Wednesday, August 3, 2011

1# Lies | Your Metabolism Makes You Fat or Skinny

Statistically speaking, you're more likely to die from being fat than from anything else, but avoiding this awful fate can be complicated. We learn from an early age that even if you watch what you eat and exercise regularly, you can still end up overweight due to something called your metabolism. Your metabolism describes how much energy your body uses just by breathing, having a heart that beats and other basic stuff like that. You might also be familiar with metabolism as it relates to breakfast. Many of us are told that eating breakfast in the morning will actually jump-start our metabolism. By the time you turned 10, most of you were under the impression that you were skinny or fat due to a mysterious internal metronome that speeds up and slows down, depending on when in the day you eat.

"Does 'constantly' count as a time of day?"
See? It's complicated.
The Truth:
Everything you ever learned about metabolism is secretly confusing you into being fatter, making nutrition and obesity seem much more complicated than they actually are. If you want to know why you're fat or skinny, take the number of calories you put into your body and subtract the number of calories your body is using. The further you are from zero, the fatter you will become. The slow metabolism theory of ass fattery assumes that the "using" number is a wildcard that's mostly out of your hands.
Your greasy, sticky hands.
In reality, it's exactly as simple as you'd think it would be. There's no special time of day when eating magically makes your body skinnier. In fact, scientists who aren't in the business of inventing cookie-based cereals think breakfast is the most important meal of the day to skip if you're trying to lose weight.
We can't imagine why.
Some scientists say that there's no significant difference between the metabolisms of obese and thin people. When you take weight into consideration, the folks at the Mayo Clinic found that that the metabolisms of over- and underweight people are the exact opposite of what we always heard: Thin people actually tend to have slower metabolisms than their heavier counterparts.
It's the same reason European cars use less gas than Hummers. When you put on the pounds, either with muscle or fat, your body has to compensate by expending more energy just to do things like moving your blood around and taking in air. Thus, those things burn more calories.
"This is my standin' up ice cream."
What about people who swear they eat like anorexic birds yet somehow still gain weight? Research shows they're no less honest than anyone else, they're just falling victim to a flaw in perception that we all share. Imagine you're running two contests in which people are asked to guess how many jelly beans are in a jar. In one contest, the actual number is 2,500 jelly beans, while in the other contest the jar has 200. The people guessing in the 200-jelly-bean contest are going to be closer to the target because our brains are better at estimating smaller numbers, while the guesses made by people in the 2,500-bean contest are going to be all over the map.
And the fat people will just end up eating the jelly beans.
The same goes for estimating how much you ate at Thanksgiving dinner vs. how much you ate at your mid-afternoon snack. Our mind is just worse at estimating how much we ate at a large meal. Since overweight people eat larger meals, they underestimate how much they're eating and believe they're suffering some unfair advantage.
"This is a normal meal, right?"
Our beliefs about metabolism are exactly as stupid as the beliefs in the early '50s that certain cigarette brands could be used to treat asthma. But even back then, we're pretty sure a kindergarten teacher wouldn't excuse a 5-year-old from class to smoke because he needed to ease his healthy nerves.

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