Why Are There So Many Fat People?
Fat people aren’t anomalies relegated to “only at Walmart” memes anymore. They are everywhere. Except for maybe the gym and organic grocery stores.
Obesity was once viewed as beautiful, healthy, and a sign of prosperity. Wealthy people could afford to eat better and more, so plumpness was attractive. Have times ever changed! These days, even government food stamps can guarantee a bovine physique, shooting down the reciprocity between obesity and wealth. Modern science has also debunked the connection between health and extra girth—overweight people have an increased risk for a plethora of health issues, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and depression. Unless you have a perverse fetish for the elephantine, rotundity is no longer alluring—stout is out.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 93.9 million adults and 13.7 million kids are obese. Why are there so many fat people?
Health Issues & Genetics
In some situations, health issues hinder people from exercising. When it comes to obesity, however, it’s like asking what came first—the chicken or the egg? Do fat people not exercise because they are too fat, or are they too fat because they don’t exercise?
Obese people suffering from conditions like high blood pressure and joint pain are apprehensive about exercising, fearing they will have a heart attack or compound joint pain. This is a valid concern, but when the high blood pressure and painful joints are the result of hauling around a metric ton of body weight, what can be done to break the vicious cycle? Consulting with a physician on an incremental fitness regimen that is safe and effective is a good place to start.
Some people claim they are obese due to hypothyroidism. While that may be true, the proper synthetic hormone medication should regulate the thyroid, thus returning the metabolism to normal. One patient diagnosed with an under active thyroid was prescribed Synthroid—at age 69, she walks 2-4 miles daily, eats healthy, and maintains a girlish 123 pound figure.
Some people were born to obese parents, became obese themselves, and then spawned obese children of their own. Are parents modeling poor eating and fitness behaviors that are passed through the generations, or is there a biological explanation for the Jumbo family tree? Some research suggests that once the body has become obese, it changes its biology. Even after weight is lost, biology tries to force the body back to its previous maximum weight.
As people age, the metabolism also slows, so just being over 40 introduces new weight challenges that require extra resolve to conquer.
Regardless, neglecting to implement a fitness and nutrition regimen for better health is counter intuitive. It’s wise to help your body on the inside even if the outside doesn’t cooperate.
Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
When many of us put on extra weight, we are uncomfortable. We cut back our calorie intake, increase protein, reduce carbs, make healthier food choices, and exercise. It can feel like an uphill battle sometimes—the Battle of the Bulge—but we fight back nonetheless. We don’t like how we look, how we feel, or how our clothes fit when those pounds creep on, and we are determined to do something about it.
Does this same process not occur with fat people? At the onset of weight gain, do they ever look in the mirror and think, “I’m really getting fat. Maybe I should stop eating the whole package of Oreos at one sitting?”
When out in public, it’s hard not to stare at the woman with legs wider around than a 300-year-old tree. She can’t walk normally. To move forward, she must slosh from side-to-side like Sam the Snowman from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Like a Weeble, she weebles and wobbles but doesn’t fall down. You can’t help but wonder how she even manages to cover all the folds of skin dangling from her arms and torso—are plus sizes really made that large, or does she have to visit a tent maker to have clothes customized? You know she can’t be comfortable.
At the grocery store, a gentleman plops onto a motorized cart to shop. Fat pours out over the seat into more wrinkled layers than a Chinese Shar-Pei. He would benefit from walking through the store in lieu of riding, but he is overwhelmed by the effort of getting from one side of the super center to the other—an easy task most of us don’t give a second thought. He succumbs to his obesity instead of warring against it.
Every so often, you hear the story of how an obese person experienced stomach pains, only to give birth hours later. The most shocking part of that story is someone so morbidly obese engaged in intercourse, or to quote Austin Powers, “the sheer mechanics are mind-boggling!” By the ninth month of pregnancy, most women look like they swallowed a medicine ball. It’s hard to imagine how you could miss that.
Others share tales of being too fat to get out of bed.
Even keeping all those folds clean is an overwhelming task. It’s no wonder obese people struggle with depression. When they look in the mirror, do they feel like a skinny person is trapped inside screaming to be free? It’s easy to understand how they might drown in a sea of self-loathing. Imagine wrapping a 200 pound weight around your body and tackling your daily routine.
Worthless Weight Loss Programs
Obese people love water aerobics. Being in the water makes them feel lighter and temporarily normal. Psychologically, they feel like they are exercising and doing something positive for their bodies without inflicting further pain on their already over-taxed joints and back muscles. How effective are water aerobics? If you’ve ever observed a class, you will notice the participants start out fat and finish just as fat. The minimal resistance they incorporate with Styrofoam dumbbells can’t compare to using real weights. Obese people love water aerobics because they aren’t surrounded by skinny, tight-skinned women at the gym who might be horrified by their cottage cheese and flab. They are in the company of people who look like them, so it’s less intimidating, even though it produces minimal results.
Fad diets never work long-term, nor do all the weight loss programs you see on television. If someone is promising weight will fall off quickly with special meals, shakes, pills, or supplements, it’s a scam. Some of these miracle weight loss programs can even cause damage to the body and should always be viewed with serious skepticism. Even if the fat melts off initially, most report packing it right back on the moment they discontinue the program. Actress Kirstie Alley, once a spokesperson for Jenny Craig, personifies this cycle.
There are a variety of bariatric surgical procedures available to assist with extreme obesity when all else has failed. All of these weight loss procedures carry potentially serious risks and are not guaranteed to produce the desired results.
Fat-shaming is when skinny people try to motivate an obese person to lose weight by making fun of them or harassing them about their weight. Stigmatizing fat people winds up having the reverse effect, upsetting them so much they eat more and gain additional weight. There’s a flip side to that coin.
We live in a culture where feigning victimization exonerates people from taking responsibility for bad choices. If obese people can blame someone else for their weight problem, they are no longer culpable. Even if they eat processed and fast food on a regular basis, binge eat, never exercise, and are generally lazy, it’s still not their fault. They feel justified in applying for social security at a young age because their obesity has created health issues that makes working virtually impossible.
Some argue obesity is the result of food addiction and no different than alcohol or drug dependence. Labeling it a disease absolves people of responsibility. Showing no restraint when it comes to eating becomes a problem beyond their control. Not owning it takes away the guilt and requires no further action. This is bogus, of course. It’s like saying road rage is a disease, and giving fellow travelers the finger is a nervous tic.
Most people will never have Barbie or Ken proportions, nor should they feel pressured to strive for the impossible. Neither should they resign themselves to a lifetime of obesity. Somewhere in the middle is a healthy alternative. Retailers don’t help. Featuring grossly overweight models to showcase their plus selections normalizes obesity, maybe even makes it appear trendy. Targeting kids, Justice store ads feature fat kids to standardize corpulence and set the bar low for chunky customers. Hollywood celebrities like Melissa McCarthy (Mike and Molly) and Katy Mixon (American Housewife) downplay obesity by making it appear not only okay, but spunky and cool. No need to lose weight—fat people are jolly and fun! I’m okay, you’re okay. It’s the wrong message.
Too Much Technology & Processed Foods
Growing up in the 1920’s, Evelyn’s school was nearly one mile from her house. She walked to school in the morning, walked home for lunch, and walked back home at the end of the day. When the dismissal bell rang, she didn’t race home to watch TV, play video games, fire up the computer, or chat with friends on her cell phone. Her family didn’t own a TV, only a radio, and none of those other technologies had been invented. She hung around the school yard with other students to play soft ball or kickball. After dinner and chores, she connected with other kids in her neighborhood to play outside until dark. During her era, the grocery stores didn’t have snack aisles filled with row after row of fat-filled goodies. Evelyn’s primary snacks included buttered soda crackers and popcorn. Her meals were homemade and well-balanced. They didn’t come from a box or a can. Fast food restaurants didn’t pop up until the early 1950’s and were unheard of in her rural neck of the woods.
For decades, outdoor play was the primary source of fun for kids, even as bussing replaced walking to schools for students in outlying areas. Most moms stayed at home and cooked nutritious meals. They gardened and canned. They pinched pennies and lived within a budget, so sometimes this meant a dinner of homegrown green beans and biscuits, not boxed mac-n-cheese or McDonald's.
Human trafficking wasn’t an industry, so kids roamed the neighborhoods riding bikes, fishing, playing ball, hiking in the woods, and hunting. They didn’t interact with friends in a virtual world of social media from the couch. When they weren’t running, jumping, and playing, they were expected to perform adult chores, like mowing, farming the fields, doing the dishes, gardening, and other mature tasks assigned to them by their parents. They worked hard from young ages and weren’t coddled. They were active, and they weren’t fat.
By the 1980’s, every classroom had one token fat kid who was nicknamed something awful, like Fatso, Porky, Tubby, or Lard Ball. The fat kid stood out because he was an aberration—he was the exception, not the rule.
This is no longer true. Parents expect too little from their kids when it comes to assigning challenging chores. Both parents work, so dinner too often comes from a drive-thru or box. Kids rush home, not to play outside until dark, but to glue themselves to a screen for as long as an adult will allow them. The world isn’t as safe as it used to be, so the leash on kids can’t stretch as far. Technology has replaced face-to-face human interaction and inhibits movement. Parents need to set strict limits when it comes to technology usage, but they don’t because they don’t want to curb their own screen obsession. And Americans get fatter.
When the cellulite on your legs are like millions of mini suction cups gluing your thighs together so you have to roll instead of walk, when the flap on your arm is so expansive it could function as a boat sail, and when walking across the floor sends off seismic readings on the Richter Scale, you have a problem. Take responsibility and stop blaming someone or something else for morbid obesity.
When Todd learned he had diabetes and high blood pressure, he didn’t blame his DNA or his wife's cooking, start popping pills, and resign himself to defeat. He was determined to do something about it. In addition to cutting back on carbs and limiting snacking, he began walking 5-7 miles every day. Within a few months, he began to see the weight and inches dissipating. A year later, he had shed 40 pounds. His blood pressure and glucose readings became normal, and his doctor was astounded by the radical improvement in his health.
Exercise is hard work. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be effective. Joining a gym might be too daunting or expensive, but investing in DVD’s you can do from home is within reach. Take a walk. Start walking one mile a day and keep increasing the distance as you become stronger. Consult your physician and possibly a nutritionist and be proactive about implementing a diet and exercise program that works for you. We gain 100% of our energy from food, and exercising regularly is thought to burn only 10-30% of those calories. Exercise alone is not enough. Rewarding yourself for exercising by indulging in a high fat treat nullifies your efforts. Practice self-control and self-discipline. Even if biology prohibits you from ever becoming a size 4, you can look and feel better than you do now. Exercise conditions the heart and lungs and is healthy for the bones. Eating right combats the harmful effects of cholesterol, keeps glucose levels in check, boosts immunity, and wards off a host of health problems.
Trade in your supersized soda for a glass of water, load your refrigerator and pantry with the right foods, grab a set of weights, and kick off the journey to a healthier and slimmer you.
© 2019 Vivian Coblentz