Why we’re fat: It’s hard to eat healthy
There used to be a website called “this is why you’re fat” and it had pictures of highly indulgent food creations. My late father used to enjoy looking at the website and I’m not sure if it was because of the gross-out humor, pictures of food, or the motivation for himself to stay in shape. He once showed me a picture of himself on vacation. It was a closeup of him drinking a chocolate milkshake and he showed it to me because it was the motivator for him to lose weight and get in shape. He said it was a wake-up call for him to realize that he was indeed overweight. He did overeat at times and it took him a long time to get up to the weight as getting “fat” takes time, it’s just a lot easier than losing weight to not have to think about it.
I started my weight loss journey in late 2018. I had orthognathic surgery in November 2018 to correct my jaw’s underbite. As part of the recovery process, I couldn’t eat solid foods. The most solid food I could have was scrambled eggs. Since I couldn’t eat much, I lost 20 pounds. Shortly after I was given the go-ahead from my doctor to exercise again I joined a fitness program at a High-intensity interval training (HIIT) gym in Traverse City called Luxbody. The Luxbody fitness challenge helped me lose an additional 20 for a total of 40. I’ve been able to stay skinny since then even though my weight has fluctuated somewhat since I stopped doing HIIT. I think I’ve been able to stay thin largely because I make the effort to eat healthily.
By “make the effort to eat healthy” I mean it takes effort to stay thin. It also takes effort to be overweight as everything wears you out faster, but I value the extra energy I have more than the freedom I used to give myself to eat and drink as much as I wanted. Feeling better about my appearance, health, and my now lack of snoring are all great improvements to my quality of life. My body fat percentage is still well above that of models and bodybuilding competitors, but I’m skinnier than I was in high school so I take that as a win.
I want to get into the effort it takes to stay thin. There is a lot of misinformation out there about supplements, fad diets, and weight loss tricks, but these things fail because a huge majority of what it takes to lose weight and keep it off is calorie intake/output. The best diet is the one you can stick to and the easiest one from my perspective is eating clean. Eating whole, unprocessed foods like apples, chicken, steak, and spinach have a huge benefit when it comes to calories. It takes your body more effort to process these foods because they are unprocessed. Your body burns a lot of calories in the digestion process and it takes almost no time at all to digest a doughnut, but it takes two hours for the body to digest a steak.
There are three macronutrients (technically four, but I don’t want to get into alcohol) and people have this misconception that eating fat makes you fat. Fat doesn’t make you fat, but it does have a roughly double calorie content compared to carbs or protein per gram of food. Your body needs and loves fats, but they should be the smallest part of your diet due to their calorie content.
The effort that makes losing body fat and keeping it off comes down to what we eat and how we eat it. It’s hard to eat clean and neither nature nor society makes this any easier for us.
I’m single and I live alone. While I love living alone right now, a constant challenge for me is having high-quality, clean foods in my fridge. Fruits, vegetables, and meats don’t have long shelf lives. If I buy too much, I end up throwing it away before I can eat it. Food from grocery stories tends to come in large packaging. I would buy more healthy bread if I could buy less of it. I think it would be pretty popular if the stores sold half loaves or smaller loaves, but that isn’t cost-efficient for bread factories.
Due to this conundrum, I eat at restaurants way too often. Besides the problem of the $3x mark-up in pricing for eating food that someone else prepared for you, restaurants don’t make it easy to stay thin. The following stories are all true.
I like the salads at Burger King, but I order them with grilled chicken. It has less fat on it and it still tastes good. The cashier will ask me if I want grilled or fried chicken. I swear, every single time I‘ve said the word grilled, the cashier has responded “Fried?”.
One time on a road trip, I stopped for gas and a quick lunch. I went to a greasy, small-town diner connected to the gas station and ordered a grilled chicken wrap. It was the healthiest entre on the menu. One way of reducing the calories I consume involves reducing sauces on sandwiches so I usually order my sauce on the side and then add as much as I think would taste good. I made nice with the man taking my order and asked what his favorite item on the menu was and he gave me a nice story about his favorite burger order. When I ordered my wrap I said “I’ll have a grilled chicken wrap with dressing on the side”. The man responded, “You want ranch on the side?”.
I didn’t want to argue with him, but I said “I’ll have the dressing on the side, your menu says Italian”.
I took the ranch dressing. The funny part about this interaction was he likely knew the menu up and down, but when I said dressing, he assumed I wanted ranch even though I never said the word ranch.
Another issue is the social pressure to eat. I’m above average in size and musculature compared to most people so I naturally burn more calories than say a petite, older woman. Our metabolisms slow down as we age, lose lean muscle mass, and shrink so it’s harder for older women especially to lose body fat. Due to my natural advantages, I burn a lot of calories. The calories I burn taking the stairs rather than the elevator, sleeping, or doing HIIT will always be higher than someone smaller than I am.
These advantages allow me to occasionally eat as much as I want without a lot of fear of the scale. I still make the effort to eat lighter at family functions compared to when I was a teenager.
So I once cooked egg whites for my breakfast much to the chagrin of my family. I love my family more than anything, but I was trying to lose weight at the time (cutting and bulking). I had eaten heavily the night before. While consuming food is a common ritual around the holidays, hanging out with friends, or going on dates (geez, it’s like we’re addicted to food). Holidays and social functions make it difficult to maintain caloric neutrality (maintenance) or a calorie deficit.
At the end of the day, it’s all worth the effort. I previously mentioned this, but I want to get back into it as I conclude this essay. Thinking about and making the effort to eat clean takes effort, but being thin has a wide variety of benefits. Sleep, exercise, personal energy levels, and breathing all become easier when you’re not lugging around an extra 20 pounds. Switching from whatever you feel like to 90% clean and unprocessed foods isn’t always easy or cheap. It’s better for your health in the long run.
You can also still have a doughnut occasionally and they taste even better when they’re a treat rather than a regular part of your diet.