I’ve been thinking a lot about Horizon’s Why Thin People Are Not Fat and have come to some conclusions. I think there are various reasons why people are over-weight, but I think that there are quite a few people like me when it comes to food.
Most people are bigger than they’d like
I’d always thought of myself as in the minority, that I was excluded from the normal-sized-people club. But one of the things said on the programme was that it was the fat people who would survive a famine in pre-historic times of feast and famine.
Early humans ate when they could – from what they could hunt or harvest – but food wasn’t regular. When food was scarce, those who had a tendency to put on weight would be those most likely to survive. They’d survive to procreate and pass on their over-eating genes.
It seems to me that, as a survival technique for the species, over-eaters are in the majority of today’s population.
However, in western society, we’re surrounded by a constant feast – very few people face famine here. When coupled with a tendency to over-eat, people are just getting bigger and bigger.
Whereas before these people were healthier, the programme said that they are now the least healthy and have shorter life-spans.
It’s not greed
Given a genetic disposition of eating too much, it seems that, whereas a minority of people eat what they like and don’t get fat (the subjects in the programme’s three-week experiment), they just have ‘proper’ appetites and efficient mechanisms to stop them over-eating.
It’s not about will power.
It’s not that bigger people are greedier; it’s that their appetite isn’t rooted in hunger and that the mechanisms to say when to stop eating don’t work properly.
Why we aren’t all the same size
It would be a biological marvel if , we over-eaters, had exactly the same appetites; the logical conclusion is that the degree to which our appetites and stop-eating mechanisms are ‘broken’ vary from person to person.
How I over-eat
I’d like to quantify what eating is like for me:
- I enjoy the experience of eating even if I am not hungry
- I eat fast
- Flavour and texture are big factors – I add crisps to otherwise mushy sandwiches
- I add salt, relishes, pickles and sauces to boost the flavour
- I enjoy programmes where people are seen eating and describing what they are eating (I now fast-forward on MasterChef to the tastings)
- I like to cook – I tend to make things up as I go along
- I prefer savoury foods but have recently sought out sweet foods
- I (used to) eat only because I felt like eating something (the whole preparing and consuming part), not because I was hungry
- I was very rarely hungry
- If I am depressed, I will eat until I am feeling very full but then still want to eat more
- Presented with a plate or bowl of s0mething I like, I’d want to (and would, if no one was watching) eat it all
- I watch to see how much other people eat at social occasions to work out what’s acceptable
- I choose not to buy/keep things in the house that I have trouble resisting (e.g., crisps)
- I don’t think about food all day
- If (now, on a diet) I go to bed hungry, I will often come up with a new concoction for the next day
- If I face a ‘small’ amount of food when I am hungry (e.g., a small bowl of soup), I feel panicky, that it’s not enough and that I will go hungry. But if I just eat it calmly anyway, I’m satiated afterwards.
- I feel compelled to finish every last morsel of food on my plate. It actually bothers me not to.
It’s not my fault
Well, I do take responsibility for my being over-weight but it’s now in the context of recognising that I have an over-active appetite, one that doesn’t reflect what my body actually needs.
Whereas some other people can go through their day not thinking about food, and eating what and how much they like, I will always have to be conscious of what I eat, monitor my own hunger and body, because I cannot rely on my appetite to tell me when to stop eating.