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Ask Amy: A ‘thin and fit’ person tries to understand obesity

3 min

Dear Amy: I have always been thin and fit. I eat well and exercise. Like most people, I have friends and family who struggle terribly with weight issues. I have read volumes about the genetic origins of obesity and want to be sensitive to this issue.

I can’t help but noticing, however, that the overweight people I know eat a lot more than I do, exercise less and generally lead far less healthy lifestyles. Am I to believe they’re genetically prone to these behaviors? Please help me to understand the science!

— Trying Not to Judge

Trying Not to Judge: To quote author Roxane Gay: “When you’re overweight, people project assumed narratives onto your body and are not at all interested in the truth.”

If you truly wanted to understand the science, you would have gone ahead and digested (excuse the pun) the portion of research you’ve done, vs. the choice you’ve made — to scratch your head in disingenuous wonderment that you witness overweight people eating more and moving less than you do.

Genetics do seem to play a role both in obesity itself and in behaviors related to obesity, such as overeating. Based on my own reading, the causes of obesity are varied and extremely complex, which is why successful treatment of obesity is much more complicated than you imply.

This is from a study published by the National Institutes of Health: “The feelings of appetite and satiety involve complex interactions between hormones from the gastrointestinal (GI) tract to the hypothalamus and subsequent feedback. Within the hypothalamus are specific regions where hormones interact to produce sensations of appetite and satiety, leading to food consumption or a feeling of fullness.”

People overeat for a variety of sometimes complex physical and emotional reasons, including the fact that for some people, their brains are not receiving the message that they are full. And sometimes we humans overeat because we want to, and don’t work out because we don’t want to.

Bodies are not universally lean. It is possible to be both overweight and fit. The only wisdom I’m able to offer you with complete authority is that no overweight person wants or needs your gaze, your scrutiny or your curiosity about why they aren’t more like you.

Dear Readers: Have you ever had your question published in the “Ask Amy” column? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Did you accept or reject my advice? Was the issue you wrote about ever resolved?

As part of our ongoing conversation about human behavior and its consequences, I'd love to learn how things turned out for you.

Please, get in touch! Write to me at — write UPDATE in the subject line, and tell me your story.

I welcome the opportunity to be back in touch.

© 2023 by Amy Dickinson. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.