I’ve watched two programmes this week about weight. The first was Horizon’s Why are Thin People not Fat, the premise of which was to overfeed slim people (double the normal calories, I think) for four weeks and see what happened. It was interspersed with scientists and psychologists who work on obesity and fat issues, and it was really fascinating.
Many of the theories they discussed I was already familiar with, but the idea that our bodies have a weight that is genetically predetermined to be “normal” was new to me. One study the programme discussed showed that obese people who lose 10% of their body weight and then are given exactly the amount of calories they need to maintain the 10% weight loss have a constant feeling of starvation – their bodies are giving them signals to go back up to their “normal” weight. I also thought the discussion of how different people relate to food was very interesting – most of the study participants just don’t eat when they’re not hungry, and found hitting their calories counts a massive struggle.
The other programme I saw was Gok Wan: Too Fat Too Young. He was hugely overweight as a teen, and it’s quite heart-wrenching to watch his conversations with seriously overweight teens.
As I’ve been trying to lose the few pounds I put on after foot surgery last summer, this got me thinking about my relationship with my weight and food. My weight has not fluctuated much since I hit my adult height of 5’8″. In high school I was 147 pounds – with literally no variation – for years and years. I was very athletic, and also went through the most disordered eating pattern I ever had. In college, once I stopped running for the track team, I lost weight (I think some muscle), but studying abroad brought me to the heaviest I’ve ever weighed (being fed by a Chilean mother is an easy way to put on 10 pounds in few months). When I came home I lost weight easily, down to my smallest (135) so far. Since college, I’ve been 140 and fairly happy with that.
The funny thing is, my size hasn’t changed much, though I lost some inches in my shoulders when I stopped working out. I wore the same size in high school that I do now (adjusting for the fact that we wore oversize grungy clothes when I was a teenager). Obviously, while I’m not tiny, my weight has never been a problem. But I went through many years where I had a seriously unhealthy relationship with food. I was very restrictive, ate in ruts (the same thing for weeks or months on end), but would seriously overeat often as well.
I’m probably enjoying my healthiest relationship with food ever at the moment. I don’t eat too much junk food (with the exception of Doritos people bring over), I eat more fruit and vegetables than I used to, and I cook healthy meals for myself. I’ve never believed in dieting by cutting out certain foods, only by eating them in moderation. But I’ve still been frustrated that I can’t shed the last couple pounds I gained last year…watching Gok and these poor teenagers has made me feel very lucky that my eating issues never spiraled out of control (either towards obesity or in the other direction towards anorexia or bulimia, both of which have been rife amongst my peers since we were about 12).