It’s the same thing every night. At about 8.30pm I find my eyelids drooping, my concentration faltering. I go into a state of what I like to call convulsive yawning – where I can barely take a normal breath before the next yawn comes along. My brain and indeed my entire body just longs for bed, sweet, sweet bed. (more…)
When I first began researching for this blog, I had a lot of trouble finding anything online that even remotely resembled what I wanted to do here. But, much to my surprise, I did find something else that I wasn’t expecting – and had never actually heard of. (more…)
Once upon a time, it was a good thing to be fat. No, seriously, it was. Of course, that was some time ago, and well, we were all a lot hairier and had a tendency to eat our meat raw – but it was still a good thing to be able to put on weight. It was so good, in fact, that most of those who survived the daily challenges of life, were those who could put on weight.
Okay, that was 10,000 years ago, but in reality, that’s not even a blink in terms of the evolution of the human body.
We’ve all heard them, those ‘excuses’ for being big – “I have big bones” or “It’s all hormonal”. They’ve become such a cliche now that nobody pays any attention to the fact that, for some of us, those excuses are actual real reasons why we have a weight problem. What’s also hard to grasp is that there are a huge number of physiological reasons why the body either puts on weight, retains it or resists losing it. Unfortunately, I can’t cover all of them here. Instead I’ll give you a brief overview of the kinds of things that might be affecting you.
Two recent studies have shone a huge light on how weight issues can have an overwhelming effect on children, to the point of developing an eating disorder they will struggle with for the rest of their lives. But it’s interesting to note that it’s not the weight itself that’s the problem – but rather, how the overweight child is treated by other people. These studies show how both the peer groups and parents of overweight children play an important part in how the child deals with that weight issue.
I remember years ago watching an interview with a very successful sportsman, whose parents had also been successful in sport. He was asked how much less work he’d had to do, coming into the sport with what was obviously a genetic advantage. His answer was memorable: “Sure, I have the genes to be good in this sport, but if all I did was sit around at home doing jigsaw puzzles, the genes wouldn’t make one jot of difference.”
Okay, so we’re not all world-class sportsmen here – but there’s a powerful grain of truth in his response. Good genes didn’t make him a champion – they only helped. Doing all the hard work was what made him a champion. In terms of the causes of obesity, the same principle applies – genetics make a contribution, but for most of us, they’re not the beginning and end of the story. Other factors also play a part. Some of those factors might have no relationship to the genes, but others might have a direct effect.
If you think over-eating is something we’ve just recently invented in the West because we have an abundance of food, then you’d be wrong. Both humans and animals have always had the capacity to eat way more than they need to. It’s a survival trait, and goes way back to when mankind were hunter-gatherers. Before we were able to grow our own food or herd our own animals, humans had to make the most of any food they found, because they had no idea where their next meal would come from. Or if they’d ever get another meal. Those excess calories were stored as fat, for when there was no longer an abundance of food. So eating beyond what the body needs in a single meal is an ability we all have, regardless of how much we weigh.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard somebody tell me that the best way to lose weight is to just do a little exercise, eat healthy food and the weight will simply fall off, I’d be kicking back on my private yacht right now, in the middle of a three month tour of the Greek Isles.
Even more annoying is when you meet people who do just that, and the six kilos they’ve been carrying around since their second baby valiantly disappears after just a month or two of effort! You look at people like that and feel the kind of deep-seated envy only those who carry extra weight can ever truly understand. But at the end of it all, you’re left with just one question – why? Why am I so overweight? Why do I find it so hard to lose weight? Why do some people find it easy? And why does everybody (including me) think it’s all my fault? (Okay, that was four questions, but bear with me).
For some of us, reading an official definition of obesity is, well, a little insulting. It’s not like we don’t know that our bellies are bulging and that our favourite jeans from 10 years ago are 10 sizes too small for us now.
But I like to look at it from a slightly different angle: if I was diagnosed with a serious illness, one of the first things I’d do is go and learn as much as I could about it. I prefer to understand the beast that has hold of my body – or my life – so that, at the earliest opportunity, I can outsmart it, or at the very least, come to terms with it. (more…)