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Old 04-16-2009, 06:46 PM   #1
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Question Why are we all so different?

I was reading through alot of posts, and find that a common thread through lots of them is that, in essence, we are all different and we all metabolize things differently and different programs work differently for different people.
I don't get this. I mean, different programs may work better with certain food preferences or lifestyles. And I understand if one has a disease like diabetes or hypothyroidism or food allergies, then there will be metabolism differences and health issues to be taken into account.
But for the usual person, when did we all become so biologically different from each other? When did we all stop being physiologically human? When did we decide that potatoes were bad for some of us but not others? Or red meat? (in the appropriate amounts, barring medical disease processes).
I mean, when we were little, our parents fed us the same basic diet (taking cultural differences into account, of course). If we ate the right foods in the right amounts and got some exercise in the playground at recess, we were generally at a healthy weight. We were all raised, hopefully, with the 5 food groups and the right amounts of these food groups. So when did we all decide that we were all so unique that certain diets just don't work on an individual basis?
When does one decide that "I can't digest protein well" or "I have difficulty with whole foods" or "Eating potatoes just doesn't work for me". We all have the basic same genetic code -- this is what makes us human instead of, say, aardvarks -- with the same basic physiology. So is the claim of physiological individuality and biological specialness really an excuse for bad habits and emotional eating?
Kira

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Old 04-16-2009, 07:28 PM   #2
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I think it has to do with simply your body's physiology and our genes, and hormones. We're not biologically different from one another. Some people just have mutated genes, but it's not a huge difference. Like with me, I had thyroid cancer because of a possible mutated gene that happened in utero. Some people also have different enzymes and can't digest certain foods as well as others.

The thing is, not everyone was fed the same basic diet. My friend was raised vegetarian. We do all eat basically the same things, but when we were little, we still hadn't gone through puberty, and hormones are a huge reason why some people have a slow metabolism and others don't.

"So when did we all decide that we were all so unique that certain diets just don't work on an individual basis?"

It's because we're adults now. Adults' bodies work differently than kids' bodies. It's also being more sedentary for some, and for people like me, thyroid problems that arose, puberty, emotional issues (and some kids do have emotional problems and deal with them through food), PCOS, and whatnot. Also, having children can drastically change our bodies.

So is the claim of physiological individuality and biological specialness really an excuse for bad habits and emotional eating?

I don't think that people use that excuse. I know that in order for me to lose weight, due to my thyroid problems (which were 100% unavoidable), I have to exercise like crazy in order to lose weight, because I don't have a metabolism and have to rely on drugs for it. I blame my emotional eating on boredom and depression. That's just how my body works. My boyfriend, for example, doesn't have to exercise that much and can lose weight. I also think it's psychological as well.

So I guess I'm really not understanding what you're asking.
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:40 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by kiramira View Post
I don't get this. I mean, different programs may work better with certain food preferences or lifestyles. And I understand if one has a disease like diabetes or hypothyroidism or food allergies, then there will be metabolism differences and health issues to be taken into account.


But for the usual person...

You've already addressed more than enough factors to account for all of the differences - physiological "genetic" differences wouldn't have to exist to explain it all, already. Lifestyle, food preference, cultural norms, psychological differences, and physiological reasons (like the illnesses and allergies as you mentioned) are more then sufficient to explain the difference.

Maybe there are physiological differences, but there certainly wouldn't have to be in order to explain the differences, the others are more than sufficient.

You say "but for the usual person," as if a normal person would exist oustide these factors - nope. The idea that "most" people are alike, doesn't really pan out. Everyone has a unique combination of preferences in lifestyle, psychological and emotional traits, genetic and/or physiological differences.

Just the ones you acknowledge are more than sufficient to explain the differences, you don't have to assume any significant physiological differences (although you can't discount the possibility either).

The usual person is the person with preferences, lifestyle considerations, even some health issues.
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:40 PM   #4
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There are a variety of non-genetic factors that can affect metabolism, and therefore whether a diet "works" for one person or another. Genes are not the end-all-be-all of what makes us...our hormones can be affected by our environment as well, and "metabolism" really just refers to the different hormones that make up how our bodies convert food into energy and use that energy to fuel our basic functions.

One example, of course, is damage to one or more of the organs that controls or produces hormones (adrenal glands, pituitary, thyroid, etc). Other problems, like Celiac disease or Crohn's disease, can affect how the intestines absorb nutrients. The ratios of different types of bacteria in the digestive tract vary from one person to another, and those bacteria do part of the digestion of food - more of one kind, and the food they digest might be more broken down and therefore better metabolized than the food digested by a less prominent bacteria. Stress can affect hormone production in very significant ways, particularly cortisol. Even your MOTHER'S hormones when she was carrying you have a profound effect on brain structure and other organs. So there are a LOT of completely genetically independent variations.

Not to mention, human genes are -mostly- the same, but small differences can cause big problems (for example, PKU is a genetic disease which causes a failure to properly metabolize phenylalamine, an amino acid). Small variations, even down to a single base pair change, can completely affect how a protein in your body is made. So even if we're all -mostly- the same genetically, we actually vary quite a bit in how and how quickly we metabolize different types of foods.
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:42 PM   #5
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Oh my goodness, people go to college for years to learn the answer to this!

It's true that all humans are more similar than they are different--BUT--we now know that there is a great deal of variation metabolically, and it depends on your ancestors as well as what you may eat.

Some people may use certain food sensitivities as an excuse for not finding a weight loss program. I don't know. But I do know that no one has seemed ever to say that their "allergy" to Big Macs prevents them from eating them!

My partner does very well eating mostly vegetarian, with lots of carbs and beans. If I try to eat that way, I blow up like a balloon! I do much better with higher protein and lower carbs, and I do seem to need to eat animal protein and red meat.

My ancestors were all northern European--and I mean far northern--so mostly they ate fish and reindeer. They didn't see much rice or tofu...

So one has to see this in a long-term perspective.

Regardless of that, the point is to lose excess weight--however works best and is most healthy for you. I think that's OK, and not an excuse--unless someone wants to make it into one.

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Old 04-16-2009, 07:51 PM   #6
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See, I don't use food allergies or resistances as an excuse, it's my thyroid issues that is making it difficult for me to find a solid and good diet plan that works for me. It's mostly exercise that I need.

Mostly, what I see, is people have allergies or resistance to foods that aren't that good for them in the first place. Red meat isn't the healthiest food, and we can do without for the most part. Certain dairy products are also bad like cheese (but yogurt is good), and also sugar for diabetics. I haven't come across anyone who uses a food allergy as an excuse to eat poorly, and if anything, a food allergy might make someone eat healthier.

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Old 04-16-2009, 07:56 PM   #7
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OK, so while adult bodies work differently from kids, which I will grant you, why are there claims that adult bodies (barring disease, etc.) work differently from each other? What you are born with genetically is what you basically have forever, barring bizarre mutations, so the thought that we start off all as A metabolically, but change into B, C, D, etc. by puberty makes no sense. And I'm specifically NOT referring to those of you with medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism or IBS or something like that. Those conditions of COURSE will affect one and must be dealt with. I'm referring to those, like me in the past, who bounce from diet to diet to diet with the belief that there is something fundamentally unique about the way they digest and process food. The Krebs' cycle is the Krebs' cycle. We all need vitamin C. If we don't get protein, bad things happen. If calories IN are greater than calories OUT, you gain weight.
I have an acquaintance who claims not to tolerate any protein in ANY form plant or animal, wheat, rice, bread, potatoes, milk, milk products, beans, eggs, fibrous vegetables, and fruit of any kind. None of this has been medically substantiated. She just "doesn't feel right" when she eats these and is quite bitter about the fact that she is overweight, and it is because she is just so biologically different from the rest of us. So she lives, literally, on a diet of chocolate eclairs, muffins and coffee. Notwithstanding the fat, sugar, flour and dairy in these products. She is quite overweight, has had each hip replaced, her left knee replaced and is waiting for her right knee to be replaced. So she can't exercise even though her condo complex has an indoor pool with wheelchair access, not that she is in a wheelchair... So how did she become so biologically different from the rest of us? Or is this an excuse to eat eclairs all day?
Kira

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Old 04-16-2009, 08:01 PM   #8
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I think you're worrying too much about your friend's issues. She may be mistaken or misguided in her beliefs or she may have legitimate issues, but that really isn't your concern or responsibility.

I think psychological, emotional, physiological, and lifestyle choices are more than sufficient to explain personal differences. Maybe there are physiological differences, maybe there aren't - so what? It still may be that a person hasn't found the lifestyle they can live with (and why they haven't may not be nearly as important as they keep looking for the one they can).

Your friend may have a medical issue, she may not - you do not and shouldn't have access to that information, even if it exists. Not yours to judge, so to speak.

Whether she is making excuses or has medical (or psychological) issues that make her different, it doesn't much matter. The differences do exist. Some folks find they can maintain their weight with very little effort, others have to work a lot harder (and there may be no obvious differences between the two).

Genetic scientists have found several genes that appear to play a role in people's hunger, appetite and food consumption, and even the foods they prefer (a taste for sweet or salt, for example may be partially determined by genetics).

When I read about the "salt-loving" gene, it made sense to me - as I've never had much of a salt tooth (although my family also didn't use much salt. I am adopted, so whether my dislike for salt has a biological or enviornomental origin - who knows?)

The thing is we can't worry about anyone else's problems but our own. Maybe they have obstacles we don't and can't know about - none of our business really.
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Old 04-16-2009, 08:11 PM   #9
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kiramira, I think with your logic, you must also be mystified that we don't all have the same lifespans and the same medical diseases, no? The different ways we live don't explain all those differences in health.
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Old 04-16-2009, 08:30 PM   #10
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No, I'm not mystified at all. The expected lifespan of a human is X. Factors may intervene to make it X-20 or X+10. And the reason for this is multi-factorial. But at the end of the day, there is an expected lifespan for a human. Just as there is for a cat. Just as there is for a fruitfly. At the end of the day, we are all human. Pretty much the same biologically (of course, barring disease process effects...)
What I am trying to say is this:
We all start with the same basic physiology. This physiology is what medicine is primarily based on. We all start with pretty much the same genetic code. We need certain nutrients. All of us. We all breathe air. We will die if submersed in water. We are born with biological processes that are pretty much the same. This is the foundation of medicine and pharmacology and nutrition. And I don't think we all magically morph into different biological creatures once we hit puberty.
So I am just wondering why so many of us feel that we are unique biologically. And it does matter, because there are so many odd diets out there that prey on this belief -- "eat right for your astrological sign", or "don't eat X ever", or "if you do a certain test I can tell you what you shouldn't eat"...which is exploitative and down-right quackery IMHO.
And maybe more importantly, where does personal responsibility begin when dealing with a weight issue?
Kira
p.s. And for the record, my friend's issues are her own, and I believe that she is sincere with regard to what she tells me about her medical situation. I guess I am just too much a believer in personal responsibility and choice in life...

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Old 04-16-2009, 09:24 PM   #11
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The expected food tolerances for people are X, Y, and Z. Intervening factors may affect that, and those are multifactorial as well.

I stand by my bacteria example. The balance of bacteria in your stomach, combined with your unique genetic makeup, how your environment influences your hormones (stress, even temperature, all have effects)....all of those can contribute to what foods you can digest and tolerate.

Here's another example - I have the same genetics as anyone else. I have a totally normal immune system that has behaved normally/like everyone else's my whole life. Except, after taking penicillins for 20 years, my immune system decided to attack them as DEADLY INVADERS. And I almost died. There is no way to predict who will become allergic to penicillin or any other allergen, and allergic reactions take many forms. Some people are genetically more prone to allergies (not me, though...I never get any other kind of allergy), some are not, but some people's immune systems just start attacking innocuous molecules. Why? Who knows! What I DO know is that no amount of analysis will make penicillin react well with my body, and no amount of willpower either.

We don't understand the body perfectly, and we REALLY don't understand how the body interacts with it's environment. Really really. Really, really, REALLY don't understand it. Every biochemical reaction in our bodies can be influenced by environmental factors, and we only know the tip of the iceberg in terms of HOW. We may learn more as time goes on, and we probably will. But we don't know now.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:41 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kiramira View Post
We all start with the same basic physiology.
So I am just wondering why so many of us feel that we are unique biologically.
Humans are incredibly adaptable to the environment they live in. We don't all start out the same! People living in barren arctic environments traditionally live on a radically different diet than what you probably do. They don't have access to the same fresh fruit and vegetables to get all the nutrients, but their bodies have adapted to it. That is an extreme example, but the point is there is NO one diet that you have to look for, you can sustain yourself on many quite different things and adapt. All the variables kaplods mentioned ultimately determine what you chose.
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Old 04-16-2009, 09:51 PM   #13
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It seems you've already decided what you believe, and aren't really interested in opinions or evidence to the contrary.

I would suggest if you truly are interested, that you follow the research. There's a great deal of research on obesity, and some of the physiological differences that they are finding, are quite interesting. Some are strongly suspected to be genetic differences at birth, and others genes that are "turned on" by the environment. We're learning that there is tremendous genetic diversity within the human species (and within other species as well). It's not really all that mysterious, and there are tons and tons of books written on the subject, both in the popular media and in professional journals and texts.

There are genetic defects that can cause a person to blister at exposure to sunlight - no doubt basis for the "vampire" legends. If a person can deviate from "normal humanity" so much, that they cannot survive in daylight, it's really not a far stretch to believe that there can be a wide range of variety in the digestive systems based on genetic differences.

There are physiological as well as cultural differences in humans living in different climates. Their physiology is different because of adaptations to their environment. Humans living in cold climates tend to be short and squat (to conserve energy). Those living in hot environments may be tall and slender. People's living at high altitudes have larger lung capacities and broader chests to hold bigger lungs. So no, we don't all start out with the same physiology - there's a wide range of differences from conception on.

I remember a very old experiment done of people who had survived starvation, and how it affected their mental and physiological responses to food for the rest of their lives. Studies of high school wrestlers (because they are constantly gaining and losing weight to meet their weight requirements) that found some of the same physiological and psychological changes as yoyo dieters (whether they were actually overweight or not). There's evidence, for example that yoyo dieting may contribute to obesity. Wrestlers who were not overweight when they began yoyoing, were more likely to become overweight, raising the question whether crash dieting causes obesity rather than curing it.


You can choose to believe that we're all very similar physiologically, but there's quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. Both in college (psych major) and graduate student (in developmental psychology), I had to take undergraduate and graduate level courses in human biology, embryonology, and genetic defects and to summarize there is an amazing amount of bio-diversity in the human species. Some of it can easily be attributed to genetics or a physiological pattern, and some of it seems to be a combination of environmental, genetic, and environmental factors.

If you don't want to learn about these factors and instead want to chalk it all up to lack of personal responsibility, you won't be the first.
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Old 04-16-2009, 10:13 PM   #14
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It is an interesting topic, for sure. And there is no doubt that there is biodiversity within a species. But I suspect that there are more similarities than differnces between individuals within a genus. And a discussion of population shifts with respect to genome is definitely of interest...
And as I said before, those suffering from recognized medical issues are not the issue (such as those who have hypothyroidism or kidney failure or blister in the sun). I think this has become more complicatd than originally intended. I don't think that, despite the biodiversity out there, humans need certain basics. Humans function biologically as humans. That's all. And it is interesting to see how those involved with the diet industry attempt to play on perceived "biological differences" that don't exist to make a buck. I don't think there is much dispute over this. At least, that was what my PhD thesis research led to...but I will be sure to continue to research this issue about biology, physiology and diet because it truly is an intersting puzzle.
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Old 04-16-2009, 10:20 PM   #15
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We all have the basic same genetic code -- this is what makes us human instead of, say, aardvarks -- with the same basic physiology. So is the claim of physiological individuality and biological specialness really an excuse for bad habits and emotional eating?
Very common misconception: genetics means next to nothing when you're talking about minute variances like different reactions to foods. Public school teachers have a tendency to call the genome a "blueprint" of human physiology or some such, as if things like height, weight, lifespan etc. are pre-programmed (the last is especially bunk, since death by old age is brought about by our dependence on oxygen for glycolysis, the radicals from which eventually start breaking down our body systems, not planned apoptosis). Our adult bodies are created 99% by environment. I'm not even talking macro-environment, like people living in Alaska and eating whale blubber vs. people living in China and eating rice, but what your mother ate during pregnancy, in what order your parents introduced foods to you as a baby, how much you were held etc. radically shape your internal chemical cocktail and how you metabolize food. I guarantee you the octuplets that woman in California gave birth to, despite having the same genetic code within a level of uncertainty, will end up with very, very different bodies by the time they're in their teens.

However, you are right that people who think eating for their astrological sign are falling for "quackery." The reason I took issue with the way you presented it is because all those people who believe they're biologically unique usually do so while blaming genetics. Like, "Well, everyone in my family is overweight so I'm doomed to be fat," when really they're overweight because their parents instilled bad eating habits. Some of the examples you site, like not doing well with potatoes or not digesting protein well, are valid problems for a lot of people, but genetics aren't responsible: psychology is. "Trigger foods" exist because people have some recurring memory or habit they adopted long ago that stimulates appetite or prompts other bodily reactions, overriding their present common sense.

Quote:
I suspect that there are more similarities than differnces between individuals within a genus
Well, duh. That's why the species were classified together as a genus in the first place
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