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Do People Really Eat Whatever They Want And Stay Thin?

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Aug 6, 2020

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

There are people who eat salads to stay thin, and there are people who seem to only eat chicken wings and stay thin. Because the need to stay thin coincides with conventional attractiveness, but doesn’t coincide with being able to eat loads of junk food — the wing-munching thin person is a highly intriguing trope.

No matter what supermodels and movies suggest, the person who eats what they want and stays thin is a bit of an exaggeration. This is because neither films nor supermodels give us a proper estimate of the thin person’s daily routine, lifestyle, exercise schedule and genetic make-up. Weight gain and loss is a complex process that involves both genetics and overall health, and lifestyle (diet, sleep, stress).

An individual’s lifestyle, or their diet, sleep, stress, and physical activity, significantly affects weight loss. Generally, we know that people who work out and eat less junk food are less likely to be overweight. But, our engagement with another person’s lifestyle is often fleeting, and doesn’t give us a full picture of their routines. According to what Larry Cheskin, founder of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, tells U.S. News, “When you observe somebody who doesn’t seem to gain weight, they’re not defying the laws of thermodynamics, the laws of physics…What they’re doing, in some fashion, is balancing their intake and output.” Essentially, there are certain invisible aspects of a person’s lifestyle that help burn the calories they take in.

For example — you have a friend who meets you for weekend brunch and always orders loads of chicken wings. You’re surprised this person remains skinny even though they’re not much of a fitness buff and demolish so many wings whenever you see them. What you can’t see is that this person has a grueling commute that requires walking multiple kilometres daily, and that this person only eats wings once a week — which isn’t too often, and keeps a moderate diet for the rest of the week.


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Some people are predisposed to gaining and carrying more weight, since genetics heavily influences their lifestyle choices and the way their bodies process food. Obesity can be inherited, and those with obesity have a higher genetic risk score — which, roughly, is a numerical value assigned to genetic variations. Genes also contribute to weight gain/loss ability via affecting appetite, satiety, metabolism, food cravings, body-fat distribution, and eating disorders according to Harvard Health.

Metabolism, which affects how quickly someone’s body burns calories, is balanced according to a body’s unique needs. Therefore, it can be different according to one’s age, gender, and natural muscle mass. Similarly, if a person is more active, their body’s metabolism rates go up, as they need to burn more calories. However, it is important to note that if an individual eats beyond the calories their body needs and maintains a sedentary lifestyle, a fast metabolism will eventually slow down and cannot prevent weight gain. Plus, medical conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome, PCOS and hypothyroidism can cause slow metabolism rates, leading to more body weight.

So, the answer is: it is possible that a person can eat whatever they like and stay skinny. But this is only if their genetics and lifestyle lead to them burning the calories they consume.

However, in subconsciously looking for ways to attain conventional beauty standards and to have the freedom to eat what we like, we perpetuate ideas of a) there being a miracle cure for weight gain and b) that weight gain is inherently awful. Both ideas are scientifically inaccurate — weight gain is a complex phenomenon and can be beneficial or healthy. In this case, a re-framing of the question might help. Instead of ‘Can I eat whatever I want and stay skinny,’ choose to ask, ‘Can I eat whatever I like in balanced amounts to keep myself healthy and nourished?’

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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