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Val123's avatar

Are there really any medical conditions out there that cause people to become fat?

Asked by Val123 (12734points) February 16th, 2010

Like, take an average woman, 5’8” who needs to consume 1500 calories a day to maintain her weight (any more than 1500 she gains, any less than that she loses weight.) If she stuck to that calorie intake, is there really a medical condition that would actually cause her to gain weight instead of maintain it? I don’t see how that could be. I just don’t see how a woman eating 1500 calories a day could end up weighing 300 pounds. Sure, metabolism plays a part, but in that instance I’d think that simply cutting back to say, 1200 calories would counter balance that.

And if there is a medical condition, how come only the populations in the well fed, developed nations are prone to it? You don’t see obese people any where in the starving populations of, for example, Somalia.

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28 Answers

MissAnthrope's avatar

Thyroid conditions and slow metabolisms, off the top of my head.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Yes there are thyroid conditions that cause the body chemistry to go out of whack no matter what diet plan a person is on

MissAnthrope's avatar

Monster cysts/tumors.

casheroo's avatar

Thyroid and PCOS are the ones that come to mind.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

And Somalia, for example, doesn’t have the processed foods we have here with high trans, fat, msg numbers, etc. – their lifestyle isn’t as sedentary as ours. and I really don’t get the q, do you just want to be mad at fat people and not have a good reason?

Val123's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir I’m not mad. I just don’t understand how it could happen. It just doesn’t seem like a physical possibility. But somebody posted a link so I’ll go look at it. (O. That was you! Let me go check.)

LunaChick's avatar

Thyriod conditions can cause weight gain as can certain drugs. I gained weight, from taking prednisone for an autoimmune disorder.

Dilettante's avatar

My brother’s is definitely a glandular condition. He has this big gland in the lower part of his face and he keeps shoving food into it.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I remember reading that putting in an IUD and getting your tubes tied can mess up the body’s hormones and chemistry and lead to weight gain not related to diet. Same goes for certain anti-depressants and certain chemotherapies.

MissAnthrope's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir has the key points spot-on. Historically, obesity was directly tied to wealth—more money = more food + less activity. The general populace never had issues with obesity like we do today back before supermarkets, washing mashines, lawn mowers, tractors, chainsaws, cars, or basically anything that lessened physical effort. It didn’t matter if you ate a huge plate of bacon and eggs in the morning because you needed that energy to go through your day plowing the fields, chopping wood to heat the house, carrying water from the well/pump, or hand-washing the family’s clothes.

Fat in people’s diets was essential then, and they took it however they could. The same in Somalia, where I bet they eat a much leaner diet than we do in comparison.

So really our problem these days is an excess of convenience (decrease in activity) and fat/calorie-laden processed foods.

Val123's avatar

OK, reading through the link: “What is the relationship between BMR and weight?
Differences in BMRs are associated with changes in energy balance.
Energy balance reflects the difference between the amount of calories one eats and the amount of calories the body uses.” So wouldn’t it be a matter of simply reducing the calorie intake to the point that the body is using the calories instead of storing them?

I can understand slight fluctuations in the way the body may process food among individuals, but I don’t understand why it would be so hard to control. Let’s create a hypothetical situation. Let’s take two people, A and B, with similar eating habits and activity levels. Let’s say person A, with a normal balance, eats a pound of meat, and person A gains 0 pounds. Person B, with a medical issue, eats a pound of meat and gains 1 pound. Well, wouldn’t the issue be resolved to a certain extent if person B ate only ½ a pound of meat?

LunaChick's avatar

@Val123 – so what you’re saying is people with medical conditions that would make them gain weight, if they ate a normal amount of calories, should just diet, so they don’t gain weight?

That’s a lot easier said than done, for some people.

If person A eats 1500 calories and maintains their weight and person B eats 1500 calories and gains weight, due to a medical condition, why does person B need to deprive themselves of a “normal” amount of food, just so you don’t have to look at a fat person?

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

It also really matters from where those calories come from in terms of weight loss. You have to consume protein and fiber and grains and fruits and veggies – not only ice cream and chips and shit.

Val123's avatar

@LunaChick Sigh. It’s not an issue of MY comfort. I don’t have a problem with looking at fat people (unless they’re, like super-obese. I don’t think anyone enjoys looking at that.) I’m just saying that if a person is unhappy with their weight, and changing their eating habits can resolve the issue, why wouldn’t they? Why would they complain about their weight, but suggest there is nothing they can do about it because it’s a medical issue, when the fact is there IS something they can do about it and they just don’t want to?

@Simone_De_Beauvoir That’s right! And shit has really no dietary value at all. Not even for crawling babies! :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Val123 I have no disgust when I see obese people. I have no attraction either. I feel completely neutral

LunaChick's avatar

Being in this situation myself (in the past, not now – now I’m fat because of bad choices) I know how hard it is. When I started taking prednisone, I did cut calories and I still gained weight. I cooked for college friends, we would all eat the same food – my diet worked wonders for everyone, except me.

Believe it or not, some people actually do gain weight from an illness.

Facade's avatar

Hormonal imbalances, thyroid conditions, and certain medications. I agree that most people can have a healthy weight by eating sensibly and exercising, but there are certainly exceptions.

gemiwing's avatar

There are several diseases that can cause a person to gain weight even with dieting. Hormonal imbalances, thyroid conditions, brain tumors, medication (especially steroids and anti-psychotics) and PCOS.

There is also a diminishing return for cutting calories. Your body will go into starvation mode and stop burning calories if you go too low. It will be stored as fat to protect your organs. 1500 calories is a very general starting point for someone who is classified as overweight. An obese person (or tall person) who eats 1500 calories a day could be putting themselves into starvation mode.

So even if a person looks ‘fat’ they might not be eating at all what you think they do.

Val123's avatar

@gemiwing Thank for that answer…OK, I sort of understand starvation mode. It’s where the body thinks it’s starving so it hordes calories and (I’m guessing here?) slows down the metabolism. So, consuming 1200 a day instead wouldn’t really help, perhaps make it worse…...However, given enough time, wouldn’t the body “snap out of it”? Wouldn’t it eventually realize it’s NOT starving?

gemiwing's avatar

@Val123 Yes, and no. I hope one of our doctor jellies comes along and can explain it better than my layman attempt.

Eventually the body will start eating the muscles (as they have better nutrient distribution than fat) but the fat is used more slowly. That’s how we can see skinny-fat people who have ED’s.

The body’s metabolism isn’t connected to rational thought. We can’t ‘think’ ourselves out of starvation- it’s chemistry not logic.

The body will eventually start to shrink but at the expense of bones, muscles and other important bits (like teeth and gums). This takes quite a while- one has to go through several starvation stages. (Technically what we’re talking about is malnutrition but it’s easier to just call it starvation)

During the ‘packing phase’, as I like to call it, you will gain weight or at most stay your same weight. Weight loss stops and deterioration starts to begin. Weight will eventually come down- but it takes months to years of malnutrition (of the sort we have in the U.S.).

cheebdragon's avatar

A friend of my moms had some medical problem, I can’t remember what it was exactly, and the medication she had to start taking made her gain a ton of weight, but after she was well enough to stop the medication, she lost the weight very quickly.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

And I just remembered that one of my friends from high school gained her entire weight over once she began having issues with her ovaries and ovarian cysts.

GracieT's avatar

I have weight issues. I have to be extremely careful about what I eat because I have PCOS, Thyroid problems, and epilepsy. The anti-seizure medicine I take causes weight gain, and the other two are problems causing weight gain. I need to be extremely vigilant about everything I consume, because if I am not, I have weight issues.

faye's avatar

sometimes, as in my case, it’s a disease called hand to mouth disease.

Val123's avatar

@gemiwing I’m waiting for a doctor too!

OK…so, is this a possible scenario. A person has never had a weight problem in their life. They’re at 1500 calories, give or take, per day. Then their thyroid goes batshit insane and…..what? The body suddenly thinks it’s starving, and starts turning on it’s muscles and stuff? (Also, I wasn’t implying that we could “think” our way out of starvation with our brains. I was referring to the body resetting naturally. Just like ”It thinks it’s starving” ergo, “Eventually it realizes it isn’t.” Kind of giving the body human brain attributes that it doesn’t posses.)

Thanks for that answer @GracieT

gemiwing's avatar

@Val123 About the mind- I was making the comparison that how the brain can realize things doesn’t translate to cells utilizing fuel. Hope that makes more sense.

In a nutshell- what happens is the thyroid shuts down metabolism. So it no longer matters what you eat (or perhaps it matters even more depending on the person), you will gain weight because your body’s furnace has been shut off.

When the furnace is off it doesn’t matter if you put in more fuel or not- your body still isn’t burning anything.

Val123's avatar

@gemiwing I see….but it can’t shut off completely can it? I mean, where would you get the energy to move and breath, to drive a car? That stuff doesn’t use many calories, but they do use some.

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