Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Articles, Fat Loss

This week, I stumbled upon this video series and was intrigued enough by it that I wanted to share it with you.

If you've ever wondered why some people seem to be able to eat anything they want, exercise minimally and still not get fat, then you need to watch the extremely interesting series of 7 short videos below: “Why Are Thin People Not Fat”?

After you watch it, I'd be curious to hear what you thought was most interesting. The fact that chocolate is a really efficient way to get fat fast? The fact that you can gain a bunch of fat and lose it quickly without even exercising? The fact that you can lose over 30% of your calories just from converting fat into heat? Or something else?

Keep reading to watch the videos…

Video 1 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Video 2 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Video 3 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Video 4 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Video 5 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Video 6 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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Video 7 of 7: Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

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So what do you think? What did you find most interesting? Controversial? Do you need clarification on something you saw? Leave your comments or questions below.

Ask Ben a Podcast Question

22 thoughts on “Why Are Thin People Not Fat?

  1. Karen says:

    Very interesting!

    We used to do similar experiment at home. My boyfriend eats chocolate and ice cream like staples — up to 1 lb of chocolate and 16 oz of ice cream per day — but stays as skinny as a skeleton with little fat and muscle. We used to eat the exact same food with him having slightly larger portions, but I would gain weight overtime if didn't exercise regularly, while he would get skinnier if he didn't eat tons of sugar in addition to our regular meal. These videos explains a lot about this unfairness. I wonder how we can make underweight people fatter in a healthy way.

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  2. Janis says:

    I just saw this on YouTube and also found it interesting. I've always been one of the "naturally thin" who "ate whatever I wanted" and still am at 45. The thing is, what I wanted was usually a chicken caesar salad and a cup of coffee. I hate fatty, slimy food, and I think I would have puked just looking at that table full of all the garbage that they had to eat in a week.

    I also noticed Ben talking about "you feel bad, which makes you not want to eat." I do the same thing, and I know that heavy people seem to do the exact opposite. If I skip dinner and wake up the next morning feeling a little acidy, the last thing I want to do is put food on top of it. I literally have to tell myself, "You didn't eat last night dummy, that's why you feel lousy. Go eat something," and then I MAKE myself eat something small and light like some grapes. Then I'm fine, and I can have some fruit and coffee for a snack or something. I'm not ripped or anything though, so I don't think I'd build muscle naturally if I were forced to overeat. I think my reaction would be like the people who puked.

    And I do like food! I'm Italian, I have to. :-) But not when I'm full. I have eaten some wonderful meals at restaurants that were too big, and it doesn't matter how good it tastes. When I'm full, my appetite just STOPS DEAD, and I feel stuffed all day long.

  3. Alex says:

    This is great stuff. It reminds me of this mind programming guy, Paul McKenna, and his book "I can make you thin". I truly believe that our minds can reset our internal weight and fat themostats… at the end of the day, the brain controls all of our body functions too! And athletes DO KNOW that too!

  4. Dan says:

    Was their fat only subcutaneous or visceral or both?

    Would different extra food yield a different type of fat? Cake vs. steak? Maybe that is how the one Asian guy gained muscle and not flab?

    How long do you have to be fat to have your body change the reset weight it wants to be?

  5. buddhaha says:

    I agree with this. Muscle memory is a recognised phenomenon; likewise, fat memory should be one, too. I believe that hormones are the key players. The body doesn't think of fat storage as being good or bad; it's simply a metabolic pathway. Once you become efficient at storing fat, it's with you forever. It's like after having learned to ride a bike, drive a car, play the piano, [insert any other learned skill – sport, language learning, etc.]… the body has been wired, and even after a long layoff, it's easy to relearn previously acquired skills. In saying this, it's somewhat futile to think that you can directly train the body to NOT store fat. Instead the focus should be on training the body to be more efficient at building muscle (or LBM). It's a given fact that we're less adept when we multitask, so make the body multitask and fat storage will simply have to decrease…

  6. Julia says:

    I am a nursing student and am very interested in endocrinology. Watching this video was informative but I definitely believe that the study was missing some key details. For example, we know that the body metabolizes a raw apple very differently from the caloric equivalent in chocolate. There was an attempt to tightly control the calories that the participants ate– but not the source. I would also be curious to see a graph of the BMR vs. the muscle/fat body composition of all the participants before and after the study.

    Finally, it is unfortunate that this tv show did not underscore how important an active lifestyle and a balanced diet are to health. The main message was simply calorie restriction. I was dissapointed that the sample foods shown in the beginning of the show featured fast food and candy bars.

    1. These are good observations Julia. At the same time, how many "fat" people are getting fat from apples or healthy foods? It seems the study used the type of foods that fat people are eating (and I am painting with a broad brush because I know some people struggle with weight but still eat primarily "healthy" foods)…

      1. Julia says:

        Good point Ben. I am still very curious about the subjects BMRs. I have a feeling that they were highly variable and wonder why that information wasn't included in the program.

  7. Marcia says:

    I do agree with the fact that our body likes to be at a certain weight. My body appears to stay at 75kg no matter what I do.
    I workout 5 times a week and do eat green and lean food.
    I have 3 children and after each pregnancy I had to go on a VLC diet (about 600 kcals) to achieve 60 kg as I am 1.64 cm I used to believe this to be my ideal weight, somehow my body does not stay there longer than 6 months… when the weight slowly goes up again, ever since my last child was born I am doing cardio 4 days a week and weights 2 x a week and although I don't look fat my body weight is back to +- 75kg, as Im now 30 years of age I have decided that fat and muscle percentage r a lot more important than the weight factor.

  8. tahoerob1 says:

    Definitely agree with the genetic variation overall theme, but this may really be genetic variation in insulin metabolism……

    Still did not factor the issue of insulin secretion. It was using possibly flawed idea of calorie in/calorie out hypothesis described in above noted Why We Get Fat book per Mr. Taubes. It would be quite interesting to see the correlate of weight gain based on carb calorie intake in these folks. Better yet, extend this experiment while controlling for carb intake. Know baseline carb intake, High carb month, reset month, low carb month, reset month. Bad part would be the no exercise for these months if they were doing so already. (get depressed!)

    Also, the viral study was interesting but can lead to false assumption that correlation = causation. At least the researcher touched on this concern. We do not need all the fat people out there blaming that they are just "sick" & do not need to take action!

    FYI, was watching this while eating a few extra carbs for Half Marathon tomorrow!

  9. Deeonna says:

    I had several reactions to this video (which I found immensely interesting):

    1) All the participants had the same reaction to having to eat more: unhappy about, thinking how difficult task it would be etc this is so opposite of what an overweight/obese persons natural reaction to being told to me eat more (I'm half way to dropping the same 60lbs I lost 5 year and my first reaction was "I love to be able to eat that much", I had to mentally re-script my thoughts about eating that much food). To me this suggests a learned attitude towards food and exercise inherent in all these individuals which may shape their food choices more than genetics

    2)When Ben in the video talks about the cycle where he doesn't eat, which makes him feel terrible, which makes him not want to eat etc. This is exactly the same cycle that people who are unsuccessful dieting go through, overeating, which makes them guilty, which makes them want to eat. I think this part which ties into reward centers, overweight people experience stress relief through eating but non-overweight people experience stress relief through other means? Exercise, sex, achievement, positive relationships? I guess the trick is how to change what triggers the reward centers in overweight people?

    3) I wonder if what Martin ate contributed to his muscle gain? They don't show him talking about what he ate as much as the other participants which leads me to believe he wasn't eating a lot of junk food. All he talks about is eating chocolate milk (isn't this supposed to be the best post workout recovery drinks? Eating a Big Mac meal isn't the same thing as having grassfed steak with potatoes and red wine but calorie wise it's pretty similar.

    4)They all seemed to lose all the weight they gained which to me means that the 4 weeks of overeating didn't alter their baseline attitudes, eating and exercising habits (it may have made them better now that some are more calorie conscious). I think if they were asked to make this change for 6 months to a year it would have been harder for them to go back to their old habits (especially after having to deal with some of the negative social aspects of being overweight and over eating)

  10. PMSJL says:

    That was very interesting, especially how they literally had to force themselves to eat significantly more calories than they were used to. I am morbidly obese at 52 but I weighed 99 lbs when I was in high school/college, gained 30 lbs. at 30 years old, continued to gain 5-10 lbs per year, gained another 28 lbs. when I was 47. When I was young I ate whatever I wanted but as I got older I was told be doctors that my metabolism slowed to a crawl…and I became fixated on food as an emotional eater. Now I am trying to take the emotions out of eating and just eat to live.

  11. David says:

    I agree with Reka about it making me hungry… I went and bought donuts during part 5!

    1. I watched it while I was riding my bike, so I was unable to eat. But I did think about chocolate milk quite often today.

  12. David says:

    A great companion to this video series is “Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It” by Gary Taubes. For me it was a page turner and incredibly fascinating.

  13. Reka says:

    I refuse to believe that our weight is all predetermined, I just don't want to believe that it is out of our control. I think it is only true for people in their natural state: how much they eat and move naturally, when they are not forced to eat more or less, move more or less. These factors are sure determined genetically and otherwise. But once a person makes a conscious effort in order to change the equation the set point of their weight has to change. I used to believe that I was prone to gain and keep fat, and it is true that it comes on easily. I am naturally lazy and can eat a horse with sides, but no one could tell it about me now that I am training and living actively and keeping a sensible diet. I just had to review my eating to realise I can eat more wisely and add exercise. I hope this works for everyone like it worked for me.
    By the way, this video is just awesome and very interesting. But was it designed to make people hungry on purpose? :D

  14. Becky H says:

    I don't know about the study that showed obesity is linked to a virus… I'd have to see more proof to think that was a valid study. Very interesting, I liked how they followed up with the test subjects and found they were generally back where they started.

  15. Sarah says:

    Wow! Very interesting and thought provoking. I agree that the younger participants makes me wonder what would happen as they age. Unbelievable that Martin added muscle by over eating, no exercise or lifting-mind blowing…As a former brit (I became a US citizen 2 yrs ago) it is a nation that wants to be thin without effort. While I think the BBC did a great job with the documentary and I recognise this study did not look at long term health effects. I do have concerns it will give the wrong message. Being that weight control is all about looks since it didn't really focus on health mainly just the numbers on the scale and body fat percentage.

  16. Melanie says:

    I'd like to be Martin and put on muscle while eating crap. Thought it was interesting that no one appeared over the age of 30. What about people in their 50s who seem to have stayed slim who are forced into being sedentary and eating major calories? I know people who stayed slim in their 20s without much effort, but that changed after 30. Thoughts on the age of the group?

    1. You're totally right Melanie. You definitely lose lean muscle, metabolism and the hormones necessary for rapid fat loss as you age. It would be interesting to see in older individuals.

  17. Jesse says:

    The thing that strikes a cord with me in this study is that thin people tend not to overeat naturally. Every naturally (no exercise) person I know eats way less than they think they do. I always hear them say “I can eat whatever I want and never get fat!” But when I sit down to a meal with them they are always talking and never eating.

    1. Yes, the "naturally" part meaning that they are hardwired neurally to have either a lower dopamine reward response to food in the brain or a lower gastric hormone release while in the presence of food.

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