Are fat people always at fault for their condition? If you eat right, exercise daily, and lead a balanced lifestyle, will this always be enough to keep you fit and trim? Is the obesity epidemic in the United States today entirely a matter of poor self-control, a combination of gluttony and sloth? Or are there other reasons for obesity besides overeating and underexercising?

Recently, I read an article in Newsweek about obesogens, substances that can disrupt the normal balance in our bodies and incline us toward obesity. What caught my attention was the statement that sometimes weight gain occurs in people who eat no more than others of comparable age and who exercise no less. In a group of babies under the age of six months, one can already detect serious differences in the way that body fat accumulates, even when they have a similar diet and the same exercise regimen.

Obese children are common in the United States

Image Credit: The Wikipedia
Image Credit: The Wikipedia

The term "obesogens" was coined by Bruce Blumberg of the University of California, Irvine. It refers to substances in the environment that might disrupt the metabolic process. What subtances are these? And is there any study that definitively links these substances with the obesity epidemic?

That's where the obesogen story strikes many of us as rather weak. "Exposure to environmental chemicals during development may be contributing to the obesity epidemic," Newsweek quotes Retha Newbold of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in North Carolina, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as saying, But is there any evidence?

Newbold gave low doses of estrogen-like compounds to newborn mice. According to the Newsweek article: "In six months, the mice were 20 percent heavier and had 36 percent more body fat than unexposed mice." These weight gains occurred without allowing the obese mice access to more food than controls, and the obese mice were not any less active than the controls. They gained weight on the same diet and the same amount of exercise as their fellow mice who were not obese!

Newsweek quotes Newsbold as saying: "What was so odd was that the overweight mice were not eating more or moving less than the normal mice. We measured that very carefully, and there was no statistical difference."

What does this prove?

I got a little excited when I read about Newbold's experiment with the mice. But it wasn't because I was convinced that unnatural substances in our environment are the cause of the obesity epidemic. I think the experimenters are still a long way from proving that. It would take much more to link specific environmental chemicals to the weight gain in the general population -- and even in very young children.

The thing that excited me was the idea that there is more to weight gain than the simple arithmetic process of adding up the calories you eat and subtracting the calories you burn. I've always suspected that there was more to weight gain than budgeting calories.

Different Factors in Weight Gain

Even among newborns of comparable body length, some weigh considerably more than others. It's hard to say what exactly contributes to this discrepancy, because as we all know, unborn babies are not all receiving the same caloric input, and they are not all equally as active. Some kick and squirm a lot in utero, and others are so inactive that they cause concern even before they are born.

After birth, parents are even more aware of the baby's activity level. Some babies, even when lying flat on their back, fidget and squirm a great deal more than others, and it is quite likely that more active babies burn more calories. Noting a tendency toward obesity in those under six months of age does not necessarily correlate with environmental disruptors.

But the experiment with the mice showed something important: there is more to weight gain than the calories we burn and the calories we consume.

The Savings/Spending Metaphor

We can use an economic metaphor to explore the different factors that go into a person's weight gain or loss. Think of calories consumed as the person's income. Think of money spent as calories burned. The traditional take on weight management is that if you want to put on weight, you should increase savings, by reducing spending or increasing income. (That is, exercising less or eating more.) If you want to lose weight, you should save less, by spending more or reducing your income. (That is, exercising more and eating less.)

In this metaphor, body fat is savings. Just as many people think that wealthy people are bad, so there are many among us who pass judgment on the obese for being fat. But we all know, don't we, that there's much more to how much you save than what your income is and how much of it you spend?

Consider Tom and Harry, two co-workers who earn the same salary, live in houses that are equal in valuation and drive exactly the same car. Let's say they also spend the same on groceries and entertainment and the like. In short, their income and their spending are exactly the same. Does this guarantee that their savings will be the same? No, it does not.

What if Tom keeps all his extra money in CDs and high yield money market accounts, and Harry keeps his extra money in the mattress? What if Tom always pays with exact change in the supermarket, while Harry pays with full dollar bills and then tosses the change haphazardly on the counter, or under the bed, or into the sofa? What if Tom uses tax shelters and loopholes to shield his income from marauders and Harry does not? What if Tom pays cash for major purchases and Harry uses credit? At the end of the year, who will have more savings?

Efficiency in managing our resources can be a factor. This is true when it comes to money. It is no less true when it comes to calories. Some people are fat because they overeat. Some people are fat because they don't exercise enough. And some people are fat because their bodies are unusually efficient in storing fat!

If the body has more fat cells, it can store fat more efficiently

In 2006, according to the Newsweek article on obesogens, Bruce Blumberg fed pregnant mice tributyltin, a disinfectant and fungicide which enters the human food chain in seafood and drinking water. "The offspring were born with more fat already stored, more fat cells, and became 5 to 20 percent fatter by adulthood," Blumberg told Newsweek.

How did this happen? Apparently, the tributylin activated a receptor site called "PPAR gamma" which switches embryonic cells from being fiborblasts to becoming fat cells. When a baby mouse is born with more fat cells, apparently it is able to store more fat after consuming the same number of calories than another baby mouse that was born with fewer fat cells. Because there is better storage for fat, the accumulation of fat proceeds more efficiently, and fewer calories are frittered away. If this works for baby mice, it might very well be true of human babies as well.

Diversity and Tolerance

Are there human children who are born with more fat cells? And if so, is this due to obesogens in the environment? It may be too early to decide. But one thing seems to be proven already: efficiency in processing calories is a factor in weight gain.

It's not necessarily the case that all congenital tendencies toward obesity involve a higher number of fat cells in the embryo. Efficiency in processing calories may also involve the basic metabolic rate of each individual. Some people burn more calories even while at rest than do others. Inefficiency in regulating body temperature may be a factor for some people. It's like two households that keep their thermostat set to the same temperature, but one has a house with faulty insulation. How much they are able to save can be affected by an energy leak.

In an affluent society such as ours, bodies that are too efficient in processing caloric resources may be less desirable. It's easy to put on weight, so the laws of supply and demand make a skinny body more sought after. In the U.S. today, healthier and wealthier people have bodies that don't process energy so efficiently as to put on much fat. However, the tables could easily be reversed, and an economic collapse may lead to a situation where greater efficiency is more desirable again, as it was with our ancestors in past generations. Under those conditions, fat people might suddenly find themselves healthier, wealthier and more popular.

For those people who put on more weight than others for the same number of calories consumed, without exercising less, one way to avoid obesity might be to decrease the efficiency with which calories are processed. One way to do this is to choose a diet low in carbs. Since carbs are easier for the body to process into energy, consuming calories that are not in the form of carbs may lead to storage of less fat. That is, if you want to store less fat.

But let's face it, in a famine, those with more body fat are more likely to survive, and those whose efficiency in fat storage is high will have an advantage. So before we decide that efficiency in saving calories is always a bad thing, we should consider all possible environments.

In an inflationary economy, people burdened with wealth suffer, and it is wise not to accumulate savings. In a deflationary economy, those with savings may prosper. Before you condemn someone who has savings for greed or avarice, consider that he may not have had more income than you or spent any less. He may simply be more efficient at processing the income he has.

By the same token, when you meet someone with more body fat than you have, don't assume he got that way by gluttony or sloth. He may simply be more efficient at processing calories than you are. In a famine, that skill will come in handy!

It takes a diverse population to ensure human survival. You never know when the environment may favor a different body type than the one that is currently popular. Before we pass judgment on others for the way they are, maybe it would be good to consider all the possible benefits of each person's assets. There is more than one way to be!

(c) 2009 Aya Katz

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Comments 83 comments

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Scott.Life 7 years ago

I think it has become an issue of not so much calorie intake but what kind of calories. Two people can indeed consume the same exact number of calories and exercise, but if one consistently eats a diet filled with processed foods and sugars they will gain weight, as the body adjusts to meet the routines. I think and believe given what i have observed in my own weight loss clients that the quality and ingredients of food are the greatest contributors to fat loss or gain. My clients have seen the biggest weight loss goals by changing what they eat, many actually consume more calories now then when they started. Our food is the problem. Partnered with a more sedentary lifestyle filled with modern conveniences to encourage laziness it's no wonder obesity is on the rise.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Scott.Life, good point! I totally agree that the number of calories is not the controlling factor. The kind of calories and degree of processing has a lot to do with it.

However, I'm assuming that the scientists involved in these studies used the same diets for the experimental group and the controls.

So their point was, that at least in the case of the mice studied, the same diet and the same exercise led to different weight gain in subjects, based on presence or absence of obesogens.

nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 7 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana

Hi Aya,

I am intrigued by your hub in which you disprove the law of conservation of energy.

(But why do you think the only way of getting rid of calories is to burn them?)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Nets, while the Newsweek article did mention going counter to the law of conservation of energy, I don't think any of what I said in this hub actually does defy that law. It's just that most people's systems are not 100% efficient. Or rather, nobody has a completely efficient system. So nobody conserves in the form of fat reserves all of the calories that he takes in but fails to burn by exercising. Or isn't that what you were getting at also, when you suggested that calories could be got rid of without burning or saving them?

hot dorkage profile image

hot dorkage 7 years ago from Oregon, USA

Its the little things... If two people are identical in every way but one goes to Starbucks every day and buys a large mochachino and the other doesn't, the one who doesn't will have $1000 surplus in a year. you might think 1 mochachino is no biggie but in a year it adds.

There probably isnt a whole lot we can do about chemical crap that is already in our systems so we have to think of ways to spend all that loose change so to speak, and that boils down to fidgeting more and eating less crap.

I think what we eat has a profound effect on our ability at exercise. When you pump on refined starch and sugar it makes your insulin go wild and your body goes into WTF mode and maybe you don't feel quite so optimal so you take the elevator instead of the stairs which makes you fat and less inclined to exercise the next time....

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

I liked your analogy with Tom and Harry as it makes a lot of sense. Much of the problem of obesity stems from inactivity and laziness as many people choose to eat fast foods as it is cheap and convenient. It's tough to avoid passing by them to and from work. I've been that route before (ha ha) and so know such pitfalls after gaining nearly 40 pounds because I was too spent to cook for myself. I actually went on a protein diet which works wonders if you stick with it, but you have to be extremely disciplined in doing so.

Thanks again Aya for a wonderful and useful hub!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hot Dorkage, good to hear from you! How are things down under? Yes, of course, it makes sense to avoid refined sugar -- or even any kind of sugar -- if we are trying to avoid putting on weight. The more weight we put one, the harder it is to exercise, so there is a kind of feed back loop built into the process. The rich get richer, they say, because it's easier to save once you have savings as a cushion. The same is true for fat. The fat get fatter.

For those with a normal metabolism and an average body, watching what we eat and getting plenty of exercise is still the best way to go, as you suggest. But when we see someone who is morbidly obese, we must not assume that he or she got that way by failing to take these ordinary steps. Chances are that there are more compelling reasons for the condition.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dohn121, thanks! It's not necessarily laziness that makes people eat fast food, though. There are only so many hours in the day, and when every family member is at work for a full work day, there is nobody left at home to cook nutritious meals! However, that's probably not the case at your house, as you hub about preparing sticky rice attests!

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 7 years ago from United States

Lots of food for thought here on this hub that'll have me thinking on it for days. To me I see the fact that virtually everything most people eat having so much unnatural stuff added to it as another key factor in the many causes of obosegens?

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jerilee, thanks! It could well be that some food additives can serve as obesogens, if they disrupt the normal way in which calories are processed. Also, there could be estrogens in the food chain that aren't naturally there, such as when cattle are given hormones.

What was interesting to me in the Newsweek article was that they had done toxicity studies on some of these substances, but found them to be non-toxic. It turns out that part of the definition of "toxicity" that they were using was that something "toxic" causes one to lose weight. Until recently, nobody considered that something that makes one gain weight could be toxic!

Shalini Kagal profile image

Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

Great hub Aya - gives one a lot to think about! It scary, isn't it, when you think of how many substances can contribute to gaining weight. Growth hormones, too can be bad news - I'm not sure if this is true, but they say no matter how long you cook meat, the hormones can still be active.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shalini, thanks for dropping by. It is scary that so much of what is out there can interfere with our normal metabolism and the ability to process nutrients. I've heard that, too, about growth hormone. It makes raising one's own food seem like a very healthy option.

Catherine R profile image

Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

Very interesting hub. We have been messing about with our food way too much. You are of course right that there is more than one way to be but obesity levels are now getting ridiculous in many western countries - certainly to levels that have never been seen before in history. I wrote a hub recently on the 'toxic environment' that leads people to become obese - the argument is that there is too much high calorie, easy food where ever we go and that our will power is only good up to a point. At any rate it is a complex issue that is for sure.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Catherine, thanks! Will power becomes an important factor, when people are expected to curb their desires, because we weren't designed to fight our natural urges. We had those urges programmed in, because they had survival value. In the long run, it is better to find a way of life that naturally promotes our health, rather than constantly fighting against our own natures for the sake of our health. At the moment, people whose bodies are natural energy spendthrifts are thriving, because they gain less weight even on the same diet and exercise regimen. But put those same people in a more demanding environment, and the tables may be turned.

For the time being, its easier to stick to a healthy diet if you actually enjoy the food, and to an exercise regimen if you enjoy the activity itself, and are not just doing it because "it is good for you."

livelonger profile image

livelonger 7 years ago from San Francisco

Very interesting, and I'm inclined to agree with you about differences in weight. When I see a morbidly obese person, I think "metabolic/hormonal disorder," not "laziness," since many of them get more exercise (some having physical labor jobs) than sedentary thin people. I think a mentality that assume obesity is caused by a character defect impedes our ability to understand and solve the disorders that cause it.

My partner, who is "naturally thin," is a good example. When he wants to gain weight, he starts to eat more, but his body does something: he literally emanates heat constantly. His body is trying hard to get rid of his extra consumed calories. Despite his best efforts, he usually returns to the same naturally thin build.

On the other hand, a friend of mine is predisposed to being overweight, and whenever she controls her diet (eating a moderate, healthy diet), her body becomes literally cold - it is trying to conserve heat at all costs. Her hands are usually ice cold unless she is overeating and gaining weight.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Livelonger, thanks for your comment. It's great that you are able to share some corroborating evidence from your own experience with friends and companions. I think that if we look around with an open mind, we will find that in many cases, basic metabolic rate and the mechanism for temperature regulation will be implicated as primary causes of extreme weight gain or loss.

Jennifer profile image

Jennifer 7 years ago

Everyone has a different metabolism rate so it is true that some people have to work harder to burn the same amount of calories. That being said, even if you eat the right foods, you can still over eat. Very interesting hub.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jennifer, thanks! It's true that we can all overeat at times, even when we're eating good nutritious food. The big difference between people who gain weight when they overeat and people who don't is what the body does with the extra food.

Some people's bodies just seem to rid themselves of the extra food-stuff. In some cases, over-eating makes people warm or jittery and in other cases, they get sick to their stomachs and excrete the excess. There are some children that you can't fatten up no matter how much they eat. As we get older, and our metabolism slows down, we tend to put on more weight every time we overeat. Younger people tend to do less of that. And of course it varies by individual to a much greater extent than most dieticians take into account.

One of the points made by the research about obesogens is that you can't store excess fat unless you have someplace to store it. If you have fewer fat cells in your body to begin with, then storing excess caloric intake might be harder.

edguider profile image

edguider 7 years ago

Plenty of good foods out there than one should consider on including in their diet. Actually learned a few new things on this hub, thanks for providing it: :)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Edguider, thanks! There are definitely plenty of good foods out there, and there's enough variety that anyone should be able to find something enjoyable and healthy to eat.

Green Things profile image

Green Things 7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

This was a great hub. Weight gain has definately been on my mind in the past few years. I, too, am one of those eat-right types that still gains weight. There are other mitigating factors, as I am finding out. Hormones and aging, developing fat to store toxins, and stress - just to name a few. It is certainly disheartening when your doctor just looks at you and shrugs when you are trying to find answers. Ahh well, at least I have great blood pressure! :D

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Green Things, thanks for your comment! Are you getting enough sleep? Sleep deprivation can also be a hormonal disruptor. Paradoxically, often when people sleep more they gain less on the same diet.

Smireles profile image

Smireles 7 years ago from Texas

Thank you for this informative hub. Most people who are not obese have no idea what motivates the obese person. The issue that caused the problem may have no relevance to failure to lose weight. There are several major problems for the obese person to work on.

1. Fast food becomes a habit. Changing from grabbing fast food to eating and cooking at home is hard. But...it makes a difference in weight control.

2. Exercise. You will never entice people who do NOT like exercise to become an exercise lover. Is very unlikely to happen.

3. In spite of popular opinion, as a weight challenged person, I CANNOT eat 4 to 6 meals per day! I am not a grazer and this leads to weight gain! I know all about portion control and this is an ongoing battle.

4. When you reach a certain age your metabolism changes and the situation just gets worse.

5.I know many people think it is just gluttony and laziness, but I can state for a fact that NO one ever decided to be fat. I never dreamed when I was younger that I would find myself in this condition. I have been visualizing the person I used to be and wondering what changes I could make to become that person again.

Just wanted to offer some insight.

Great hub.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Smireles, thanks! That's a good list of insights. These are all valid points. Nobody chooses to be fat in this society and under the current set of expectations for weight. If there were an easy, fool proof way to avoid obesity, everyone would.

Moonchild60 profile image

Moonchild60 7 years ago

Very nice and informative hub. I think there are so many different reasons for people being obese, psychological, physiological, etc...

I realized as a teenager when my friend and I hung out together all day and ate all our meals together that she remained thin and I remained overweight (by like 20 pounds). I couldn't understand why she didn't gain or I didn't lose or what?? When I mentioned this one day she said "I have nervous energy" which kept her moving alot and probably meant she had a sped up metabolism. I on the other hand ended up at an endocrinologist when I was around 30 and he told me I had a "sluggish metabolism" and should exercise everyday and consume only 1200 calories per day....hmmm, today they would tell you that is unhealthy.

I keep a food diary and go to the gym 3-4 times a week now (I am 49) needless to say my metabolism is no doubt more sluggish. What I have found is even when I am eating religiously healthy and working out, I only lose weight if I take in less than 1200 calories a day. No matter how healthy my food choices are. My husband says I have the perfect metabolism for survival back in the days of the cavemen. My friend who remained thin he said, would have never survived. Unfortunately, I am not sure I want to live on nuts and berries and some occasional wild bore....

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Moonchild60, thanks. Metabolism does indeed have a lot to do with it, as your example about you and your friend shows. I agree with your husband. Your metabolism is probably perfect for a more natural environment. And as long as your husband feels that way, no need to restrict yourself to nuts and berries! I'm not saying make unreasonable choices that would jeopardize your health. But feeling good about yourself is also important.

aloevera4life profile image

aloevera4life 7 years ago

No comment. But every little helpsW


Portamenteff profile image

Portamenteff 7 years ago from Western Colorado, USA

I believe many obese people are not at fault even if they are so because they eat too much. They are products of the marketing machine that hires psychologists to figure out how to convince them to eat their salt, sugar, and fat.

There are also those who have pituitary problems or metabolism hindrances. This (obesity) is largely the fault of the fast food giants and the cartoon advertisers who prey upon our children.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Aloever4life, thanks!

Portamenteff, I agree that serious obesity is seldom the result of easy choices that could have been avoided. However, I doubt that psychologists are competent enough to brainwash people into eating salt, sugar and fat -- or doing anything else for that matter. The fast food giants are only serving us what we want, and if we stop buying, they'll stop selling. Cartoon advertisers... well, I don't know. I've never considered their part in all this. ;->

It's no use blaming people with a weight problem for their condition, but this does not mean, necessarily, that we have to look for someone else to blame. It's a complicated problem, and the first step toward solving it is to try to understand what's happening without recrimination.

Putz Ballard profile image

Putz Ballard 7 years ago

Very informative hub. Kinda casts some doubt to the burn more calories than you take in to create a deficit and lose weight. appears weight loss success and obesity may involve much more than previously thought.

Robert Ballard

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia

Great hub! I have a pal who tries to gain weight and can't. When we worked together, he ate all day - chocolates, pastries, soft drinks - while I ate salads. When we left work, I'd go straight to the gym and he's go home for a nap. He remains thin, and I'm fat. Not fair!

Larry Ivey profile image

Larry Ivey 7 years ago from South Florida

I tend to agree completely with the comment made by Scott.Life. I have had a weight problem, off and on, most of my life. When I learned simply how to recognize quality food my being overweight was no longer a problem. I changed the way I eat. I don't exercise more than 20 minutes a day. And, the excess weight is gone.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Robert Ballard, thanks for your comment! You are right. It is a complex issue.

Habee, thanks! That's a great example. Many of us know from personal experience that it's not just what we put in and take out of our body. It's also what our body does with it!

Larry Ivey, I'm glad that you found a diet and lifestyle that works for you! Quality food is important, and it sounds as if you finally found the food that is right for you. What is important to recognize, however, is that it is not one size fits all. There is so much variation in metabolism and body type that a solution that works for you might not work for somebody else. We are each responsible for finding our own solutions.

The same is true in other areas. Some parents of autisitic children find that a gluten free diet does wonders for their children. It can take a child who is non-responsive and make him alert and sociable. It's great for them that this works. But for others, who have tried the same regimen, it hasn't made any difference.

We can be thankful that something works for us, without necessarily assuming that it will work for everybody.

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motivFIT 7 years ago

Great Hub! I have to agree with Scott.Life. He is right on.

Another thing that has contributed largely to the obesity rate that no-one has mentioned is High-Fructose Corn Syrup. You may or may not know this, but the top 3 ingredients in a product represent the majority of what is in that particular product sold in the stores. There is a direct correlation with the implementation of this additive into food products in the 1980's and the rise in obesity. If you look at the labels on most "FAT FREE" products, you'll see High-Fructose Corn Syrup in the top 3. This is pure sugar and is deceiving the consumer that they are consuming a healthier alternative. Same goes with the steroids and antibiotics that are injected into the foods we eat.

Bottom line, it's important that the consumer is educated not just on what type of foods to eat and avoid, but how to read nutritional labels.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

motivFIT, thanks! You're right, HFCS is a horrible additive. And, yes, it is important to read nutritional labels!

Another thing to avoid is foods that are artificially fat free or reduced fat. Body fat is not the same as dietary fat, but many naive consumers have been duped by the "fat free" label into thinking that if they eat the product, it won't make them fat.

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Jawa Lunk 7 years ago

You must eat as much as you can and put the weight on! One day all the food will be gone and you will be sorry you didn't eat it!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Jawa Lunk, that is a refreshing point of view! While I wouldn't necessarily advise an obese person to do this, I recognize that you do have a point. Not too long ago, this is what mothers used to tell their children. They did so because their mothers and grandmothers had seen what could happen during a famine. The days of scarcity may return, and in that case, people would do well to heed your advice.

stanwshura profile image

stanwshura 7 years ago

This is a very informative piece! And it presents an entirely new (at least to me) variable to this health issue. Very thorough. I enjoyed your historical perspective, and *adore* your conclusion. :)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Stanwshura, thanks! It's really encouraging to receive a comment like this!

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Sandi 3m 7 years ago

I have to agree with Stanwshura, right on.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Sandi 3m, thanks!

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bestcellphones 7 years ago

intresting debate, thanks

topshelf profile image

topshelf 7 years ago from South Florida

Like the hub, and it was a lot I didn't know about or consider. But I really think it has a lot to do with metabolism!!!!!

mcbean profile image

mcbean 7 years ago from A planet far, far away

The Law of Conservation of energy states: "Energy cannot be created or destroyed"

This means that you can't put on weight unless you feed your body energy in the form of food. Some bodies use this energy differently but the bottom line is that if your output is less than your input the energy is conserved in the form of fat.

For losing weight, the choice will always be: Eat less, work more, or both.

"Work" here refers to all metabolic activity, including that done to maintain life when we are at rest.

People looking for justification of their weight used to blame the "fat gene" , now they may turn their focus on "obesogens". This is the easy way out, much like the takeaway food they live off is.

The day someone gains weight without eating calorie rich food is the day we plug them in as a battery and solve the energy crisis

Hendrika profile image

Hendrika 7 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

Very interesting. I'm afraid I cannot hide behind this as I know I tend to eat a little too much at times. The old emotional eating!!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Bestcellphones, thanks for your comment.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Topshelf, thanks! I agree. In many cases metabolism is a decisive factor.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

McBean, you are right. In a closed system, energy can be neither created nor destroyed.

See link:


But a human body is not a closed system. It takes in energy. It burns energy. And it stores energy.

You are also right that unless one consumes more calories than one burns, then one cannot put on weight.

But here's where you're wrong. You say: "For losing weight, the choice will always be: Eat less, work more, or both."

Eating is not the same thing as taking in energy. The point of this hub is that two people who eat the same food in the same quantities and who exercise the same may or may not put on the same amount of weight.

What could account for the discrepancy?

* one person may excrete more of the caloric content -- in other words, waste it -- than another.

* one person may have a higher metabolism than another, and hence burn more even while at rest

The point of this hub is not to suggest that the law of conservation of energy is inapplicable. The point is to show that "eating high calorie food" is not the same as taking energy in, and that exercising is not "burning the same number of calories" as the amount of work performed by the exercise.

This is why two people or two mice on the same diet and exercise regimen do not get the same results.

Maybe there are no obesogens, but the obesogen research has proven this much at least.

What can people do about it? They can find food to eat that their bodies are less likely to be able to store without expending energy. (A calorie of fat is harder to turn into energy than a calorie of carbohydrates). They can find ways to increase their metabolism. They can try to exercise in ways that build muscle, rather than ways that do not. Muscle tissue burns calories even while at rest.

There's a lot we still don't know. But it's important to make use of what we've learned already.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Hendrika, thanks! Even the emotional reasons for eating have a solution. Find an activity that makes you happy. You'll eat less!

Artemus Gordon profile image

Artemus Gordon 7 years ago

While there are conditions which create weight gain they cannot be the cause behind the epidemic weight gain in developed coutries all around the world.

Our food is getting more and more processed and we are getting more sedentary these are what need changed.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Artemus Gordon, I agree that an epidemic of weight gain could not possibly happen in a society where food is scarce and easy, pre-digested food is not so readily available as in ours. In a famine, the people who are now obese would look skinny, and the people who are skinny would be dead.

However, inducing a famine in order to bring about this result does not seem advisable. Reducing the availability of food to bring us to a more balanced mix of lean and fat people is equally inadvisable.

The focus of this hub is on finding why it is that different people fare so differently in the nutritional environment in which we all find ourselves. The answer seems to point to factors other than how much each person eats or exercises.

Suzie Parker profile image

Suzie Parker 7 years ago

I totally agree with Scott.Life. What you eat are very important to weight gain/loss.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Suzie Parker, thanks for your comment. I agree. It does make a difference what we eat. In the long run, it makes more of a difference what we eat than how much.

Josh100 profile image

Josh100 7 years ago

graet hubs, thanks for posting

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Josh100, thanks for your comment!

thaninja profile image

thaninja 7 years ago from America

In my opinion, its calories in, calories out. There is nothing magic about this formula. Some people may store fat more efficiently than others, and thus gain more fat by overeating more quickly, BUT, If I eat 2000cals and burn 2000 cals every day, I don't see how I can gain any weight.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Thaninja, the problem is that we don't eat calories. We eat food. Two people can eat the same foods -- identical portions, identical nutrients -- and they will not in fact be consuming the same number of calories. By the same token, two people can perform exactly the same exercise in exactly the same way and not burn the same number of calories.

It also matters what sorts of calories they are even in the case of the same person. 100 calories of fat in a food will not result in a net gain of 100 calories. But 100 calories of glucose will net you much closer to the total number of nominal calories you are consuming, because it's much easier to process glucose and costs you less in expenditure in conversion to usable energy.

donotfear profile image

donotfear 7 years ago from The Boondocks

Very informative article. This issue needs to be addressed.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Donotfear, thanks!

NaomiR profile image

NaomiR 7 years ago from New York

Great hub! I hope more research is done on this as I've struggled with weight for all of my adult life. I take full responsibilty for my weight, but it's always interesting to see what research is being done in regards to obesity.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

NaomiR, thanks! I agree with you. It's good to be self-reliant and to take responsibility for our health and well-being. At the same time, it's also good to know what new things research is uncovering about obesity.

Dennis kirk profile image

Dennis kirk 7 years ago

I also think, It also depends on our body, As few guys eat much but they never get fat and some eat less but can't control the weight. jog regularly , i think thats best way to loss fat. Betwene nice Lens.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Dennis Kirk, yes, it does very much depend on our body what we do with calories from foods consumed in terms of storage and how many calories we burn when we exercise.

Jogging is a good aerobic exercise and can contribute to overall health, especially in building strong heart and lungs. However, if your main reason for exercising is to reduce body fat, it is not the most effective way. Lifting weights and building muscle tissue can help you to burn more calories even when you are at rest or asleep.

Here is a link with more information about the difference between aerobic and anaerobic exercise.


Richard Armen profile image

Richard Armen 7 years ago

This is interesting information that I had never read before. Thanks.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Richard Armen, thanks!

loveislam profile image

loveislam 7 years ago

thanks very nice

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Loveislam, thanks for your comment!

Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 7 years ago from US

Obesogens, definately something worth researching, and some interesting comments. I think I will have to come back and allow more time to understand it. At one time, many years ago I could easily lose 5 lbs in two days, now I cant in two months!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Pollyannnalana, thanks for the input. People's bodies definitely change with time. Even when a person has a fairly decent diet and exercise regimen, some adjustments have to be made as we age and our metabolism slows down.

yenajeon profile image

yenajeon 7 years ago from California

Okay I am so sick of people allowing others to use poor excuses for an unhealthy lifestyle. This country always has an excuse for everything!

The people who honestly are forced to gain weight are people with thyroid problems (which like a very small percentage)

And yes, I am aware that there can be other attributing factors such as genetics, metabolism rate, emotional trauma, hormonal changes etc but those are also just obstacles that can be overcome without medication.

There's nothing wrong with gaining weight or being heavier, or liking yourself for being curvier; just don't create bad excuses for it!

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Yenajeon, thanks for your comment. While there is not much use in excuses, there is nothing to be gained by blaming those who are morbidly obese or who naturally put on more weight than others when eating the same foods. Most people try hard to lose extra weight, and if they fail, the main brunt of the problem is theirs.

It's interesting that you should bring up medication. I agree with you that maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen without resort to medication is a better choice. But often when people are placed on medication for other health related reasons, they begin to put on weight, while on the same diet as before. There is documented evidence of this, and it shows that diet isn't everything.

shareitt profile image

shareitt 7 years ago

staying natural in most areas keeps the body in better shape...just remember when you do exercise your body needs fuel, don't cut back on those extra (healthy calories) thanks for info :)

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Shareitt, thanks for the tip. It's always a good idea to refuel after exercise.

Tim Davies 7 years ago

I have been saying that foodborne and environmental chemicals disrupt the body's fat metabolism mechanism for around 15 years, but until recently have not been able to provide any evidence. Call them obesogens if you must, but certain petroleum-based chemicals (including xenoestrogens) are well documented as having endocrine disrupting effects, including gender-bending, infertility, fat gain and resistance to fat loss.

Think of it this way...

In a perfect endocrine environment, the calorie theory works. Calories in minus calories out leaves a person with a surplus or deficit weight. This agrees with the 1st law of thermodynamics and makes sense. However, if the chemical mechanisms which mobilise fat from the fat cells is not functioning correctly, then all the exercise in the world will not cause fat loss. It has been widely documented that somatotropin (otherwise known as human growth hormone) is abnormally low in obese/overweight people. GH is the hormone which triggers a receptor on each fat cell which in turn releases fat (simplified explanation). If GH is not being secreted by the [pituitary gland at sufficient levels to perform this task, then fat cannot be shed optimally, and so weight loss becomes problematic.

The secondary problem is hyperinsulinemia (over-reactive insulin). The more obese a person is, the worse the insulin reaction is to carbohydrates. It's like an allergy to carbs/sugars, which does not exist in people whose endocrine system is functioning normally. I can eat loads of carbs and sugars (read lots of calories) and my weight hasn't budged for 20 years. If a slightly overweight person ate the same as me, they would store more fat and to make matters worse, they would find themselves strongly attracted to carbohydrates (almost addicted).

This all indicates that obesity is a disease, an endocrine imbalance being caused by non-food and non-lifestyle factors over which we may have limited influence in our personal lives. What do you think happens to all the chemicals our bodies are bombarded with? They cannot be metabolised by our body, and are treated as invaders (toxins), stored in the body's trashcans (the fat cells), meant for collection by GH each night (the garbage truck), but when the garbage truck arrives, the trashcan is locked and cannot be emptied. So goes the cycle, on and on.

Unless a person is at their body's ideal natural weight, this malfunction cannot be controlled by exercise and diet. That said, careful control of how we eat can return the body to 'normality', except that the underlying condition is still there and the predisposition to fat storage and resistance to fat mobilisation never goes away.

...at least until scientists figure out a way to permanently reset the endocrine system (highly unlikely).

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 7 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Tim Davies, thank you for your long and detailed comment. If I may simplify even more, are you saying that people who have obesity due to endocrine imbalance gain weight disproportionately to how much they eat because they are unable to excrete excess calories the way most of us do? (I assume that the garbage truck metaphor was about excretion.)

I am researching another hub specifically about the concept of balance in nutrition. If you have any technical articles that explain in detail how a healthy body maintains an equilibrium between input and output of calories, I would be very grateful if you could provide a citation.

Squirrelchaser 6 years ago

I buy lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoid canned and processed food. We eat a simple piece of lean meat a couple times a week, fish and shrimp, Lean Pockets, and Healthy Choice TV dinners. Oh, I do use canned beans a couple times a week. No sugared or artificial sugared drinks, only a little salt or low sodium, no high fructose corn syrup, no fruit juices, no syrups, only honey(a little), no bread, no bananas (as I find it is hard to only eat one). We do eat pancakes at times with natural fruit jelly.

Anyway, the point to me is to quit arguing about diet and losing weight and to eat healthy.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Squirrelchaser, it's good to eat healthy, I agree. The problem is that we can't do that unless we decide what "eating healthy" means. For instance, if you choose lean meats over fat meats, you are choosing to eat a higher percentage of protein. Protein is good in moderation, but it can be hard to digest. If you choose a pre-processed food like Lean Pockets, in all likelihood there is a higher percentage of carbs in it, as opposed to its less "lean" version.

To some extent, you have to become familiar with your own metabolism and find what works for you. What is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another.

gypsybaby91 profile image

gypsybaby91 6 years ago from Rochester, NY

I really liked this article, and not just because Im overweight, lol. I'm not by far the worst. I'm just glad that someone else has considered the thought that there may be more to this epidemic than Just genes & calories & exercise. My problem however, lol honestly, is probably genes and the fast food I spent the first 17 years of my life eating. But everyone in my family is aleast a few lbs over weight, so genes is I think the biggest problem. Because all though I've turned into a real health nut, I havent noticed any significant weight loss. However, even for those who aren't a victim to bad genes or anything of the like, there are still some not completely to blame. People say that Chicken is healthier than Pork, Beef, etc. However... all forms of meat these days (excluding organic and all natural ofcourse) are subject to hormones that... increase...the.. size... of the animal, and speed.. up.. the.. growth.. process. We absorb these things when we consume them. Unfortunately, most people cannot afford organic or even all natural all the time so who should we complain to for That?

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Gypsybaby91, thanks for your comment and your valid observations about the causes of being overweight. I don't think it's really a matter of who we should complain to. First of all, we should stop blaming ourselves and each other for the things that are entirely outside our control. For some people, keeping weight down is more of a struggle than for others, and we should keep that in mind before passing judgment. Staying slightly overweight but not obese may be a very great achievement in itself for someone who was genetically programmed for obesity. As for hormonal imbalances in the meat we eat, I suppose going back to raising more of our own meat and taking it to the local butcher would be a good way to combat that situation. We won't get anywhere by complaining, but voting with our grocery money is a good way to change things.

Scorp19 6 years ago

For some of us, it's not the little things that add up, and it's not the types of food we eat. I should know. I'm living proof of that.

I have struggled with my weight my entire life. There is not a single day I can remember where my weight was not a struggle. From earliest childhood, and especially since puberty, I always have carried around an extra 20-25 lbs.

For the past 10 years, I have stuck to a low-carb, low-sugar, high fiber, vegetarian diet.

More recently, I have also been cutting out dairy products. I do not use artificial sweeteners, and I never touch soda, diet or otherwise. I only drink water, tea, coffee, and soy or almond milk on a regular basis, as fruit juice, even when it is 'no sugar added', is very high in sugar.

I SCRUTINIZE every label. I never touch any food that has more than 10g net carbs per serving, or 5g of sugar. As I also no longer eat dairy, the only fats I get are those from plant sources (nuts, olive oil, avocados).

Although I am not currently 'working out', I don't own a car and get around mostly by foot, so I do get a fair amount of exercise in my daily life. In addition, I have worked out in the past, both with a personal trainer, and in classes where I would hear about how everyone else in the class was losing weight, while I stayed the same...the same...the same...the same...

Yes, I have had my thyroid tested, and it's supposedly normal. (Though I've only had the TSH, not the more sensitive T3 or T4 that normal doctors don't give).

Ironically, when I've had bloodwork done, doctors are always surprised to learn that not only is my cholesterol and blood pressure extremely low, but I also have exceptionally low blood sugar and toxin levels, as a result of my strict diet.

YET, this is not reflected in my weight.

I really wonder why you're so reticent to believe that obesogens are real, because the case studies I've read have been highly convincing.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Scorp19, I do believe what you are telling me about your experiences. This does not necessarily point at obesogens as the answer, since you have not yet found the source of the problem in your case, just as researchers have not proved exactly which substances are the source of the problem for others. It is clear, however, from the experiences of many that more is involved than just diet and exercise.

BTW, when counting carbs, it's best to go by percentages rather than absolute numbers of grams. It depends on the serving size, and what other nutrients the food contains, whether 5 grams of sugar or 10 grams of carbs are too much or not. At the end of the day, it's the percentage of carbs to fats that you have consumed that day that determines whether your diet is low carb.

Scorp19 6 years ago

I can't go by percentages, because those percentages are based on the FDA 'Food Pyramid' recommendations, which are a far, far cry from my general diet.

However, I will say that I mostly eat unprocessed foods in their natural state anyway, and those don't have labels.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 6 years ago from The Ozarks Author

Scorp19, I don't mean THOSE percentages. Steer as far clear of the FDA food pyramid as you can-- I totally agree with you there.

The percentages I meant related directly to your own diet. So, for instance, it doesn't matter if you had 6 grams of sugar or sixty in any particular serving you ate. At the end of the day, what matters is, what percentage of your caloric intake came from carbs, as opposed to fat or protein? If you eat things that only contain small amounts of carbs, but no things that contain any fat or protein, then your food intake might be 100% carbs.

Remember, fiber and water are good to ingest, but they're not really food, and they serve other functions besides keeping your energy up. The important things to monitor for weight maintenance are the caloric intake and what it consists of. It's what percentage of the calories you digest that are carbs that's important, not the absolute number of grams of carbs in any particular food.

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