I don't know if 90% of it is genetics, but I also think that there is a tendency for people to assume that if they work hard to stay thin, then all anyone else has to do is work just as hard, and they'll stay thin (or get thin) too. I don't like this assumption.
I come from a family where my mother's side of the family is thin, and my father's side of the family is overweight, with few to no exceptions on either side. My sister takes after my father's side of the family physically, while I take after my mother's side.
As a child I was thin, active, and a picky eater. I've always had a high metabolism, and I really did eat a lot as a teenager. Someone mentioned above that a thin person might think they eat a lot, whereas a larger person might think they don't eat much. My experience of this was definitely the opposite - I once challenged a large teenaged boy to out-eat me, and he just barely managed it - he weighed about 180 and I weighed about 110. One of my more overweight high school friends came in one day and told us how much she had eaten for supper the night before, how it was this HUGE portion, and it was one sausage and 2/3 of a large potato. I could have eaten at least 1.5 times that much at a normal meal.
As a child, my sister was larger and fluffier. She did hit puberty very young (about 7 years old) due to a medical condition, which I suppose might be involved, but she has the same body type as most of my dad's family, so I doubt it. We were raised in the same family, with the same priorities. We both love reading, we are both extremely slow eaters. I was always more interested in physical activity than her, and she always liked tv more than me. I would say that we're a pretty good study in genetic differences - even if those differences are in level of enjoyment of different activities.
I was very thin but NOT fit for many years. At about the age of 12 I decided that exercise was for suckers and stopped doing it, in any form. I read books, I occasionally walked my dog for a long distance, but sometimes I took out the ATV and she ran behind. I was not an example of a thin, fit person, just a thin person. Like a PP, I didn't gain weight, but I did lose muscle tone and feel crappy (it took me years to figure out that I felt better when I got exercise). I weighed 117 pounds when I graduated high school (I'm 5'7") and I still weighed the exact same amount when I was 25. My husband (boyfriend at the time) tried to get me to exercise, but I didn't want to. When I was 26 or so, we went on a long bicycle tour. We started out with no previous training, on a tandem bike. It was incredibly hard work. I checked our caloric intake one day and it was 3800 calories each! People kept on seeing us and talking to us and telling us that "I could never do that" . . . which was frustrating, because there wasn't anything special about me . . . I hadn't exercised a whit in years, and started out terribly unfit. It was just a matter of assuming that I could do it, and then doing it even though my legs hurt so much.
When we got back home, I weighed 135 pounds - I had even less body fat than when we left, so I had gained 18 pounds, mostly in my leg muscles. I was happy enough with that, but of course I didn't exercise nearly as much once we were home (because we had been cycling 3-5 hours a day, which is a lot of time). Apparently all that great exercise slowed down my metabolism, because I kept gaining weight (even while losing muscle) once I got home. Now I'm 150 pounds. I still don't really watch what I eat, although I've always liked reasonably healthy food (whole grains, fruits, lean meat, some veggies, but also full-fat dairy) but I try and get at least a small amount of exercise because it makes me feel better. I reset my set point. Now I need to work harder if I want to even stay within the range of acceptable BMI - I need to get real exercise and eat consciously. Before, I didn't need to. It wasn't having kids that made the change for me, but it was an experience similar in the way that it changed my metabolic needs and reset my set point. On the other hand, it also changed my attitude about exercise. I can bring myself to actually enjoy running now, for example, something that I used to despise.
So, I don't want to diminish the amount of work that some of those really thin, fit people put in - I know they have to expend a lot of effort to get there. I know that pretty much everyone can reach some kind of baseline fitness/body mass that is healthy. I do think there is a strong tendency to assume that because you have to try to do it, that anyone else can do it with the same amount of effort, and I don't think that that is true. I think it really does take more effort for some people than for others.
My sister and I have discussed this, and she mentioned a hypothesis that makes a lot of sense to me. In our evolutionary history, there have been two strategies that have worked in different circumstances (at least two, but for purposes of simplification I'll assume just two). In easy times, when food was abundant, high-output individuals did well. These people could eat all that abundant food and use the energy it gave them to get a lot done. Their metabolism burned fast, they weren't the most efficient users of food, but they were very effective at breeding, building, making food stores, etc. They had a lot of energy and thus were very productive, but they used a lot of food to be that way. In hard times, when food was scarce, was when the low-output individuals would shine. They might appreciate all the "storable" foods (that could be stored in their body fat) more than the thin people. They might be unable to resist that high-fat, high-sugar, or high-carb treat (which were really uncommon in our evolutionary history). In abundant food times, they might put on weight, and they might not tend to nearly so much physical activity to burn off the calories they liked. Their metabolisms were not as fast, and they didn't have as much energy to get stuff done. Then, when food became scarce, they would continue plugging along like they had always done, eating whenever they could but also living off of their body reserves. They wouldn't starve, they might still be able to maintain a baseline of activity, they might even be able to carry a pregnancy, while the high-metabolism individuals stopped ovulating due to lack of nutrition. In the context of an insecure food supply, such as probably existed during our evolutionary past, both strategies would have their place.
(Just a note, I'm not saying that it's all genetic . . . I'm saying that there's probably some genetic tendency, and that culture and family sub-culture probably influences that . . . I don't really understand people saying that it's not genetic because they're different from their family as far as weight/exercise/diet goes. If you didn't get it genetically from your family, and you didn't get it culturally from your family, and you come from a culture where obesity is common, where did you get it from? Your hard work, but why don't the other people around you work as hard? There is something innately different about you, if you are working to stay fit and the people around you aren't doing the work, it seems to me.)
Unfortunately for the people with naturally slow metabolisms, low energy levels, and high food interests, we do not live in this unstable environment anymore. Their adaptation is no longer adaptive in the environment we've found ourselves in. So it will take more effort for those people to get to a fit healthy weight, exercise level, and food intake. However, it can be done. I don't imagine that Swedes are so genetically dissimilar from Americans - I am sure there are Swedes who struggle with this . . . and they win! So it must be possible. It's a matter of cultural support, I think. As the OP said, the Swedish women around her pay a lot of attention to what and how much they're eating. They also pay a lot of attention to exercise. If that's the culture you live in and come from, it's much easier to enact healthy habits. So if you feel that you should make changes to increase your exercise, eat a healthier diet, and decrease your weight, then by all means do so. Accept that it might be hard, but that any progress at all is a step in the right direction.
I think it's also important to recognize that we do have a tendency to focus on one single "ideal" that we should all strive for, and that that ideal is pretty artificial and narrow. I have a fairly large skeleton, and even when I was very thin (such that people who didn't know any better thought I was anorexic), I was a size 6. I haven't been a size 0 or 2 since I was 15, I'm just not built that way. I'm not suggesting that anyone thinks size 6 is big, but just that I think I didn't meet the "ideal" that we were exposed to through models and media. I think when I got up to a size 10 was when I looked and felt my best. But this is different for everyone. I have known some really large women in my time who weren't overweight, they were large and muscular. I imagine that some people looked at them and thought they were too big, but I think they were very healthy.
So, OP, if you feel like you should make healthy lifestyle changes, then I applaud you for the steps you've already taken. If you feel your son is overweight, then I'm very proud of you for recognizing that and deciding to change it. I want you to know that you shouldn't be trying to live up to the ideal of those facebook friends that are so thin - chances are good that they're working at it, but it might not be as much work for them as it would for you. Definitely step up your exercise level, if you can get it up to 1 hour a day, 6 days a week, then you'll be in a very good place as far as physical fitness goes, I imagine. If doing that doesn't achieve some weight goal that you've set for yourself, though, don't be disappointed. Doing the exercise IS the goal, eating better IS the goal. Probably those two things will help you lose some weight, and your son too, but regardless of how much or little WEIGHT you lose, you'll be gaining good health. Every day that you exercise, every day that you make conscious good food choices, is a success. Make that your goal, and you won't be disappointed, because those things are completely in your control. Your family will probably lose some weight as a result, but try to remember that weight goals are more difficult to set realistically - everybody's metabolism is different.
Originally Posted by kristandthekids Do one thing at a time. If you need to sugar detox, do that first
. Worry about amounts later. Don't try to do everything at once so you get overwhelmed and freak out.Start thinking about a food's purpose in your diet before buying it/putting it in your mouth.
Try alternatives. You're craving something sweet and want a cookie, try an apple first and see if it satisfies that craving. HFCS has GOT to go.If you're still hungry after eating healthy portions, drink a glass of water and wait 20 minutes.
I'm a big fan of the green smoothies. They're really filling and a great way to increase green leafy veggies in your diet. Getting the nutrition you need out of your diet will help with cravings.
All of the above, especially the bolded!
Originally Posted by CI Mama
It's easy to assume that how you look and your personal health are basically the same thing. If you look like someone in a fitness magazine you're "healthy" and if you don't, you aren't.
I think the truth is more complicated than that. There are ways of being thin that are not healthy (and I agree with Philomom that obsession with food & exercise is not healthy!). There are ways of being healthy that don't make you look like someone in a magazine. Pursuing good health and pursuing a slim physique are not the same thing. I feel it's important to celebrate healthy bodies that don't fit the very narrow "look" that is marketed as "healthy."
And yeah, what she said!
Originally Posted by littlest birds
True, CI Mama. Of course the fact is some women have a huge uphill with weight as the very first step of being healthy, some have a minor challenge with weight, and some do not have to worry about weight as a central issue for their health or appearance. They still need to care about being healthier but it doesn't take the same kind of effort.
When you are noticeably overweight/obese it is the first thing you see of your own physical fitness and what you know others will also notice first. It is the first aspect of your health you need to think about when trying to improve your health. When you are "naturally" slender you may have the luxury of thinking nothing about pounds and being able to step past that concern and address your other health needs instead. Partly this is just the result of luck. So I may be aware that I feel flabby and weak if I let myself go, but due to my luck I never actually get fat even when my behaviors are not healthy. My appearance could be better but I think I still look great--as any overweight person can tell you they would consider themselves fortunate if they could be a healthy weight and out of shape and start from there with getting healthy. I sometimes see women carrying a lot of weight apparently making lots of effort and healthier choices than me but not making progress.
Yes, it takes a lot more than weight loss to be healthy, but it stinks to have weight be at the forefront all the time. We certainly don't all face the same thing with this, and "working at it" ends up demanding a whole lot more effort from some people than from others and still can get less satisfying results. I don't know why.