Fat Family: an Observation

Yesterday was my best friend’s (May) daughter’s (Hayley) birthday.  As I’ve said before, my best friend and her family are like my own second family.  And apparently the feeling is mutual, because Charlene (May’s 2nd daughter) said practically the same thing to me the other night.

While we were all out together, we ran into her cousin, Adam, and it got the gears rolling.  I was just too drunk to be able to make heads or tails of it until today.  😉

I’ve met pretty much every member of their extended family.  There’s my best friend May, and her sisters Joan, Celia, and Carol.  All of them are fat.  All of them started out relatively thin.  As far as May’s children go, they’re about half and half.  She has 4 kids: one boy and three girls.  Danny, momma’s boy (and I mean that affectionately – he’s very close to his mother) and Charlene are both on the fat side.  Hayley is what I would consider thin (she wears a UK size 8 ) and Tiffany is downright skinny – a UK size 2.  She’s so skinny that when we first met, I asked May if Tiff was anorexic.  But she isn’t – this girl can EAT.  She’s just naturally skinny.  But Charlie, May’s ex and the father of her children, is also very thin.

But looking at her sisters and their children, I see something similar happening.  I met (Joan’s son) Adam when he was still in school, somewhere around 15 or 16.  Now he’s old enough to be working in a bar (which is what he was doing last night when we ran into him).  When I first met him?  Definitely in the thin – average range.  Now?  Yup, the boy’s fat.  Joan’s daughter Lindsay was the same way.  Thin all the way through school and then got fat as an adult.  And I see the same things happening with Celia’s and Carol’s kids.  They all seem pretty thin until they hit adulthood, and then about half of them get fat.

But all of these women have (or have had, in some cases) thin – average partners.

While there might be a lot of dissention from the “medical community” on the validity of the nature v.s. lifestyle debate on fat, I personally think it’s a lot more valid than they would like to admit.  (And lord knows there’s never been an actual objective study done on this subject.)  Mostly from my own experiences, but the more I observe others, the more convinced I become.

Not every single fat person in my best friend’s family could possibly have the same sort of lifestyle.  They can’t all be eating McDonald’s every day and laying on the couch until they begin to become one with it.  Shit, I know that May herself was NEVER what I would consider an inactive person.  Not even now that she’s battling terminal leukemia is she inactive.  Sure, she’s not as active as before, but her stamina never ceases to amaze me.  And she doesn’t over eat.  Hell, she doesn’t eat ENOUGH.  Her 3-year old grandson eats more than she does.  So all these stereotypes about fat people?  Are bullshit.  (Although I really don’t have to tell most of you that, but I wanted to put it in there anyway.)

Why is it that I – a person with only a high school education, no degrees of any kind, and no real skills above being able to type like a madwoman – can see the validity of the “naturally fat” theory and these so-called professionals, who went to school literally TWICE as long as I did, cannot?

What the hell kind of “professionals” do we have conducting these studies anyway???


10 Responses

  1. Because they don’t go into a study with unbiased eyes. They do these studies to prove a theory they have and go out of their way to either ignore anything that doesn’t line up with what they wanted to find, or twist the data input to give them the results they wanted. That’s why there are so many “obesity paradoxes” over at Junkfood Science. Those paradoxes aren’t actually paradoxes, they’re just facts that don’t fit what the researchers/doctors/pharmaceutical companies/scientists wanted to find. So it’s an oddity that they have no way of explaining because it just refuses to fit their prejudices. Talk about closed minds.

  2. So what you’re saying is, that they’re “professional” LIARS. 😉 😀 (Wait, isn’t that a joke about lawyers?)

    See, I (haha, naive little me) always thought that medical researchers didn’t know whether they were correct or not, and that was why they conducted the studies in the first place. I mean, I remember being taught in science class way back when I was a pre-teen that you did studies to FIND OUT if you were right or not. Seems to me like somebody needs to go back to grade school.

    Heh. Closed minds, indeed.

  3. You know… I think there is a double standard at work here. You wouldn’t ask your friend if her fat child was an overeater, because you know about all the misconceptions regarding the correlation between fat and overeating. You know that it sucks when people assume that because you’re fat, you overeat. But you asked her if her thin daughter was anorexic. Same thing – a judgment on someone’s weight, an assumption about their health and habits.

    Just an observation from someone who is very tired of people assuming that because I’m thin, I must have an eating disorder.

  4. I look absolutely nothing like my parents, especially body-wise. I’ve got a huge, Kate-like Rack of Doom; my mother has *zip.* And no other female in the family ever had a Rack of Doom, either.
    I always thought this dashed ‘genetic fatness’ for me, but–my parents had both (until 2 years ago) been smokers since their teens. They both eat like birds (though my dad eats a lot of sweets and fats in that small selection), and my mom has always been very “healthy” as per society’s view–does aerobics like crazy, eats very few sweets, eats lots of fiber and produce.
    They always were very scarring about me being fat, and since they’ve quit smoking, my father the beanpole, has FILLED OUT! He has a gut and he actually looks like a normal-sized old man. Unfortunately, he’s the type who HATES fat and thinks it inherently means lazy and worthless, so he’s constantly down on himself (I think they’re South Beaching it?). My mother, on the other hand, is a hawk about her weight and is always eating less and exercising more (the obvious foolproof equation!!!1) to keep herself the same size.

    The whole ramble comes to this: If my parents had not been smokers their whole lives, are they genetically programmed to be fat? I wish I knew–so often I wished I’d had them to relate to and refer to when I was clueless and depressed about my body.


  5. KM, I’m not proud of it, but you’re right. I did make an assumption based on the way Tiff looked. However, this WAS 5 years ago (and I was much dumber then, believe you me), and it wasn’t done out of judgement. While I totally agree that it might come across that way, that wasn’t the intention. She was simply SO thin that I was concerned. Now that I know her? The thought that I ever assumed her to be anorexic is laughable.

    It’s only recently that I’ve started to get it straight in my head that assumptions made on someone’s looks – anyone’s looks – is the wrong way to go. I had a very self-centered view of appearance-based-judgements until reading more about how the thin advocates of body acceptance view things.

    I would never make such an assumption NOW.

    Zaftige, you make a great point that I simply didn’t think of when I was writing the post. Part of the reason I can see the correlation so clearly in my best friend’s family is that none of them have ever really dieted. They are fat and happy and don’t really give two shits what other people think about them.

    But people who have been brought up to believe there is something inherently wrong with their bodies if they’re not “perfect” are going to have a disconnected relationship with their bodies. They’re not going to KNOW what size they’re supposed to be, because they’ve been fighting it so long.

  6. Maybe I missed something. How exactly do you know they don’t overeat? Do you follow them around and measure everything they eat? Overeating doesn’t have to mean stuffing your face with food all day long. Just a hundred extra calories a day over what your body needs (which is such a small amount that it’s extremely easy not to notice unless you are vigilantly counting calories), and you will gain 10 pounds in a year. Over several years, it adds up.

    And gaining weight when you hit adulthood is extremely common – just because it happened to everyone in a particular family is not proof of anything. When people hit adulthood, lots of things about their lives change – they switch from high school to college, they get jobs, they acquire responsibilities they didn’t have when they were younger . Lifestyle change, like food intake, is another thing that can change in very imperceptible ways, and which also leads to slow weight gain over a period of time. It doesn’t have to be a drastic, black-and-white change where one goes from athlete to sloth, as all of you seem to believe.

    Author’s Response: First of all, I don’t believe that body mechanics is easily explained away by the “calories in/calories out” equation. So you assuming that 100 extra calories a day automatically = weight gain accomplishes nothing.

    Secondly, how could you possibly say that going from thin/average to downright FAT in every adult in a particular generation of a family means nothing? It’s just too much to be a coincidence.

  7. I think…genetically programmed to be fat is…a worrying concept, and requires more than looking at your parents – you need to look at aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and further back – and look at context and lifestyle as well. There are simply too many things to judge. Both my parents were pretty I won’t say skinny but certainly small and healthy sized, my uncles are both sporting and pretty skinny, my grand parents on both sides were small and normal sized, but they lived through the second world war, and the height of my dad didn’t arrive in the family until his generation. On my SO’s side, he is the only ‘fat’ person I’ve seen.

    For both of us we can attribute our size partly due to a certain stockiness, partly to sedentry lifestyles/habits and partly to our huge appetites. I think we’re both built for endurance, strength and activity – and lack of it coupled with our appetites and love of food ends up in what we are. My mum is big now, but she’s been on medication most of her life and had her knees replaced, she used to be really active until her knees started playing up.

  8. Boobsihazdem, I wouldn’t ever try to pinpoint mine or anyone else’s fatness on just one factor, and that’s why I put ‘genetic fatness’ in quotes. We know that genes don’t have to dictate anything, just that they hold a strong sway in life. I do take habits into consideration, absolutely- no one in my family was fat; my mother is VERY Active but my dad is sedentary; I’m somewhere in-between. I’m a busy bee who happens to move a lot, but I don’t work out. However, my body didn’t change from being sedentary/binging as a kid–> severe dieting/intense daily aerobics–> (finally) some activity/intuitive eating. I finally figured I’m just wired to be fat, which is why I look to my genes. When I do, though, I get bupkis. That’s why I wonder if my parents’ (and grandparents,’ etc…) smoking played a part.


  9. boobs, you do make a valid point. But I think that’s why it didn’t really occur to me until I started looking at my friend’s family as a whole. She’s 10 years older than I am, so her grandparents were gone long before we ever met, as was her father. I have no way of knowing what her grandparents looked like, but I know from speaking to her AND her sisters that their father was HUGE. Tall AND fat. May and her sisters all pretty much take after their father. They’re all fairly tall, with the exception of Carol, who is more average than tall, and they’re ALL fat, as I said. I would never have presumed to come up with any assumptions based on May and her kids alone, but when I started looking at her sisters, and their children, and I started seeing a pattern… well, it’s just too much to be coincidence.

    My saying that I believe in the “genetically fat” theory doesn’t mean that I don’t think people can become fat through lifestyle changes/choices. Of course they can. But I’d be willing to bet real money that more people are genetically predisposed to be fat than (the great collective) “they” would like to have us believe.

    (Shit, at one point people didn’t believe that a person could be born gay. That somebody had to “change” a straight person into a gay one. Now it’s a fairly (though not universally by any means) accepted theory. Is it really so strange to think that there are people that are just MEANT to be fat? I think not, personally.)

  10. Exactly, Z – ‘fat families’ or ‘thin families’ tell us nothing without context.

    I would be interested if there was someway of looking at weight and diet from over 3000 years ago. Our ‘modern diets’, and by modern I mean since the advent of farming, are extremely new to our evolution as a whole and what our bodies are ‘meant’ to do under various conditions. Unfortunately we only know about the last 1500 years or so, I imagine.

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