It is not a scientific secret that genetics play a role in weight gain and obesity.
People have different metabolisms. There are people who eat tons of food and never exercise, yet they are skinny. There are other people who eat healthy foods in reasonable portions, exercise for hours, and will still probably always be "overweight."
Yet because so much hard work and sacrifice is involved in weight loss, there is a tendency among people who are successful to act as though everyone gets the exact same deal. "I gave up my hot fudge sundaes and started running, and look at me! If you're still overweight, it's because you must be eating crap and sitting on your ass all day."
Well, some of you know from experience that it's just not true.
And sure, plenty of people are overweight because they eat way too much and exercise too little. But there are also plenty of others who get a raw deal in the genetic lottery--maybe growing up, you did the same stuff everyone around you was doing, but instead of getting heavy, you got obese. Or maybe you've struggled your whole life to keep from being obese, going to great lengths to be merely overweight. Or perhaps you've swung back and forth, losing and gaining, messing with your already unfriendly metabolism and through the best of intentions making things worse.
It's not fair.
What's It Like To Have the Deck Stacked Against You?
Are you one of those unlucky people? I'm not myself, but I believe that among readers of health and weight loss blogs, there are quite a few. People who are motivated enough to visit blogs and even start their own, and research all the right things to do and try and try and try... but still find the pounds fall off very, very slowly. And sometimes not at all.
I read what some of you folks are eating and what you're doing for exercise, and Holey Moley! It's a lot more demanding than what I have to do to maintain my weight. I would get so exhausted by the daily battle of "bad cookie/good carrot/how many steps on the pedometer today" that I think I'd want to pull my hair out.
I have a pretty "normal" metabolism. If I start eating like an average American and exercising like an average American, even for a few months, I gain weight. I would be overweight now if I hadn't woken up (twice) and reformed my ways when I started to get too self-indulgent. But, unlike some of you, if I eat 90% healthy, count calories for a while, and get a bunch of exercise, I can lose the weight again fairly easily and keep it off.
It makes me wonder what my attitudes would be like if I weren't so lucky. What if I were suddenly "blessed" with a hundred or so extra pounds and a stubborn metabolism? How would I handle it?
The Optimistic Scenario
Here's what I hope I would do:
1. Learn how to reject all the appearance-related garbage we're exposed to daily. I hope I'd learn to love my large thighs and unshedable belly fat even while being constantly told my every magazine, billboard, tv show and casual conversation that I should hate everything about myself.
2. Concentrate more on health goals--getting stronger, fueling my body with nutritious healthy food, building endurance, doing enough cardio to reduce my risk for heart disease and cancer and diabetes, etc. Define progress according to these goals, not a number on the scale.
3. Try to be grateful for all the other ways in which I was still lucky, by looking beyond my immediate situation. I hope I'd remind myself that I could be living in a poverty-stricken nation; I could be in the midst of a war; I could be maimed or disfigured or dying of a painful disease or the victim of any number of unjust fates.
4. Surround myself with supportive, non-judgmental, healthy friends who would understand me and encourage my efforts to be strong and healthy and happy.
5. Seek balance in life and see myself as a whole person with many talents and goals, and not just as number on a scale or a clothing size.
But honestly? I am not a particularly evolved, mature, self-confident person.
The Darker Scenario:
Here is how I fear I might deal with the situation instead:
1. Learn to hate my body, and by extension, myself.
2. Get so focused on calories and portion sizes and "good" and "bad" foods that I'd no longer be able to enjoy eating as a simple pleasurable activity. And with food and exercise so emotionally charged, I fear I'd veer between frantic determination to lose weight versus giving up entirely and bingeing.
3. Become more self-absorbed (if possible) and depressed.
4. Withdraw from social situations out of fear of rejection.
5. Start judging my sense of self worth by how my clothes fit rather than who I was as a person.
Yikes, what a downer, I should have gone in the other order!
So does anyone with a "good" metabolism wonder how they'd fare if they weren't so lucky? Or does anyone who's unlucky have any stories from the trenches or advice for those struggling against unfair odds?