.* I always, always assumed I ate “too much” or the “wrong things” or “more than I needed.” Years later I read a few of Geneen Roth’s books and couldn’t identify at all with the women who were considered binge eaters and I started to get the idea that I was not, in fact, any kind of binge eater at all. But I still thought there was something wrong with me, that I had *some* kind of eating disorder. But a close friend, who had truly struggled with eating disorders, and who had known me well for a long time, caught me reading Geneen Roth and proceeded to read me the riot act about how I most certainly did *not* have an eating disorder. I needed to hear that from someone I trusted and who knew what they were talking about.

    It’s good to hear that I’m not the only one who went through this!

  5. Ugh, me, too. I don’t know what I weigh, but it’s probably at least 170 (I’m 5’4”). My weight is usually stable at this level. I’ve been going through something very difficult lately, for the past few months, and it’s affected my appetite, at times severely. But I didn’t notice any weight loss (and I have been fighting slipping into a sick “deprivation is good” mindset). So out of curiosity, I decided the other day to track the calories of what I ate. Up until dinnertime, the total was less than 1,000. It probably worked out to about 1600 calories a day. Have I lost an ounce? Doubt it. I don’t weigh myself, but my clothes are fitting exactly the same. This is after more than a month of eating this way. Calories in/calories out MY ASS.

  6. In my early fat acceptance days, I also read some of the books which dealt with compulsive eating, etc., & realized that they were not about it. I eat what I want when I want it, refuse anymore to track my calories, but I have never binged in my life. It is normal to eat different amounts at different times, to occasionally feel extra-hungry, etc., but that does not mean that one is always, consistently overeating. MOST of us eat normally & MOST, if not ALL, of us know plenty of people who are much thinner than we are who eat quite a bit more than we do.

    So many people, including a lot of people with PHD’s who write a lot on the subject, just don’t ‘get it’. They CANNOT get beyond their conviction that fat people must be eating the world. I remember reading a frighteningly ridiculous quote from ‘obesity researcher’ Judith Rodin, when someone asked her, “Well, if a person is only eating 1200 calories or less per day & doesn’t lose weight, doesn’t that mean that the person is at the weight he or she is supposed to be?” Her response was something like that, even if we are eating 1200 calories or 1000 or whatever, if we are fat &/or not losing weight, we are eating more than our bodies need & we need to cut back still further. I read this years ago, so I have no idea whether or not anyone has hit her upside the head with a clue by four since, but she was advocating people living below the level the WHO defines as starvation if they could not eat more & be thin.

    Indeed, many of us have gone through this, most of us who DO learn better have to learn the hard way that the popular wisdom about food/weight/exercise/health, etc. is far from the truth & that the majority of us do not have some eating disorder just because we don’t look the way the world tells us we should look.

    • I am very thin and eat quite a bit, which might be normal for people my weight, I dunno, but I think it’s both a low setpoint and a fast metabolism- I eat as much, if not more, than other kids my age, and occasionally deviate. I know one time when my ribs were less obvious and my stomach was a little bigger, which I believe was immediately followed by a growth spurt. I lose weight pretty easily when I have a stomach bug and don’t eat as much, my ribs are a bit more obvious, my stomach seems a little smaller. And even though people think they wouldn’t have clothes problems if they were thin, nobody makes clothes for tall and very thin girls. And yet they make bras too small for me. I mean, who the heck are they making them for if they’re way too tight on me!

      (I’m 12, 13 in 10 days.)

  7. Amen. I was shocked to learn that I ate anywhere between 1500-2100 cals a day when I started tracking what I ate.

    No one, of course, believes me. After all, I weigh 270lbs. As my mother told me, I must be ‘fibbing’ about what I eat.

  8. I think Lori said much of what I wanted to:

    Just seeing somebody eating when she did not want to be eating but truly could not stop, things she did not want to be eating but couldn’t not eat, in amounts that literally made her sick, made me realize that there is a world of difference between the kind of overeating that I and I think most people occasionally engage in and truly disordered behavior.

    In the past I have looked at my friends who were hating themselves for eating two pieces of cheese pizza, and loathe myself even more for eating as much of three sausage pizzas–as well as anything else I had in the house–as I could before I got sick. If they were bad for what they were doing, then I shouldn’t be suffered to live.

    I personally find resources like Overcoming Overeating and Linda Bacon’s HAES book equally helpful in my recovery. Both are on my side, so to speak, and both provide tools to untangle various aspects of disordered thinking and behaviors.

    Overeating is as much a non-word as overweight to me now. That has freed up a lot of energy and resources to help me with my deeper issues.

    I’m just sayin’.

    • Overeating is as much a non-word as overweight to me now. That has freed up a lot of energy and resources to help me with my deeper issues.

      Can I just say I think that’s fantastic? :)

  9. I’m reading a book right now called “The Owl Was a Bakers Daughter” By Marion Woodman. Woodman is a Jungian Analyst and alot of her books focus on the repressed feminine in Western culture and how it is manifesting as disordered eating or eating disorders.

    One of the things she clearly points out is alot of women who are coined obese can eat 600 calories a day and still not lose weight. Alot about weight is not calories in calories out. It really does depend on what period of your life you gained weight and why. Alot of things are based in your psyche and some things are genetics.

    In fact alot of women have issues with their weight (whether they are overweight or their perceptions of their bodies is distorted) because they have repressed their feminine all their life and become who their fathers or their mothers pushed them to be (and this usually of course happens subconsciously) . So in Jungian terms the repressed feminine has to come out somehow, and the more you diet the more it comes out. The harder to exercise to shut it up the more it swells you up to get out. And then after a lifetime of suppression it can come out as rage.

    It’s been a very fascinating book actually and also note that doing therapy doesn’t mean a person is going to drop all their pounds and suddenly be thin and happy either! It’s way too complex of an issue to deduce it to that.

  10. I love the dog analogy for this issue: We all know that that a St. Bernard might weigh 200x more than a chihuahua, but no one thinks that the St. Bernard eats 200x more food. Why would it be any different for people?

  11. You actually eat less than I do, I think, and my weight stays in the 130-140 pound range even though I’m eating more. Once again – do we think genetics might have anything to do with this? And I have a guy friend who eats WAY more plus drinks like a fish and stays at about 140 pounds (he’s 5ft11). I honestly don’t think he could gain weight if he tried.

    It amuses me that people assume he’s being “virtuous” in his food choices even when they actually observe him eating what he normally eats, which is about twice what I do. It’s like they literally cannot see what’s right in front of them, the corresponding myth that skinny = hardly eats anything is so strong.

      • Yup, I’m pretty sure my setpoint would be lower too if I hadn’t dieted so much as a teenager. Clinical depression will raise it too, I think the only reason that the weight I gained while severely depressed (after my Mom died I basically didn’t want to leave the house for about a year) came off again as I slowly came out of the depression was that I have to walk everywhere since I don’t drive, and I never took anti-depressants. Anti-depressants seem to have a pretty significant effect on people’s metabolisms.

        • I do take an SSRI, which definitely ups my setpoint by about 20-30 pounds, but I also think that having panic disorder, and the hormonal changes that occur during a panic attack and when stressed in general, have probably also had an impact on my set point and on percentage of body fat.

  12. I have binged in two situations:

    1) When I was a dieting teenager who STUPIDLY didn’t eat enough all day and became so hypoglycemic I made a beeline for the pantry and just ate myself silly.

    2) When I was first on Remeron. Seriously, low doses of that drug can make you so hungry you can’t see straight. (I later found out that low doses — which are more appetite-stimulating than the higher doses — of this drug are routinely given to people with wasting illnesses to try to get some food into them. I’ll bet it works great.)

    But now that I think about it, my “binges” in both cases amounted to maybe 500 calories or so. That’s an amateur binge compared to those of Lori’s bulimic friend. And in both cases, I was HUNGRY. I wasn’t cramming myself full of ice cream I didn’t physically want until I got sick. Not that I would deserve censure if I did (the “how dare you!” response to people with EDs is something I will never, ever understand), but still, I wasn’t eating anywhere nearly as much as I was convinced I was eating. You’d think after all these years I’d know better. Programming. Bleh.

  13. For some reason, this post helped me understand for the first time in my FA quest (2+ yrs), that ALL THAT DIETING I did over the years contributed to most of my weight gain. The way you put this made it crystal clear to me tonight. I had read this many times before, but it really hit me square in the jaw this time.

    The reason this is so significant to me is because of everything else you wrote. I actually occasionally watch what other diners eat while dining out to gauge the amount of food and caloric intake they are eating. It’s usually the same as me, yet they are “average” weight and I am not. I absolutely hate those shows on TV that lay out on a table the supposed caloric intake of a “fat” person to horrify and berate them for their greedy consumption. Sure they lose a few pounds by the end of the show, but I can pretty much guarantee they put it back on within a few months, AND feel the shame tenfold.

    The tears I shed over the years as I starved myself with reduced calorie diet after diet, only to deepen my shame and guilt about my lack of self control. I can’t tell you how many doctors, diet coaches, nutritionists, etc I have had sneer in disbelief at me when I tell them my caloric numbers and exercise times. They made me feel like a liar, and I believed it too.

    My husband would tell me that I eat way less then he does and I wouldn’t believe him..thinking he’s only saying that to make me feel good. But running the numbers would confirm his statement and just confuse me even more. You still, to this day, hear educated asshats (even doctors) make claims that all you have to do to lose 10 pounds in a year is cut out soft drinks. The truth for me is when I switched from diet soda to non-diet, I LOST a couple pounds. Hmmm..could it be the artificial sweetener?

    The last real binge I ever had was at a friend’s birthday party at the Melting Pot in Seattle. This place brings you all kinds of meat, veggies, cheese, fruit and breads to batter and fry right at your table. I overindulged because it was FUN! I ate so much I couldn’t sit up all the way and couldn’t breathe well. That was truly a binge. Not the occasional extra helping of bread, or second slice of pizza. Now I get it.

    Though I am still not at the place I want to be in my self acceptance, relationship with food, and healthy amount of exercise, I am a long way from the shame and guilt of my dieting days.

    Thank you for this post!

  14. is how consistent my calorie intake is even when I feel like I’m really over- or undereating.

    Lori, this was my experience when I tracked my caloric intake without also restricting it.

    This cultural belief also has a corollary: Overeating is morally wrong.

    Actually, what’s morally wrong is Fat. If a thin person is believed to be overeating, it might be considered slightly naughty, or something to feel envious about (that they can eat so much and not get fat), but it is not considered morally wrong.

    I think this is why some people seem to see me as being fatat them.

    When I encounter that attitude, I tend to assume that the person thinks fat is morally wrong, and that they have restricted their food intake, and that they are feeling that weird combination of envy and disgust as a result. I also believe some people feel the same way about a person who isn’t making great efforts to appear conventionally attractive. For some people, fat is automatically ugly, and fat can be fixed, so if you are fat, it means you are thumbing your nose at people who care about appearance.

    • I also believe some people feel the same way about a person who isn’t making great efforts to appear conventionally attractive.

      That would explain what I have always found to be the unfathomable hatred I’ve seen people express at others daring to do things like wear Crocs, go out in sweatpants, or wear “mom jeans.” I don’t understand why otherwise kind and reasonable people can get so outraged by other people’s fashion choices, which in no way affect them (and we’re not talking about people wearing sweatpants to a formal restaurant, but people being just scandalized that another mom dare pick her child up at school while wearing lounge pants). But, if you are wearing uncomfortable shoes and clothes, the fact that other people are walking around wearing what feels good to them, and not even seeming to care if other people think it looks good or not, might indeed make it seem like they are being unfashionable at you.

    • For some people, fat is automatically ugly, and fat can be fixed, so if you are fat, it means you are thumbing your nose at people who care about appearance.

      That’s it!!!! That’s exactly the vibe I’ve been getting from certain people when I go swimming at the pool!

      How dare I violate all the laws of decency? Have I no shame?

      Wow . . . I must be quite the rebel . . .

    • “Actually, what’s morally wrong is Fat. If a thin person is believed to be overeating, it might be considered slightly naughty, or something to feel envious about (that they can eat so much and not get fat), but it is not considered morally wrong.”

      Bingo. I had a friend in high school who was naturally very skinny and ate like a horse. She still to this day remains the only woman I’ve ever known who didn’t get censured for eating a lot. People found it cute to watch the skinny girl eat a lot. That right there tells me that the attitudes to “overeating” have nothing to do with the actual amount of food consumed.

  15. I have trouble calculating how many calories I eat in a day because restaurants and home cooking don’t come with calorie labels, but I am pretty sure it hovers around 2000. It would be nice to have harder evidence to show certain people that I am not eating 10,000 calories a day, but I am pretty sure they would just say “Well you should be eating 1200 then,” because, while that is semi-starvation for a normal person, it seems to be a pretty normal limit for diets.

  16. Like many teenagers who grew up being told they were too fat, I assumed I was a binge eater, because I wanted to eat more than any diet allowed.

    Before that could truly happen to me, my eating had already been disrupted by trying to lose weight. So I actually was a compulsive eater.,

    It’s funny, but the term ‘compulsive eating’ is as misleading and pointless as overweight etc.

    The thing is all that a person with CE is doing, and a bulimic for that matter, is the same as you, responding to their appetite.

    The problem is, their appetite has become throughly disrupted by trying to lose weight, or sometimes, merely control their diet.

    When people see people like Lori’s friend in action, they become convinced that eating disorders are mental illnesses, because they are so disturbing.

    I personally believe this is a mistake, what they show is the potential power of our hunger drives, on which human survival rests.

    Hunger has just got to be capable of being this powerful.

  17. Do you remember all those news stories on Michael Phelps’ when he was on his Olympic Gold medal run? All about his 12,000 calorie daily intake? I went to one article and here’s a list that gives an example of his daily diet:

    Breakfast =

    3 fried egg sandwiches topped with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions, and mayonnaise.
    1 – 5-egg omelette
    a bowl of grits (porridge)
    3 slices of French toast with powdered sugar
    3 chocolate-chip pancakes
    2 cups of coffee

    Lunch =
    half a kilo of enriched pasta
    2 large ham and cheese sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise
    1,000 calories worth of energy drinks

    Dinner =
    half a kilo of pasta
    1 entire pizza
    1,000 calories of energy drinks

    Hardly a “healthy” diet by caloric or food pyramid standards! Yet, he’s an elite athlete.

    My stomach turns to read about how much he eats. I could never eat three pancakes at one sitting, let alone eat them along with a 5 egg omlette and 3 fried egg sandwiches! Yet, I’m sure that is exactly what people think I eat on a daily basis based on my body size.

    • Y’know, my main reaction at that diet plan is boredom at the time it would take to eat all that. it doesn’t even sound good to me, but even if it were all my favorite foods, eventually I’d be frustrated wanting to do other things.

      I have a friend who runs marathons, and when she’s seriously training, she has to eat a lot too…she’s really really hungry, but she does complain that it takes a lot of time to eat everything she needs to eat.

      I also wonder whether it would be the same if Michael Phelps was a female athlete. I think she wouldn’t publicize her daily diet like that unless it were all “healthy” fats and calories – lots of lean meat, avocados, etc. I seriously doubt that a woman in the public eye would cop to eating all that.

  18. A news show laid out all the foods that Michael Phelps ate and my stomach turned at seeing all of it. I couldn’t get down a fried egg sandwich if I tried, and three pancakes is one meal for me. But since I’m over 300 lbs, some people probably think that’s my daily diet too.

    Of course, the automatic explanation is that he burns more calories than we do. Sure, but other thin non-athletes can eat like that and not gain any weight either, so the calories in/calories out is bunk.

    • Not only that, but gymnasts work out as many hours as Michael Phelps does, but they are on strict calorie restricted diets.

      • Heh. When I was a gymnast I got told off by my coach for eating bananas on the principle that that constituted “overeating”. This is not because gymnasts aren’t working out a lot, it’s because they’re required to be very thin or they get given lower scores by the judges.

      • I was an elite gymnast for a number of years when I was young too. Before I quit I was training about 36 hours a week (age 11). It was pretty hardcore.

        I remember the regular “skin folds” we had to test our body fat levels, and being expected to stay within a certain range. I also remember once when I was about 10, my skinfolds being ok but not great so I thought I wouldn’t have icecream for dessert, but then I ended up crying because I really wanted the icecream, and my mum told me to eat some anyway (I love my mum).

        I’ve often wondered (whe I was looking for a way to excuse my fatness) if this extreme amount of physical activity at such a young age has had any adverse effects on my metabolism.

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  20. Calories in versus calories out is pure physics. The laws of conservation of mass and energy, both fundamental concepts of physics, require it to work. A “starvation diet” doesn’t effect (lower) someone’s weight because when the “calories in” are dramatically reduced, the “calories out” (metabolism) is reduced even further. Of course it doesn’t work if weight loss is your end goal, but it isn’t the physics at fault, it’s the biology… and it’s a damn good thing it doesn’t work that way! Imagine getting food poisoning, and not being able to keep down food for 4 days. If you’re me, that’s a 4 * 2000 = 8000 calorie deficit for your body, or just over 2 pounds of stored energy, in 4 days. Using up stored energy that fast would mean death to our ancestors during a prolonged famine… which is why the body naturally lowers its metabolic rate when it isn’t being fed enough. If you constantly starve your body, your metabolic rate readjusts to your new “life style”. (Which is the crux of why yo-yo dieting is so bad for you: you’re body needs to struggle just to maintain basic metabolic functions)

  21. I have had the same exact experience as you have had. I am 43 male, 325#, 6’1″. My endocrinologist insisted that I must be over eating so they had me see their dietitian. Well she had me track everything I normally ate for one month. It came out to 1800 calories a day. I asked her how could someone who is over 300# not lose weight on that? She said she didn’t know but had me go to 1500 calories a day and lower my carbs to 30%. Well two weeks later, I had gained a pound!. So I go to see the endocrinologist and tell him about this and he says, you must have forgotten to include everything you ate! The fact of the matter is no doctor, and I have been to quite a few, cannot explain why I am not a normal weight when I eat 1800 calories a day and have regular exercise.

  22. Pingback: Rethinking Thin and Mindless Eating « Living ~400lbs

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  25. Pingback: Fat Acceptance Greatest Hits « This and That

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  28. Hi, I just discovered your blog today (11/22/13) and I am literally crying with relief. I am 22 years old, 5′ 4″ and 300-and-I-don’t-want-to-know-how-many pounds, and I am CONSTANTLY being told I need to lose weight, being worried over, ignored (or preached to) by strangers, and generally harassed. Your posts are like a soothing hug to me.
    I know that at this point I am living a very sedentary lifestyle, and that I am an emotional overeater. I would like to work on getting to the root issues behind these, instead of constantly having people focus on my obesity. Part of that healing process, I think, will be accepting myself where I am at, instead of constant self shaming.
    Your ‘TMI’ posts were some of the ones that drove me weep with gratitude. It is so good to know I’m not alone. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart for your candor. You have helped me to take another step toward accepting myself.

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