Monday, March 28, 2016

Fit to Fat to Fit on TV?

There is a series on "A & E" TV called "Fit to Fat to Fit".  The show has two protagonists.  One of them is an overweight person (usually quite overweight like over 300 or 400 lbs) and a personal trainer.  The personal trainer is usually very slim and fit and decides to put on some weight so he or she can "understand" how it "feels to be fat" (as the show states).

One of the shows I saw, had a lady who really did usually, watch her weight and was able to gain 40 lbs rather easily. But two of the shows had a male personal trainer who obviously was naturally slim (while eating healthy but having "cheat food" every so often).  When the male personal trainers tried to gain weight, they had to work very hard at it, eating 5000 calories or more a day and even at that, they could not gain much more than 20 or 30 lbs and didn't look overweight at all.  They too, however, at that point, said they now could understand how it felt to be "fat".

What annoys me, especially about the latter two shows, is that everyone I've known who is able to gain large amounts of weight (including me!), has genetic and metabolic issues which TV shows like the A&E programs do not take into consideration at all. Science does acknowledge this. For example, obesity scientist, Dr Rudy Leibel states that 60% or more of our size is genetic and/or physical rather than what we eat.

TV star, Al Roker, who had a gastric bypass, has told his audience that he does count his calories and also does 45 minutes of running several times a week.  He's not the exception - he's the rule.  Surprisingly, a study which included members of NAAFA, a social club for people of size as well as average size people, found that NAAFA members actually consumed considerably less food at meetings and banquets than did those of average size.

But sadly, TV which is the informing source of most folks who do not have the time to read, is telling a fairy tale.  People on TV asked how they got so fat, invariably say they eat too much but their "too much" is often less than the amounts that average size folks eat - those who do not become overweight.

I get very weary of TV shows blaming overweight people for their size.  Surely true that an overweight person can keep to a so called average size but it takes lots of work, including saying "no" to any type of fast food, in addition to counting caloric intake (and I mean writing it down or keeping it in the computer - the latter is made more pleasant by great clients such as "My Fitness Pal" etc).

I feel shows like "Fit to Fat to Fit" do a great deal of damage to folks who do have genetic factors and physical factors contributing to their size.  I know about this on a personal basis.  I was very active as a child and kept slim...until I had a tonsillectomy and right after that, I started gaining quickly despite not changing my level of activity (in fact, after, I was more active after surgery, because I wasn't sick in bed all the time like I was before surgery).

Later on, much later on, like when I was in my 40's, still pondering why I gained weight after my tonsillectomy, I read that 50-60% of kids who had tonsillectomies in the 1950's and 1960's, sustained damage to the pituitary gland which of course, would adversely, affect the metabolism.

So, after blaming myself for so many years for my "weight problem", I realized I had a medical reason why I gain weight so easily and since then, I, ironically, have been able to compensate for my lower metabolism through mild calorie restriction and have managed to lose and keep off 106 lbs since 2010.

Shows like "Fit to Fat to Fit" should be balanced out by a more realistic portrayal of obesity, and the genetic and physical factors involved, instead of intimating that all fat people do nothing but sit on the couch "eating bon bons".  Society as a whole would be better off.  Because the truth makes everyone free.


Moose said...

They've done study after study after study -- like the one mentioned here and -- that show that if you start over-feeding thin people they only gain so much weight, then stop. IIRC the original published experiment on this (for which I've lost my link, and it's driving me further bonkers) was done on prisoners. They overfed them craploads of food and limited their movements. They all gained 10-15% of their weight and then stopped. When put back on normal rations and regular exercise, almost all of them lost the weight naturally -- except, apparently, a few that came from fat families.

They've found that if you increase calories, metabolism speeds up to compensate. When you decrease calories, metabolism slows down.

There's also an amazing BBC documentary called "Why Aren't Thin People Fat" -- it's on YouTube -- where they not only repeat this experiment but look into genetics and satiety as well as using MRIs to see how the brain sends signals out when calories are reduced, trying to encourage weight regain. Some studies have shown that these signals continue for a while even after the calorie reduction stops.

I've been having a similar "discussion" (yeah, right) elsewhere with someone whose sole proof that morbid obesity is caused solely by over-eating is that tv show you've mentioned "my 600 lb life," which I've never seen nor do I want to see. They claim that everyone on that show is "addicted to food" (think maybe they picked participants just for fitting the stereotype?) and has no control over their appetite. I've tried to point out that someone like that is the -worst- candidate for WLS, but it falls on deaf ears, because "those people are going to die without the surgery!"


Sue Joan said...

Interesting, Moose...thanks for the links and feedback!

wriggles said...

I know about this on a personal basis. I was very active as a child and kept slim...until I had a tonsillectomy and right after that, I started gaining quickly despite not changing my level of activity (in fact, after, I was more active after surgery, because I wasn't sick in bed all the time like I was before surgery).

I noticed that too. Then there's those (often slim people) who start gaining after breaking their leg (it seems), Notorious Big I think was one. Not to mention the ex-athlete high school phenomenon, John Candy, Patrice O'Neal, even Big Punisher. There's the head impact type, like a certain Spanish sophrano. It goes on and on.

There are so many clues that seem to draw no interest. If this had been studied properly over the last 40 years, no doubt we'd have real answers by now.