I watched part one of TLC’s special ‘Fat and Back’ last night. It’s a documentary where a fat-hating media personality from Britain named Katie Hopkins decides to gain and lose about fifty pounds in a few months to prove how effortless weight loss is, and how the huge number of overweight people in the United States and Britain are all simply lazy and need to put their cheese burgers down. (Thank God someone finally pointed that out, I had NO idea I just had to put down the burger I perpetually carry around. My work is finished!)
For the sake of your sanity, if you are sensitive to weight bigotry and unrestrained ignorance about how different bodies work differently, I do not actually recommend you watch the documentary. However, I admit I found it fascinating. Also, sometimes unintentionally hilarious.
This person’s opinions are nothing new. They are also probably not going to change very much as a result of her experiment. I've found that ignorant, bigoted people will remain inclined to stay that way whether they are racist, homophobic, intolerant of other religions, fat haters, etc. These days I tend to ignore them rather than argue with them because I got very tired of wasting my breath. As Ted likes to remind me: you can't teach a pig to sing, it wastes your time and annoys the pig.
The fascinating part for me is this: I truly had no idea how extremely difficult it is for naturally slim people to put on weight. I mean, I knew it in a vague way because I live with one. I've watched in fascination as my husband ate like a Hobbit (a solid six meals per day, plus snacks) and never gained an ounce. But since I never kept track of his caloric intake I truly had no idea just how much people with poor metabolisms could take in and then just dump out the next day without storing anything.
As a guideline, physicians recommend that a woman of my height and frame take in about 2,000 calories per day. I know from personal trial and error that consuming 2,000 calories per day with my metabolism will result in a steady 1-2 pound per week weight gain. Around 1,700 is what I need for maintenance, and weight loss occurs between 1,200 – 1,500 depending on my activity level.
In Fat and Back, Katie doubled her normal caloric intake of 2,000 calories to 4,000 – and for two solid weeks did not gain a pound. Let me repeat that: she gained NOTHING eating 4,000 calories per day every day for two weeks. In the end, she had to up her calorie intake to between 6,000 – 8,000 calories per day in order to put weight on. Having never eaten that many calories a day in my life, I have to imagine it was quite a chore. It also completely blew my mind watching her struggle with the process. Without meaning to, she provided fascinating evidence that it is as difficult for some people to be fat as it is for others to be thin.
Sadly, Katie failed to reach much enlightenment from this experiment as of part one. Although she did manage to understand that there is an emotional coping component to eating she had previously been unaware of, the moment when she tearfully sobs out, “I hate fat people for making me do this!” was the unintentionally hilarious part. In between laughing my head off I commented to Ted that, “the only thing making her do this is her desire for notoriety and cash.” I doubt any fat people were on her doorstep begging her to show them how easily they should be able to conquer their eating disorder/illness/injury/naturally occurring metabolic rate. By and large most fat people really just want to be left alone.
She seems to have decided that all overweight people must be consuming the 6,000 or more calories per day that she had to in order to put on weight. If that were the case I doubt many of us would be able to hold down jobs, as eating that much looks like a full time chore. I don’t know for sure though, since I've never tried it. Even on days when I slip up and binge, I might approach 3,000 calories maximum - but in my five years of tracking my calorie intake I've never gone higher than that.
We shall see if part two provides her with any added insights, though I expect that her body will return to its genetically predisposed slim shape as easily as mine would balloon back up to 275 if I stopped paying attention. She may not have learned much, but she did prove the point to me that body shape; fat OR thin, is an outstandingly difficult thing to shift. At the very least, I appreciate having seen such a graphic demonstration of that.