As a country, it’s obvious that we enjoy defending and helping those in need. Sarah McLachlan takes time out of her busy schedule to teach us how to help sad little doggies. When there’s an oil spill, we pick up sea birds from the shore and scrub them with dish soap until they’re good as new. We help our eighty-year-old neighbor unclog her toilet even though her house smells like beets and feet. When Justin Beiber drives too fast, pees off a balcony, or asks a hooker to spit in his mouth (or whatever else he’s getting arrested for), we simply say he’s misguided and feel sorry for him and his millions of dollars.
We seem to be relatively nice to those in need. That is, unless someone gets fat. When someone becomes obese, we call that person lazy, we say they have no willpower, and we ask why they have lost all self-respect. What day was it when we, as a collective, became so dumb? And I mean dumb with a capital stupid.
Why is obesity the only hardship where we place all the blame on the individual instead of offering helpful guidance? We don’t tell the blackened sea bird, “Well, you shouldn’t have been swimming so close to that oil tanker.” Sarah McLachlan doesn’t tell her puppies, “Why don’t you learn how to catch a Frisbee or something so people will like you.” We don’t try to deport Justin Beiber… oh, that did happen?
Years ago, I can remember having “judgy” thoughts about people who had gained weight, and now that I have a better understanding of how an individual can become obese, I sort of want to punch myself in the face. As if someone with weight issues doesn’t have enough to deal with. Did I really think that my judgment or ridicule was going to help?
If you are an individual that still believes that if someone wants to lose weight, they should stop complaining and do something about it, it’s important for you to understand that you’re kind of a prick. That’s okay—I used to be a prick too. We’re going to straighten you out by the end of this article and you’re going to feel a whole lot better. I’m going to help you understand why it’s not the fat kid’s fault. And if you are the fat kid, you’re going to understand why it’s not your fault and what you can do about it.
I believe that starvation is one of the leading causes of obesity, especially extreme obesity. When I say this to a crowd I always get looks that say, “We paid money to see this guy?” You may say to me, “Look, the guy is standing right there, he’s four hundred pounds, he has a bucket of fried chicken in his hand right now… he’s clearly not starving.”
What I mean is this: He may be eating, but his body is not receiving the nutrition it needs. I’m an author and I write books that teach people how to look at their own chemistry and digestive system to better understand what foods they can and cannot properly digest, process, and assimilate. If a guy can break down and assimilate only ten percent of the nutrients in the food he is eating, doesn’t it make sense that he would need to eat ten times as much food in order to get the nutrients required for his body to function?
If you’re a fat kid that gets teased day and night about your weight, know this: Someone finally has your back. Obesity is not about a lack of willpower or an individual who has no self-respect. Obesity is about science and malfunctions in the body that are creating the excess weight.
Did you know that if an individual’s blood sugar and minerals both go too low at the same time, that person might have a seizure? It’s believed to be the body’s way of saying, “Look, I don’t have enough resources to operate right now so I’m going to shut it down.” This can be a major underlying cause for sugar, salt, or carb cravings for a lot of people. These cravings might not mean that you’re about to have a seizure any minute now, but it could mean that you need more resources. Since a seizure is basically a total shut down of the system, the body can be very defensive about a looming seizure and send out the signal to “Give me more stuff!” way in advance.
This is why a guy can find himself half way through a gallon of Chubby Hubby ice cream before he realizes he’s even eating it. It’s not about willpower or low self-respect. It can simply be impossible to fight a body that knows how to get what it needs in order to continue functioning. Does that mean that the Chubby Hubby ice cream is good for this person? No. It simply means that this individual has such a lack of resources, the body will scream for anything that it can use in a pinch.
Nutritional resources could be low for this person due to poor digestion, or it could be due to eating foods that don’t contain many real nutrients in the first place. Food mad-scientists have figured out how to make processed foods taste like they contain tons of valuable nutrients. That’s why we crave them so desperately. They send the signal to the body that valuable nutrients are on the way. When the nutrients never show up, the body doesn’t know it was fooled. It just operates under the assumption that we must need a lot more of that. “Hey, can you send down some more Nutter Butters?!” And we find ourselves in the kitchen at three in the morning raiding the pantry.
The problem is, who teaches this to the fat kid? Nobody. Instead we’re teaching him that if he burns more calories than he eats, he’ll lose weight. This would be completely true IF THE KID WAS A PETRI DISH IN A LABORATORY. Unfortunately, we all process foods differently and what happens in a lab is not what happens in every human being. Mainstream weight loss advice is nothing short of horrendous and that is why so many obese people try and fail enough times to give up.
On the other side of the coin, I also don’t view obesity as any type of mystery, or disease, like the AMA has recently categorized the issue. I think we tend to categorize things as “diseases” because then we can diagnose the problem with a name and prescribe drugs and surgical procedures. If someone believes, “I guess I have a disease and my only option is this drug or this surgery,” why would they take the time to look for other solutions?
If we were to change the information that is being taught to our kids, we could give them a fighting chance. We could teach them how the human body works. We could explain how common it is for different sections of the digestive process to malfunction, and if the whole digestive system is not working correctly, we can’t pull the nutrients out of the food and use them for fuel. We could teach them how to keep their blood sugar on an even keel, instead of the spikes and crashes that cause severe cravings for something you just ate an hour ago. We could teach our kids that if you’re hungry all the time, if you feel like you need to eat more than your friends, or if you have cravings for junk food all day long, your body is sending you a signal that it is not getting something that it needs.
This problem is not about willpower. This problem is not about a lack of self-respect. We blame the obese for the skyrocketing healthcare costs while every option we offer is built to fail. It’s like we’re selling cars without steering wheels and then calling our customers horrible drivers because they keep smashing into walls. The fat kid is the victim here, and if you’re a person who judges or ridicules someone because they are overweight, then you might as well have just watched someone get mugged and then laughed at them while you say, “Remember that part when the mugger was standing on your face?”
If you’re the kid who has lived a life of ridicule because of your weight, I’d like to take this opportunity, on behalf of all idiots near and far, to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we made fun of the most difficult aspect of your life. I’m sorry that we blamed you, even when you took the steps that worked for others, only to fail one more time. The science that we were sharing made such obvious sense to us at the time and we figured that if it worked for one human, it would work for all of them. I know that’s not a very good excuse for what you’ve been through, but I think an apology is the first step.
The next step is for you to know that it’s not your fault and you were not born to struggle this way. There is no “I’m just meant to be overweight” affliction that anyone is born with. It doesn’t matter if your parents, grandparents, and all the way back to Christopher Columbus were all big fat guys. You can still make the changes to turn that around. It’s simply about understanding how your specific body is operating, what systems may not be functioning correctly, and how to get your body what it really needs so it will stop screaming for Nilla Wafers.
You may have some work ahead of you, and it may not be an easy road. You may need to re-learn some things that you believed to be true in the past. I only ask that you believe that the answers you seek are out there and that you CAN make a change. I already believe you can do this. We only need one more person to believe and it will happen. You.
You got this.