Why do some people eat a lot yet never get fat?

I had this one friend back in secondary school who ate just as much as I did (if not more) yet it never showed on her body. She was as thin as ever with a really flat tummy whereas my body underwent different kinds of physical distortion every time I dared eat excess. To keep myself in shape, I was forced to take on exercise routines. I’m sure you’ve also had similar experiences. Have you ever wondered why this is so? Do they secretly work-out? Is it genes? Or are they just plain lucky?

It’s a combination of all these:

Environmental factors such as how much we eat and the amount of physical activity we do determines about 30-40% of our weight, says a study. So a woman that walks more than she drives will burn calories faster without necessarily working out. There’s actually a term for this. It’s called NEAT- non-exercise activity thermogenesis. The general concept is to consciously choose behaviours and habit that help you burn more calories. For example, instead of the five minute drive to the supermarket, take the ten minute walk. Choose to stand in a meeting instead of sitting (if the meeting wouldn’t be long, that is), instead of using yam pounder, pound the yam in a mortar. If you do all these, you may find that you don’t need to work-out.

Genes also play a big role. The enzyme MGAT2 is found in the intestines and determines the fate of our food by regulating how it is metabolized: It either makes fat go straight to your waistline, or converts it into energy. Scientists in California have discovered that when mice are missing the gene for MGAT2, they can eat whatever they want and never have to worry about getting fat. What luck!

But it’s not all genes and environment. Did you know that you can eat a lot, weigh a ton and yet remain slim? True story. It’s because the individual has lean muscle tissue. Muscle takes more calories to maintain than fat, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn- even as you sleep. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States of America states that you can increase your metabolism by up to 15 percent by building more muscle. My oh my!

So cheer up, there’s a reason your friend is that slim. She’s not super lucky, she just has good genes and good habits. You can’t do anything about your genes, but you can improve on your habits.

See you on the slim side of life!

Written by: Oghosa Osadebamwen

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