10 Crazy Reasons Why You Got Fat

By Jim F

Obesity researchers have come up with a novel ‘Top 10 List’. They have looked at causes of obesity that are not related to diet and exercise.So why can’t we blame the familiar “poor diet” and “no exercise” reasons?

“This has created a hegemony whereby the importance of the Big Two [diet & exercise] is accepted as established and other putative factors are not seriously explored,” they say. “The result may be well-intentioned but ill-founded proposals for reducing obesity rates.” (src)

The report is the result of 20 researchers investigating more than 100 studies. The report was published in the International Journal of Obesity (abstract).

The Top Ten

  1. Inadequate sleep. (Average sleep amounts have fallen, and many studies tie sleep deprivation to weight gain.)
  2. Endocrine disruptors, which are substances in some foods that may alter fats in the body.
  3. Nice temperatures. (Air conditioning and heating limit calories burned from sweating and shivering.)
  4. Fewer people smoking. (Less appetite suppression.)
  5. Medicines that cause weight gain.
  6. Population changes. (More middle-agers and Hispanics, who have higher obesity rates.)
  7. Older birth moms. (That correlates with heavier children).
  8. Genetic influences during pregnancy.
  9. Darwinian natural selection. (Fat people out-survive skinny ones).
  10. Assortative mating, or “like mating with like,” as Allison puts it. Translation: fat people procreating with others of the same body type, gradually skewing the population toward the heavy end.

I don’t doubt there are a huge number of complex interactions that are at play – but surely the main issue must always be: we consume more energy that we use.


  1. Jane

    They keep drinking their Beers, and alcoholic drinks and wonder why they get fat. They say “I don’t eat that much” but never mention how much they drink!

  2. Kanna-Chan

    Whether you believe weight gain is caused by food cravings or by other factors, there is still a chemical problem in the body that mean the person is not at fault. After all, if the body was working the way you think it should then why would the body even crave more food than in needs in the first place? If you get hungry, your instincts tell you to eat, even you. If obese are getting hungry more often, then it’s not their fault. That’s assuming that the body is supposed to burn more calories than it takes in but science says that humans and animals instinctively seek out the most fattening foods they can so they can stockpile the fat for when they need it.

  3. johnny bravo

    wow, the author of that must be fat. what a joke. eat under your maintanence level of calories for your ideal weight, and lift some god damn weights, and no, the remote and donuts dont count. i used to be a competative bodybuilder i ate 7 clean perfectly balanced meals a day, lifted weights every day and took nothing more than protien and diuretics before competition and all the fat slobs at work could do was pull their face out of their mcdonalds and point their finger at my ‘drugs’ whenever they overheard someone talking about me. they’re all in major denial, ”everybody pities the weak, jealousy you have to earn” -Arnold

  4. Anonymous

    I have never been obese and I have weighed 100 pounds my whole life until I took birth control pills. A few months later I weighed myself and saw that I had gained 30 pounds. Birth control pills DO cause weight gain in some people regardless of what people may say. I have since lost the weight and will never take the pill again.

  5. Roland Bateman

    If our so called researchers finally run out of things to research they’ll get down to bare bone basics – less hand to mouth and more self discipline.
    BTW – The darwinian natural selection theory is total BS…Every unbiased study ever published has proven that mammals who consume fewer calories live longer as they usually dont have to contend with high BP, diabetes, renal failure, cardiovascular disease…I could go on for days…

  6. Martin

    NPR’s “Health & Science” podcast of 7/23/06 contains a report on this, including an interview with Dr. David Allison, the author of the study. I suggest you listen to it or read more about the individual items. Dr. Allison clearly states that the “big two” are huge factors, but don’t explain everything by themselves. For example, #1, inadequate sleep: my understanding is that if you’re not sleeping, you’re more likely to be snacking. And #3, temperature: he explained that in hot weather we tend to eat less, but air conditioning counteracts this. So that means we end up consuming more energy than we use. So basically I agree with Pepa.
    I, for one, am happy to have any edge on battling weight, rather than flaming research without getting any background on it.

  7. Vicki Shepherd

    If you dont think medicanes can make you gain weight , then you dont know much-they sure can, Ive worked in the medical field for most of my adult life(R.N.Hospice) It is finally found that some do cause weight gain -b/p-anti-dep-.pain meds. etc. it is heartless to say it’s just an excuse,because it isnt, Im sure some will jump on the band wagon and say “it’s there meds. that make them fat” while there downing ice cream by the gallon !In that case of course youd gain weight, i thankfully dont have a weight problem and im not taking meds. for anything (im 60)-But i know it,s true that these meds. can cause weight gain -or hold your weight up !!!

  8. Weight Loss Coach

    This is the second time I have seen these 10 fat excuses an another article or I really don’t know where I had seen it last but it is very suprizing to see these lame excuses. Whether it’s people genes, environment, lifestyle, etc. it is only the persons fault of why they can not lose weight.

  9. pepa

    I agree with Nic – there are things on this list that are not “excuses” but actual solid contributing factors to obesity and things that were not mentioned on the list but are important. For example: People who are insulin resistant (not diabetic) have a slow metabolism and are known to have dysfunctional eating/satiation behaviors which are linked to their syndrome. Women that are thick on around the mid-section tend to have hormonal disruptions and tend to be more vulnerable to depression; factors that can lead to additional weight gain and eventually obesity. Stress also plays a major role in weight gain. The most basic factor for me is that human bodies come in all shapes and forms and some bodies, no matter what, will be thick. We all know people that do blame their obesity on anything but themselves (and yes they’re the majority) but we also know people that eat normally but are still above their ideal weight. It’s vital that healthy eating and living be promoted, but accepting that some people will always remain fat and letting them be is equally important.

  10. frances

    One something that is not so hard to do is to park your car a good distance from whatever you are going to. Here in Southern Nevada that takes care of excuse #3.

    Excuse #2 can be handled by not buying anything that is currently mass marketed on TV. They have targeted food marketing as a culprit, but have no suggestion of just what that food is.

    I suppose you could take care of #10 by getting a divorce. The rest of it you can’t do much about.

  11. Spectra

    I agree that lack of exercise is probably one of the biggest factors. I look at everyone I work with and out of the 200 or so of us, there are maybe 8-10 that regularly work out to any degree. Everyone else has an excuse for why they don’t. Come on, almost everyone has a 1/2 hour to spare most days of the week where they can walk or jump rope or go for a quick jog or at least do SOMETHING. But we’re a lazy society and we’d rather sit on our butts and eat chips and watch American Idol.

  12. Cenegenics

    Another example of mindless research.

    Anyway – thanks for the list – now I can stop exercising and join the CPSA – Couch Potato Society of America.

    Pass the chips please.

  13. Yan

    frankly I think the medication thing is relevant. I do agree that most of the things listed can be avoided with hard work but some medication really do influence your brain in such a way that it either messes with your metabolism or increases your hunger and kills the satiety cue.

  14. Jim

    The guy who headed up this study (Dr. David Allison) is the same guy who published research claiming that obesity caused 325,000 deaths per year (see study abstract. This was later shown to be completely overrated and inaccurate (see blog post).

    Allison is also noted as receiving financial support from virtually every weight loss and diet pill company you can think of (see consumer freedom).

    Thanks to Jimmy for digging this up.

  15. frances

    The objective in the abstract above states they want to find other plausible causes than the most common: lack of physical exercise and food marketing practices. This is almost like saying give up on any personal responsibility and blame it on something else. This is comming from a bunch of medical professionals.

  16. Annie

    Laura, I think emotional problems were not included becouse this list mainly attempts to explain why there is an obesity epidemic, not why certain individuals may be obese. There is no reason to belive that people are more sad and angry now then they were 40 or 50 years ago. In fact, the overall standard of living improved in that time.

  17. Laura

    How on earth did a ridiculous notion like “middle-agers $ Hispanics are obese” get into the top ten, and emotional troubles did not? I know from personal experience that strong emotions, especially anger and sadness, can trigger powerful cravings and, if unrecognized and uncontrolled, to bingeing.

    I agree with the bottom line, “you are what you eat”, but I think these “experts” need to get back into the lab (or out of the lab and into the rea; world).

  18. Terry

    I very much agree with sleep deprivation and its link to overweight. Heard a study a couple of years ago. 2 groups of people were tested for blood chemistry, one group was the control and the other experience one week of sleep deprivation. The sleep-deprived group’s blood chemistry was similar to patients with diabetes.

    From my own experience, I know what I went through a long stretch of sleep deprivation while I was gaining pounds.

  19. www.iportion.com

    The calorie burn from smoking is actually minimal. The only thing smoking does for some people is kill taste buds but with many binge eaters even that doesn’t help.
    There are a lot of obese smokers.
    I don’t smoke but I am a binge eater. Right now I am at a healhty weight.

  20. Claire S.

    One reason that “weight gain” is listed as a side effect of medication is that they can make you hungrier. It can be hard but it is your choice what you do about it. I am on a lot of medications that have this side effect, and I have to exercise and watch what I eat. Sure, I may be hungry, but that isn’t an excuse to eat whatever I want!
    And less appetite suppression from not smoking? Come on. That’s like saying that if more people were on heroin, we would weigh less.
    I believe it comes down to living in a land of plenty – where fattening food is cheap and affordable and provides instant gratification. When we don’t limit our intake, we get heavy. It is up to us as individuals to listen to our bodies and to common sense, and not eat more than we really need.

  21. Nic

    I just read a study in a magazine saying the Pill doesn’t actually make women gain weight overall. I think the Depo shot is another story. I gained like 15 pounds on that thing. Thyroid medications and thyroid disorders can also make a person gain weight, as can PCOS.
    The getting less sleep thing has also proven to be true, at least as far as we know.
    As for the other factors, I think genetics DO play a part. Some people are naturally heavier than others, and if they’re truly happy with their bodies it’s really no one else’s business.

  22. Spectra

    One excuse that I hear all the time from my friends is the Pill makes them gain weight. I’ve been on the Pill for over a year and it doesn’t make you gain weight unless you eat more and don’t work out as much. These excuses are pretty lame, but it takes blame off society when they can blame something else instead of take responsibility for their actions. I could have said “Well, obesity runs in my family so I’m just destined to be fat.” Or “Too bad I don’t smoke or I’d be skinny”. Gimme a break. Also, doesn’t the population one kind of scream discrimination? Not ALL Hispanics are overweight and neither are all middle aged people. It’s very basic…eat less crap and work out more and you’ll lose weight, even if you have some unchangeable factors on your side.

  23. vkirkman

    These are nothing but excuses, as far as I’m concerned. They all may contribute to making it a struggle to stay away from obesity, but I am convinced that the cause of obesity still boils down to consuming more energy than you burn.
    When I was first diagnosed as a Type II Diabetic, I was put on medication that listed weight gain as a side effect, but guess what? When I started burning more energy than I consumed, I lost weight anyway, and as an added bonus, after the weight loss, I didn’t need the medicine.
    I won’t address all of these “excuses”, but I will say that excuses are just … well, excuses!

  24. lowcarb_dave

    Lack of exercise has an impact, but the reason why we get even bigger is the food we eat.

    The processed fast food, and dinner celebrations every week – recipe for an obese nation!

  25. Claire

    If there’s nothing called evolution, why do I need to get a new flu shot every year? Don’t tell me the scientists just lying to me that the virus is evolving to sell vaccine.

    These things may not be as direct a cause as taking in more energy than you use, but they would make sense as a list of factors that cause appetite to be greater than energy needs. Afterall, it’s very hard to maintain weight if you can’t trust your appetite to tell you how much you need.

  26. derin

    Not even one of them is my excuse.And darwinian natural selection thing is stupid.There is nothing called evolution

  27. judy

    I am flabberghasted.

    There may indeed be reasons why some people put on extra weight faster than others and some people have a harder time losing those extra kilos than others, but they couldn’t put on that extra weight if they weren’t eating too many calories and getting too little exercise in the first place.

    This gives yet more ammo for the belief that “I’m a victim — I can’t do anything about my weight because it’s not my fault.”

    And what a strange mix of “reasons” —

    –some apply to individuals (lack of sleep, giving up smoking)

    –and some apply to populations (too many middle agers and Hispanics??? so therefore I’m fat, fat people survive better which leads to fat people marrying each other which leads to I’m fat because my parents are fat so therefore Darwin is to blame).