T Nation

Causes of Obesity


Ok so I am arguing on another non-fitness related forum about whether or not it is fat people's fault they are fat.

Some people were giving all kinds of excuses (thyroid problems, metabolism, inherited stuff) to which I gave replies

"Running in the family is only usually true in the sense that the whole family eats junk food.

Metabolism can entirely be controlled by diet and exercise. It also doesn't account for that much. Maybe a +/- 500 difference in base calorie expenditure.

Even thyroid problems can be controlled very easily with proper diet in minor cases and synthetic thyroid hormone in more extreme cases."

People are still arguing so I'm posting here to see what you guys have to say and get some good points (if you agree with me that is ;D)


Mostly it comes down to: Too much food + Not enough activity. Bottom line.

THey cannot really argue much against that. I've heard a million excuses, and they are only legitimate reasons for a very small minority. They can blame all the ads they want, say that not everyone has time to exercise, chomp-chomp, yadda-yadda. I hear many people who "don't have time to exercise" talk excessively about 3 or 4 different TV shows, or football games, etc.

Even if you don't work out, you don't have to be fat.  I couldn't do shit for a few months when I broke my arm, but I gained no weight.  I cut my ccalorie intake down, and actually lost a bunch of weight.  I must be a magician.


I am one of the fat people who say that genetics are a bitch!!! For instance me and a friend that I have grown up with my whole life both used to eat ~2500-3000 calories a day. We both were about equally as active yet 3 months ago he weighed 175 and I weighed 294 (gotta love that shit!)I know that sounds extreme but I seriously believe that I have some of the worst genes and he has some of the best.

That is not to say that I think loosing weight is impossible for people with shitty genes. In the past 3 months I have cut it down to ~1500-2000, done some jogging and I am now down to 252. Genes dont disquallify you from loosing weight, but it might make it feel like you are running with 1 leg.


At his point many of them may have such advanced health issues that being thin really isn't feasible any more. That doesn't mean they were born that way though. If you eat bad enough for long enough then some permanent changes will occur.


If the average person understood insulin and blood sugar the way diabetics do, the world would be a hell of a lot skinnier.


Well,it depends.
Yes,too many calories can make you fat.
But,we all see those skinny kids who easily consume 2000 calories for a snack.
People will say,"Thats because I have a slow metabolisim!"
I believe it's not just calories that make people "obese".
Yes,it can be thyroid problems(Our thyroids do control our metabolisms by the way).
Yes,people can have problems with their hormones.
To say calories is the ONLY thing that make people fat is pretty stupid.


On the Asutralian "Biggest Loser" show, people who had been obese their ENTIRE LIVES with their entire family obese and a lifetime of bad eating habits managed to lose 80kgs+ of fat in approx 14 weeks from learning to eat correctly and exercise correctly, and more importantly, actually do it.

There are very, very, very few people who have no hope of losing the fat and transforming their lives. VERY FEW.

Everyone else is making excuses.

However, there is a lot of bullcrap information out there, and the way society is setup is not exactly helping encourage nor educate them.

I suggest you direct them to this site

Which is about the TV show.

There really is NO excuse apart from not doing what it takes.

It isn't easy but it is worthwhile.


I think genetics/metabolism plays a role, but ultimately it's the fat person's fault for getting fat.

I look at myself in the mirror, say, "gee, I'm fat, why?" Well... considering that I ate like crap, didn't exercise at all, and continually ate until I was "full" (even uncomfortably so)... are all probable reason's why I'm fat. As was mentioned above, calories in vs. energy expenditure.

True, my family history predisposes me to "fat storage" quite easily, so with that in mind, I should already know to watch what I eat, etc.

Fat people make themselves fat, with the rare exception for TRUE thyroid problems... not the excuse "I'm fat because I don't have a good thyroid". Fat people are the ones shoveling the food into their faces. No one is holding a gun to their head and saying, "You must EAT that pie or else!!!"

And one other thing, if people would spend half of the time watching the TV that they do, which I would imagine is at LEAST 4-6 hours a night... and convert that into an exercise related activity, they wouldn't be fat at all.



I would hook up the tv to a stationary bike and force all the fat housewives to pedal in order to be able to watch all the crappola they do.
Same thing for kids on the internet.
Wanna surf???Generate your own current.

Could you imagine the amount of electricity we could generate from all the guys out there surfing all the porn sites? The world would have no further need for fossil fuels.


No doubt.

I think the issue is pretty simple. Most people are just lazy and can't comprehend the work necessary to come back from obesity. So they make excuses not to have to face it. Yes genetics plays a part. I can attest to that. But it's a small percentage. Mostly it falls back on the individual and their specific circumstances. It's not easy enough to pinpoint one, two or even 100 reasons. Usually it's a combination of much more than that.


Kratos is right on. Don't blame your genes, thyroid, etc. If you have to eat less then eat less. And eat right.


Ask them what they're doing diet and exercise-wise. Then explain to them how that is what's making them fat and tell them what they SHOULD be doing.


Do you lift weights?


Better question, does he lift weights hard?


This was his post from a week ago, so the answer would be "no".

I don't understand people who act as if the whole bodybuilding thing is a non-issue on a bodybuilding web site.


My wife if hypothyroidism. Her thyroid is essentially completely shutdown. She complains its cold when its 85 degrees F outside. She only lets me set the AC to 80 F inside. Yet my wife is not fat.

She eats carefully and works like a madwoman to keep those extra pounds off. It isn't always easy, but she does it.

Being fat is a very basic issue - you consume more than you use. There might be a million underlying reasons for that condition, but in the end it is that simple. Modify your diet and your exercise regime and you WILL lose weight.


i completely agree. Too much food IMO isn't the cause.

Hell, I'd bet that I at 175 lbs eat way more food than the average american.

Obesity isn't a sign of too much food, it's a sign of malnourishment.


i'm going to have to disagree. I study obesity pretty specifically, let me just say to blanket that all people who are obese have behavioral problems is not fair.
We are the sum of our chemical and electrical impulses, whether or not we are in control of them is very controversial and delves into the philosophical, but i do believe there are subsets of the population who are so chemically imbalanced cannot do anything.

Then again, i do believe there are portions of the obese who just have no idea and have incorporated incorrect habits, just as diabetes can occur both by genetic predisposition, and for some can occur with horrible diet and exercise.

here is some support:
"The belief that obesity is largely the result of a lack of will power, Though widely held, is unsatisfactory. Studies of twins, analyses of familial aggregation, adoption studies, and animal models of obesity all indicate that obesity is the result of both genetic and environmental factors(2,3.) Moreover, weight is stable in lean and obese individuals even though much of the population actively practices weight control. Dieting is not usually successful in long-term maintencnae of reduce body weight and most reduced obese individuals eventually regain the lost weight(4)."
- Leptin and the regulation of body weight in mammals, Jeffrey M. Friedman and Jeffrey L. Halaas


Your post here makes no sense. Your comeback to obesity being called a behavioral problem is to call it a "chemical imbalance"? If those "chemicals" are causing someone to ignore their health as they ask for extra Twinkies, then it is also a behavioral problem. Since when are we such basic animals that we can't control the impulses from our "chemicals"? I have chemicals saying "screw her" to random women I don't know. Is your wife available?


Professor this is true, there are some impulses caused by chemicals which are under conscious control, but there are also some chemicals which really we cannot help.

For instance, resistance to leptin(or low leptin concentrations) can inadvertantly illicit a starvation response:
1. energy expenditure decreases
2. decrease in GnRH hormones
3. increase in parasympathetic tone
4. increase in Neuropeptide Y and it's receptors
5. increase in CRH(corticotropin releasing hormone) -increased cortisol

there have been many clinical cases in which obese people who fail to produce leptin, have been administered leptin, and very substantial amouts of weight was lost.

this is what i mainly mean by purely a chemical problem. There are some who really can't help it, imagine being on a 2000 calorie diet, at 6 feet 200 lbs and still putting on weight as you eat. what can you do about genetic defect?

I stress that not ALL obsese cannot restore chemical "balance" through behavioral change.