A few days ago, I read this article, entitled "Skinny genes: how DNA shapes weight loss success". It's a bit of a hodge-podge, mixing some interesting science with the usual "eat less move more and all will be fine" pap. There's also some discussion of how hormones can have an effect on hunger, satiety and even one's desire to exercise. As I said, it's quite the dog's breakfast. But an interesting one, nevertheless.
Essentially, here's the deal: some people get fat looking at doughnuts and some people stay skinny no matter how much they eat. OK, I won't fall into the trap of oversimplification, but here's what the article says, quoting Arya Sharma, one of the only doctors on the face of the planet who doesn't believe losing weight is all ELMM (he's the one who coined the term, "the nightmare on ELMM street"):
“Just go out on to the street and pick out 100 people at random – give them the same food to eat, the same amount of exercise, and some will gain weight and some will lose it. Even whether or not you like exercising is very strongly genetically determined.”
Of course, the author of the article has to keep up her "fat = automatically unhealthy" creds, so she immediately goes on to say:
But before anyone concludes that diet and exercise are futile weapons in the war on weight, researchers have also found that the simple eat-less, move-more strategy can overcome the known genetic susceptibilities for excess weight. Some people just have to move much, much more and eat far, far less to see results.
...move much, much more and eat far, far less. Sounds like a great plan! Or maybe not--we all know just how effectively that works for the majority of people.
I'm one of those people who must be perpetually in a state of low-level hunger to lose weight. I must never, ever eat until I'm feeling satisfied if I want to keep whatever I've lost off. And yet, I never enjoy overeating. It is very rare indeed that I eat to the point where I feel even vaguely uncomfortable, but if I eat slightly more than what I "should" eat over one or two meals, I will automatically gain a significant amount of weight. And getting it off is nigh impossible...without feeling constantly hungry for a long period of time, something which I am no longer willing to do.
I don't know what role exercise would play in my weight since I cannot engage in anything even vaguely strenuous. I do know that in the days before my knee didn't scream for several days after spending a minute on the bike, I once spent about a month biking 6 days a week on my exercise bike at a speed that caused sweat to fly off my body. The result: no weight lost or gained. Now, that may have been because I was also taking a medication that is known to cause weight gain (in retrospect, I shouldn't actually have been on this medication and will never allow any doctor to prescribe it to me again). So the jury's out on how my body responds to serious exercise.
But enough of me.
Let's stop being reductionists and believing that everyone's body will react exactly the same way to ingesting and burning the same number of calories. If that were the case, everyone would be a calorie counter and we'd all be able to predict with pinpoint accuracy what our weight would be from one week to the next.
People like Dr. Scherer (read the article!) would just not exist. He's a man who
can put away a cream soup and a platter of penne with Italian sausage and wash it all down with a large Coke. And even though he’s 47, and driving his son to hockey is the closest he comes to rigorous daily exercise, he’s still as trim as a teenager.
And there would be no dieters, starving to lose a pound a week and gaining it back and more within the space of one meal--a meal no doubt much more reasonable than what Dr. Scherer can eat regularly with no ill effects--at least to his waistline.