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Why are thin people not fat? BBC Documentary

An interesting look at to why and how some people stay thin even without dieting, and eating whatever they want.

I watched this a while back, but was reminded about it via a tweet by Liquid Independence.

It’s an interesting video because it questions whether it’s genes or environment (what you eat), but I generally assume it’s both. It can’t just be one or the other.

I’m most likely in this particular group of skinny folks, but perhaps not in the extremes of the people featured in the video because I am able to put on weight, but I’ve never done an actual experiment like they have with eating double my normal caloric intake a day.

I eat what I want, and even if I gain weight (like let’s say eating a full buttery pie a week), the maximum I’ve ever reached is 130 lbs (with actively trying to get fatter). Then it takes almost no time for the weight to melt off me.

BF: We worked 2 years to get you to this, and it only took 3 months for it ALL TO MELT OFF!? ARG!

That said, I tend to not really like greasy or junk food anyway. When I say I eat what I want, it’s generally fairly healthy food for most people.

I absolutely hate going to the gym, and what I do like doing, is walking or yoga. I’ve also noticed that I tend to speed walk when I’m alone without knowing it, which probably helps with the calorie-burning.

I’ve been told it’s my super fast metabolism that will probably end up slowing down once I get past 30 years old (we’ll see!), but I’m just not worried about getting fat.

Truth be told, BF would prefer it if I was fatter (say 20 pounds heavier) and not quite as skinny, but he’s flummoxed as how to get me there without killing our food budget, or making him fat as well 😛



  • Ban Clothing

    My husband and I are both in the slim category. We eat a preservative free diet (basically no packaged, processed, or canned foods) so we make everything from scratch. The thing is; we still use full cream, butter, drink 3.25% milk, we even keep the fat from frying in a jar and use it to cook with. I really believe processed food makes people fat! Our bodies know how to digest cream and fat; they don’t know what to do with xantham gum and sulfites.

  • Liquid_Independence

    I wish food can melt off of me too. I used to eat anything I want when I was younger, but I noticed I can’t anymore after I turned 25. At least I don’t have the easily overweight gene. I can keep my BMI in the 22-24 range without constantly being hungry 😀 Interesting how scientists say the older a women is when she gives birth the more likely her child is to be fat. Western society have been marrying older and having children older. Maybe this is part of the reason some doctors say there is an increasing problem of childhood obesity over the last decade or so. Cool, thanks for the mention.

  • Student Debt Survivor

    My mom was a toothpick until she had me, same for my grandma. Curious why I’m not rushing to have kids 😉 I’m bigger than both of them at this point in my life then they were, but I’m fine with that. I attribute it to my dad’s genes and not always eating as healthy as I should.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      HAHAH!! Well please don’t avoid having kids if it’s just for keeping slim 😉
      My mom was slim even after having us kids. It was the eating and hibernating in the winters that finally got to her.

  • Revanche

    Huh, speaking of diet: Is it just me or is a lot of Chinese food rather greasy? I hate going out with certain family because they always insist on Chinese food and I just can’t take all that greasy feeling food frequently. I’m used to “cleaner” feeling foods: fresh ingredients, prepared without much if any grease. I don’t add salt or butter to foods I prepare if it’s not actually called for – I really enjoy tasting the flavor of the food itself rather than drowning it in grease/salt.

    (Butter completely approved in favorite desserts.) Anyway, all foods in moderation, generally speaking.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      It isn’t just you. A lot of Chinese food is rather greasy. There’s a region that specializes in grease because it equals fat and fat equals flavour.
      I too, prefer cleaner foods, and have been cutting down a LOT on salt and sugar lately, so everything tastes extremely salty to me as a result.

      Butter is nice, but only in moderation 🙂

  • Revanche

    I assume it’s both both genetics and environment.

    My mom was smaller at 29 than I was at age .. 17? 21? I can’t remember when it was but I tried on her engagement dress and nearly all the buttons popped open when I exhaled. And at 17-21, I varied between the lowest lows and the peak of what seems to be my normal size (varied between 89-94 lbs). But after having us kids, she kept on the weight and was maybe a size 4 or 6?

    My dad has an ectomorphic frame and a slight potbelly that’s developed over time.

    So far, it doesn’t matter what I eat or how much of it I eat: my weight has never gone over 96 lbs and usually hangs around 93. I’m not sure it ever will rise much if I don’t get pregnant. I’m interested to know whether I will keep on the weight post-pregnancy if I do have kids, though. It seems the body shape on the maternal side is “round belly” but none of the women were particularly active so far as working out. But I don’t think this is an experiment I’m going to try any time soon! 🙂

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I’m wondering about the pregnancy thing too.

      I tried on a dress my mom had custom made for her when she was 38, and it was SO TIGHT on me around my ribcage.

      Then I lost all this weight, and I tried it on recently, and it ended up feeling quite loose. I guess we are the same size but not the same body shape.

      I’m ectomorphic with a belly.

  • Janine

    What an interesting video! I was a dancer growing up and remained very slim. Once I started University and stopped dancing I actually lost weight (likely muscle). Currently, I am still pretty slender, I eat healthy because that’s how I was brought up, but I also indulge from time to time! Hopefully I can stay this way for the rest of my life!

  • Budget & the Beach

    Nope, I’m not one of those naturally skinny people. I have to work VERY hard to maintain my weight-and I do. I curious to know know what your ethnic background is because I have several Asian girlfriends who eat whatever they want and are rail thin. I think genetics play a part there. My mom was also one of those people who was rail thin but she ate hearty and sometimes bad for you midwestern food. She hated it when people said she was so skinny. The thing about her though is she was what I’d consider “skinny/fat.” She suffered major health problems resulting in her poor diet and health habits and has had two heart attacks. It goes to show you that no matter how skinny, fat, or anywhere in between, exercise is VERY important to overall health.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I’d agree that skinny people are not necessarily healthy. I get checked every year and my doctor hasn’t found a single problem. I just have family diseases of possible diabetes, cancer and so on I have to be aware of.

  • Sense

    I was exactly like you–til 33. Now I have a pot belly that won’t quit and have gained 8 lbs over the past few years with no changes to how I eat or exercise. With a few weeks of hard exercise, I’m able to reduce the belly, but still eat whatever I want (like you, i am naturally drawn to semi-healthy stuff and avoid fried, greasy foods as they gross me out). My dad was the same way as me, so it’s just genetics in my case, I think. Look to your parents to figure out what will happen in your 30’s.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      My parents were skinny toothpicks!

      I guess I’m good then. My mom only started gaining weight because she started eating fried, greasy foods and anything that was “comforting” like cheese and cream.

  • tomatoketchup

    I think it’s a combo of genetics and environment. I definitely fall into the skinny camp, but I cook almost all my meals, don’t eat a lot of junk, and lift weights regularly so it’s very difficult for me to intentionally eat too much. Back a few years ago when I had very little free time and ate a lot more fast food (and drank a lot more booze), I weighed about 10 pounds more than I do now, but even then I was in the normal BMI range.

    There has to be something environmental going on that originated in the western developed countries. People are, as a whole, getting fatter and fatter and as western food is spreading east, even Asia is starting to put on weight. Back in the mid 90’s when I was visiting Korea, I think I remember seeing one obese person during the entire month I was there. From what I hear, waistlines are expanding there too. I highly doubt genetics can explain such a trend over the span of a mere 15 years.

    • Mochi & Macarons

      I feel like it’s definitely diet that plays a bigger role than genetics.
      Yes, people may have a propensity to put on weight quicker or have it fall off them faster, but it simply cannot account for everything for the reasons you stated above.

      I was recently in Hong Kong and I saw an increasing number of fatter people, but once you see how prevalent fast food and junk food is there (not just McDonald’s, but deep fried Chinese treats too), it is easy to see why.

      Things that used to be treats, are now eaten on a daily basis.

      Sugary drinks I think are the worst. You don’t feel full after a sugary drink, but the empty calories pack a wallop.

      • CorianneM

        Diet definitely trumps genetics!

        I lost quite some weight (about 5-6 kg) after a year in China, but now I’m putting on some again. My diet was very different: 1) I ate extremely light breakfast, because lunch and dinner would usually be quite big; 2) in addition to the oil-heavy northern Chinese food, we would often (=4-7 times a week) go to the Japanese restaurant on campus for non-oily food; 3) hardly ate any sweets – I don’t like Chinese sweets (especially do not like red bean-stuffed sweets) – and good Western/imported chocolate/cookies are quite expensive to buy and a care package only fits so many chocolate bars ;), so I ate very little sweets in the end; 4) distances in Beijing are much larger than here – I could walk easily for an hour every day (20 minutes to school and back, 10-15 minutes to restaurant for lunch, 10-20 minutes to restaurant for dinner, 20 minutes to the bar street “near” campus).

        Oh, and yes, no McDonalds (or equivalents) for me! I’ve only been there twice in a whole year, and one time it was purely because it was the only clean place with air conditioning when it was close to 35 degrees in a stuffy, dirty, gross train station in Jiangxi province, with about 2 hours to kill to wait for the train.

        • Mochi & Macarons

          I tend to enjoy a lighter breakfast and a heavier lunch and dinner as well. Just .. a preference I guess. But if there was a full meal ready in the morning, I could eat it without a problem as well..

          I also don’t like oily foods, which is why I found it so hard to eat out in Asia.

          • tomatoketchup

            I’ve heard that about the food in Hong Kong and China. If you ever decide to visit South Korea or Japan, the food is much, much healthier in those countries.

            • Mochi & Macarons

              Already on it. 🙂 I’m hoping to visit Japan in about 20 years once the radiation dies down. It’s the trip I’ll take before I knock off.

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