‘I am so fat. Why am I so fat?’
I had that thought countless times when I was overweight. If I thought that every day when I was obese, I’ve thought that at least 3,650 times.
You might assume I came up with an answer to that question. But I didn’t. I only know why I was fat after losing 70 pounds, studying nutrition for years and reading numerous books.
How did I get fat? I listened to advice I shouldn’t have listened to.
I listened to:
- My peers
- The media
- My mother
- Food labels
I used to believe I could trust those sources.
Now I know you can’t trust the media. Yet who would’ve thought I couldn’t trust my own mother?
Miraculously, I wised up. I can now answer the questions I used to ask, such as:
Why am I fat?
How did I get so fat?
Why are some people fat while others aren’t?
This is why you’re fat: you’re listening to the wrong people
The reason why we get fat is we listen to the wrong people for health and nutrition advice. We listen to the media, doctors, family and food manufacturers.
None of these sources are qualified enough to offer nutrition and weight loss advice. Yet we trust them completely.
I was fat because I listened to my peers
I couldn’t understand why I was so fat while my friends and siblings weren’t. I ate the same food as them. I played outside like them. I went to the same gym class as them.
Nevertheless, I was obese while they were healthy, normal weights.
My friends didn’t comment about my weight. It was the bullies that antagonized me with comments about being fat.
The advice bullies commonly give ranges from unhelpful to wrong and downright unhealthy. Taunts that overweight kids hear shape how they perceive weight loss as adults.
- Why don’t you go on a diet?
- You should stop eating.
- You’re gross and fat.
- You should just go die!
The problem with going on a diet
Diets don’t fix unhealthy eating habits. Diets can help you lose weight in the short term, but you’ll probably regain the weight back (plus more).
Why? Once you quit your diet, you return to the eating habits that made you fat in the first place. Diets (and detoxes) are Band-Aids on a much larger problem. They don’t teach you how to eat healthy to keep the weight off for life.
The problem with “stop eating” (aka starving yourself)
Starving yourself isn’t a healthy solution to your weight problems, physically or mentally.
By starving yourself, you deprive your body of micro- and macronutrients that are essential for it to function. This advice promotes anorexia.
The problem with simply criticizing
‘You’re gross and fat’ and ‘You should just go die’ aren’t even suggestions. They’re counterproductive insults.
The first insult told me I was undesirable as a fat person and I’d only be useful if I was attractive and normal.
The second jab told me I didn’t deserve to live.
I had self-esteem problems for years. Comments like these might be “jokes”, but they cause serious damage.
The best way to help me lose weight was to make me feel better about myself. I needed to be told I deserved to be happy and healthy. I needed inspiration to care so much about myself and my body that I wanted to make a change.
Words can’t properly express how I feel after transitioning to a healthy diet.
I feel confident about my body, my knowledge and my future. And I allow myself to enjoy life.
Skinny kid, fat adult
Another problem with listening to young people is they have a twisted idea of what healthy is.
Children and young adults can eat junk food and drink soda every day and still have normal weights.
Now, those same people who teased me as a kid are overweight.
I was fat because I listened to the media
I loved reading magazines as a teenage girl. I read Seventeen as a young teen and SELF as I grew up. They offered advice on everything: dating, make-up, hair, clothing, personal problems and health. SELF actually focused on healthy living, healthy eating and fitness.
They were my one-stop read for the information I needed. Or so I thought.
Looking back, the articles were confusing. One article might say to avoid carbs. Carbs are evil! Carbs make you fat!
And then they’d provide a meal plan with white rice and pasta—both carb heavy foods. No wonder I was confused.
One problem with the media is that their advice constantly changes. Magazine articles say one thing in one article and something completely different in another. They lack consistency.
The writers are another problem. They’re not nutritionists, dietitians or health experts. They’re just writers.
Magazine writers are paid to crank out attention-grabbing articles to push sales. Not articles backed by science. And definitely not articles that contradict what we already believe.
What’s the last food commercial you remember watching?
Bud Light beer? McDonald’s double quarter-pounder? Cool ranch Doritos?
When was the last time you saw a commercial for brown rice, bananas or broccoli?
You probably don’t recall.
As a child, I was exposed to many TV commercials. As a result, I wanted to eat McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Lucky Charms for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Imagine if you watched commercials for broccoli, bananas and brown rice. You might say TV ads don’t affect you. But admit it, you’d buy more.
Now imagine a child watching commercials for healthy food, not McDonald’s and Doritos. Instead of begging for junk food, they’d beg you to buy bananas at the grocery store.
Ads for healthy food would make you buy and eat those foods. It would start a health revolution.
The problem is the money. Kellogg’s and McDonald’s have a bigger advertising budget than Chiquita.
I was fat because I listened to my doctor
You consider doctors smart people. I do, too. But doctors don’t know everything.
Every time I went to the doctor, they’d tell me I needed to lose weight. Some gave me advice (You should exercise more…you should eat more protein…you should eat more dairy…). Others left me to figure out weight loss by myself.
The problem with doctors is that they can answer less than 65% of basic nutrition questions correctly.
You would think a doctor would understand the relationship between diet and disease but I only received about 1 hour of nutrition in medical school.
That’s Dr. Garth Davis. He’s a weight loss surgeon who went out of his way to learn proper nutrition.
Doctors are quite knowledgeable about subjects they’ve studied. Most just haven’t studied nutrition.
I was fat because I listened to my mother
Mother’s know best.
It may be true in certain situations. But unless your mother has studied nutrition, your mother is not an expert.
I remember a time when I was motivated to become more physically active. I decided to do 100 sit-ups per day. It sounded like a solid plan to me.
I began with 50 sit-ups. Exhausted, I took a quick break before I did the other 50. When I went back to doing sit-ups, my mother told me sit-ups would only help if I did them all at once.
I was heartbroken. After hearing my mother’s words, I thought the first 50 sit-ups were a waste of effort. I believed I had to do another 100 sit-ups at once to continue with my plan and get the health benefits.
Looking back, her advice was ridiculous. Any exercise is beneficial.
Advice like that tells you running 1, 2, 5 or 10 miles won’t prepare you for a marathon. You must run only marathons.
But you can’t run a marathon without running shorter distances first. If you’re completely out of shape, you might start with just walking. Next you can work up to running 1 mile. Then 2 miles. Increase your miles until you can run a marathon.
The lesson? Don’t take health advice from a family member who hasn’t studied nutrition. Even your mother.
I was fat because I listened to food labels
Natural. Fat free. Low fat. Heart healthy. Gluten free. Non-GMO. Organic.
Labels can make us think foods are healthy. Yet a label saying a food is healthy doesn’t mean it’s actually healthy.
The idea that a label could make me healthy (and skinny) started in middle school. I was desperate to lose weight and wasn’t sure what to do. I was already part of a swim team that produced zero results.
Then I decided to be vegetarian. I believed a vegetarian diet would help me lose weight. I gave up on my vegetarian diet when I discovered the school’s egg rolls I was eating had pork in them.
I didn’t only focus on labels when I was obese. I was blinded by labels even after I started my weight loss journey.
At first I tried being vegan. When I was dissatisfied with the results, I turned into a raw vegan. After that I started raw ‘til 4. I kept thinking a certain label or diet was going to make me healthy.
When I discovered that the food I ate made me healthy, I understood what I needed to do. I realized I didn’t need a label or a special lifestyle.
Eating food labeled as vegan, vegetarian, heart healthy, low fat or organic isn’t the answer. The answer is to think about the foods you put in your mouth.
Stay away from fat-free yogurt, non-GMO potato chips and sugar-free soda. Fat-free yogurt has added sugar, non-GMO chips are just as greasy as regular potato chips and soda is still unhealthy. In fact, your odds of becoming obese increase with your consumption of diet soda.
Who you need to listen to
Part of the reason I was fat was because I was listening to the wrong people. And while I was listening to the wrong advice, I wasn’t listening to the right advice.
I was fat because I didn’t listen to reason
Common sense isn’t always right. But when it comes to food, it can be a decent guide. Being reasonable means thinking rationally rather than with your emotions.
I started to make reasonable food decisions shortly after I began working at Subway.
When I started working there, I realized how processed the ingredients were. The white bread, the meat, the cheese… they didn’t seem real. They were all fake and barely resembled food.
Within a few months I stopped eating the meat and cheese. I switched to the most wholesome bread they had—the 9-grain wheat. I learned to enjoy tomatoes, spinach and avocado on my subs.
Eating bacon and beef sounds good. It sounds even better when we’re told it can make us healthy, attractive and thin. We like to hear good news about our bad habits.
When you think about it, does eating heaps of fat sound like it’ll make you thin? When was the last time you felt amazing after eating a steak?
When I stopped eating the meat and cheese at Subway, many areas of my life improved. I began to enjoy life, my thoughts were clearer and I had more energy.
Subway isn’t healthy. In fact, I’d call it unhealthy. Then again, my veggie subs on 9-grain wheat were much healthier than chicken-bacon sandwiches with greasy cheese and ranch sauce.
Is sugar bad?
A handful of health gurus say fruit is bad. They believe fruit has too much sugar and sugar makes us fat.
True, eating certain types of sugar can make you gain weight. But when was the last time you gained weight from eating too many bananas?
Rather, you gain weight over the Thanksgiving weekend when you eat too much pumpkin pie. You gain weight over Christmas after you eat too much fudge, cookies and toffee. You gain weight over Halloween because you eat too much candy.
The pie, fudge, cookies, toffee and candy all have two aspects in common:
- They’re packed with refined sugar
- They’re packed with refined fat
In combination, refined sugar and refined fat will cause you to gain weight quickly.
Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes won’t make you fat. That’s ridiculous. They’re packed with nutrition to make us the healthiest we can be.
I was fat because I didn’t listen to science
Learning about health is hard. Non-credible sources fill your head with wrong advice on how to lose weight and be healthy.
This leaves no room for the voice that matters most: science.
Science is boring. And reading scientific articles is even more boring. Yet paying attention to science is one of the best ways to make healthier food choices.
I didn’t consider listening to science for a long time. You know who I listened to. I listened to people who didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.
I started to care about the science behind healthy food after I read Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live. Until then, I relied on my husband (boyfriend at the time) to tell me the facts.
When I decided to drop out of my Political Science course in university, I knew I needed to get serious about learning about nutrition.
Getting my knowledge from a third (reputable) source was fine if I just wanted to lose weight and be healthy. But when I dropped out of university, my goal was to spread the message about healthy eating, weight loss and nutrition.
However, I needed to know the facts for myself.
I began reading books and watching documentaries (The China Study, Fooducated, Salt Sugar Fat, Fed Up, Cowspiracy). I took nutrition courses on Coursera. I read articles on Harvard’s website and NCBI.
I read the science to truly understand healthy eating, weight loss and nutrition.
You know why we get fat. Now: what to do about it?
How did I get fat? You know why I got fat. I was listening to
- My peers
- The media
- My mother
I should have been listening to
But none of this helps you figure out what to do about all the weight you gained.
The answer to your weight problem is simple. Make baby steps.
Make one small change. Then another. And another. These small changes won’t seem like much at first. Over time they’ll add up to huge results.
What’s the first step? Care about and pay attention to what you put into your mouth.
My journey to weight loss, health and confidence started in a strange place: Subway. Subway made me pay attention to the food I was eating.
And the small changes at Subway inspired more small changes. All the seemingly unimportant changes began to add up. Together, they made a bigger impact than I expected.
Your action item
Your action item to take away is this: record what you eat for a week.
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Don’t judge yourself on what you eat. Just write it down. You’ll be amazed at the insight you can gain from just writing down what you put in your mouth.
Then, take a look at your food record and find a small improvement you can make. Some suggestions:
- Do you skip breakfast? Make it a goal to eat breakfast instead of skipping.
- Do you eat white bread? Switch to whole grain bread.
- Are Fruit Loops your regular breakfast? Try a fruit smoothie or oatmeal
- You don’t eat enough veggies? Add another vegetable to your diet every day.
Once you’ve adjusted to this small change, pick another change to implement.
Don’t worry about being perfect right away. I wasn’t. I’m still not perfect and I accept it.
My weight loss journey took years. I stumbled often. What kept me motivated was learning from my mistakes and seeing how far I’d come.