Friday, 23 March 2007

Schadenfreude

Did you happen to catch the news item a couple of weeks ago about the 42 stone / 588lb / 267kg woman? (See: http://tinyurl.com/2fnd2y)

I read the article and watched the TV coverage with a mixture of emotions: pity, because I do feel sorry for her; anger at her husband, who claims that he isn’t enabling her (but he must be because she’s immobile, so how else is she getting fed?); and frustration that instead of taking responsibility for her condition and doing something to help herself, she’s busy blaming everyone-else. I am trying not to be judgemental and failing badly.

Before I go on, let me state once and for all that I KNOW HOW DIFFICULT IT CAN BE TO LOSE WEIGHT and what it is like to be the fat person in the room. I have been overweight most of my life, not massively obese as an adult, but 30-40lb more than I should be. (As a child, I probably was borderline obese.) However, throughout my adult life, I have accepted responsibility for my weight. Nobody else is responsible for the food I put into my mouth – they don’t put it there. I am also aware that some illnesses can make you fat: hypothyroidism (which I suffer from) and Cushing’s Syndrome to name two.

However, having said all that, at some fundamental level within me I do not understand why this woman has got as fat as she has. Yes, she has been depressed; but there are some very effective anti-depressants on the market which will elevate your mood sufficiently that you can deal with the real cause. And I can’t get my head around her “real cause”. What compels her to eat so much and so often?

She is overeating. She has to be taking in a huge number of calories, just to maintain her current weight. Using a “rule of thumb” calculation for basal metabolic rate of 2 kilocalories* per kilogram of body weight per hour, she must be consuming 12,816 kilocalories per day!

And that’s just to lie still and breathe. Even if you discount her caloric requirements by half to account for a “slow metabolism”, she must still be consuming more than twice the calories of the average male! That is a huge amount of food.

I also do not believe that her husband isn’t her enabler. This is a woman who is too fat to get out of bed without assistance. Her mobility is compromised. If he isn’t her primary carer, then who is? Someone must be feeding her. She can barely move, let alone shop and cook for herself (or go to the bank for cash for the takeaway). My guess is that he’s feeding her a lot of sugar-laden drinks; biscuits/cookies “to keep up your strength” every time she has a cup of tea; fried fish and chips “from the chippie”; takeaway curries glossy with ghee; and packaged ready meals. The typical British pub-grub diet.

He has the key to her losing weight. It’s what he choses to feed her. He could so easily put her on a diet and she would be unable to do anything about it.

- Pam

*That’s right, kilocalories, usually referred to as “Calories” with a capital C.

1 comment:

John said...

For the record: I'm not the slimmest person in the world either, but I'm working on it. My wife has struggled with her weight all her life, although she's dropped something close to 150 lbs in the past couple of years.

In some of our efforts to lose weight, I've noticed a few things: the more extreme the diet, the more apt I was to rebel against it and secretly scarf down a Krispy Kreme or two on the way home. The more it felt like work the less I was able to put myself into it. You have to find things that fit you so you'll actually do them.

But when you're as big as this woman is, in my mind, about the only thing you can consider is something like gastric bypass surgery to give the person a fighting chance to be able to use sensible diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

If you're so big that you can't leave the house, you could shift to a low calorie, low fat diet with natural foods and whole grains, follow it faithfully, and still be so far behind that you're still pretty much going to die.