Ahhh, naturally thin people. They’re a reliable source of envy for those who aren’t a part of their club. For them, staying slim is effortless, unconscious even. Meanwhile everyone else who is trying to lose weight is painfully aware of just how difficult it can be.
Now, I’m not talking about people who WORK at being thin by doing a lot of exercise and/or watching what they eat. I’m talking about that friend of yours who eats nothing but pizza and chicken wings and never seems to gain weight. Do you ever think to yourself, “If only I could be like that!” But alas, you just don’t have those “skinny genes.”
Before I continue, I’d just like to say that all of this is my opinion based on my experiences and things that I’ve read. Obviously, I’m not a scientist or a doctor. There are going to be exceptions to what I’m about to say, but very generally speaking, this is what I think to be true.
Genes do play a role in how thin you are, but it’s debatable just how significant that role is. Yes, if your mother or father is thin, you have a greater chance of being thin. And if either of your parents are overweight, you have a greater chance of being overweight as well. But certain studies have shown that differences in body size aren’t necessarily due to a genetically-inherited fast metabolism. In a study cited by the Endocrine Society, thin people did not burn more calories than overweight people after overeating.
So, if naturally thin people don’t burn more calories than overweight people, how do they stay thin? Their unconscious habits. They eat less and move more. Even if they have a penchant for greasy, fried food and Ben & Jerry’s, I bet you that they don’t eat their entire serving. And if they do, they probably aren’t eating as much during the rest of the day. There’s that, and also a very good possibility that they’re moving more throughout the day. Not necessarily by doing traditional exercise, but by being on their feet more. Either way, they are making up the difference somehow.
I’ve observed the habits of my friends who are thin, and they all meet the above criteria. It seems to me that naturally thin people are intuitive eaters. They’re very in touch with their hunger and satiety. They know when to stop eating, and often times they eat slow. For those who are not good at picking up satiety cues, or who may have strong emotional eating habits, being an intuitive eater is more difficult.
Now, hormones do play a role in appetite (like Ghrelin). And hormone levels vary from person to person. That’s where it gets more confusing. And people with thyroid problems typically have a harder time regulating their weight. But for the sake of this conversation, let’s assume that we’re talking about people who don’t have hormone issues.
I think learning to be an intuitive eater is a great way to regulate your weight without having to be obsessive. You can eat whatever you want without worrying about your waistline. However, it’s not so easy for those of us who it does not come naturally to.
If you’d like to become more of an intuitive eater, here are some tips:
1. Identify any emotional eating habits.
This one is huge. HUGE. And very difficult to work on. Have you ever noticed that you were eating when you weren’t hungry? Was it because you were bored? Depressed? Angry? It’s extremely common to use food to comfort yourself. It takes a lot of internal dialogue to overcome this one. When you eat, ask yourself if you are truly hungry. If you are eating because you’re bored or upset, try dealing with that first before heading to the vending machine.
2. Pay attention to your satiety level.
I don’t know anyone who likes food comas. I’m sure you’re familiar with the feeling: uncomfortably full, sluggish, tired, bloated. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. We all overeat sometimes. It happens. But if you do it constantly then you are only distancing yourself from your true satiety levels, and chances are there are some emotional eating habits lurking under the surface. Instead, pay attention to how hungry you feel while you are eating. Do your best to chew your food slowly. Stop eating before you even feel full. I’ll admit this one is tricky even for me. My mouth seems to be at odds with my stomach. Even when I recognize that I’m no longer hungry, I want to continue eating because the food tastes good. I’ll set out to only eat half of a large plate at a restaurant. I’ll stop half-way, proud of myself, only to continue to pick at the meal and finish it just because it’s in front of me.
But I digress. My point is, listen to your stomach! When it starts to feel distended, stop eating because you are bordering on food coma territory. I know this sounds silly, but if you must, put a napkin over your plate or ask to have it removed. It really works. Out of sight, out of mind.
3. Portion control.
This one ties in with #2, and might seem kind of duh…but when you’re having a large meal, try not to clean the plate, especially when you’re at a restaurant where the serving sizes are ridiculous. If you really pay attention to how full you are and how your stomach feels, you will probably be baby bear (juuust right) before all the food from your plate is gone. Leaving a little bit on a large plate is a good sign that you’re honoring your satiety and eating intuitively.
4. Try to identify what true hunger feels like, versus emotional hunger.
Once you distinguish between the two, it’ll be a lot easier for you to listen to what your body really wants. For example, when you go for seconds is it because you are genuinely hungry or just because?
5. Eat what you enjoy.
I’m not giving you a free pass to eat garbage here. I’m just saying don’t deprive yourself of the foods you like. If you want a scoop or two of ice cream for dessert, it’s better to let yourself have that indulgence and be content, rather than avoiding it and letting the desire build up inside of you. A lot of times that ends up in binging later on. The more satisfied you are with the food you eat, the less likely you are to overdo it. This is an interesting post about savoring your meals and how it effects how much you eat. Having healthy eating habits is important too, but I think that extends beyond what you put in your mouth. It includes your attitude about food as well.
So that’s my opinion on how you can be naturally thin even if you’re not…naturally thin. Working on the habits and behaviors I mentioned above does take quite a bit of effort. Change ain’t easy. But if it’s something you strive to make progress in, worrying about your weight will be one more thing you can cross off your To Do list.
Why do you think some people are naturally thin while others struggle with their weight?