Why Am I Still Skinny?

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I’m 36 and still as skinny as in my teens (BMI 20). Why is that, I have wondered. I have a desk job, I eat every three waking hours, I drink sweet tea and snack on cookies, I do no sports outside the marital bedroom, I scoff at gyms and jogging. Contributing factors to my skinny-assedness are skinny ancestors, no snacking between 3-hour meals and no alcohol. But I recently realised what’s probably the capping factor depriving me of the beginning paunch that my contemporaries sport.

I cycle to work.

From my home to my dad’s house where me and my books occupy one of the guest rooms, it’s 2.6 kilometers as the crow flies. I cycle that trip at least eight times a week, until recently often with a growing little girl on the kid seat. Including rides to the train and the kids’ friends, I clock about 25 kilometres a week as the crow flies. With the other parameters being as they are, apparently that’s all I need to counterbalance my sweet tooth and remain adequately palatable to the exacting tastes of my stunning wife.

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Comments

  1. #1 Romeo Vitelli
    October 4, 2008

    Thanks for sharing that with us rotund types who lack your metabolism.

  2. #2 Martin R
    October 4, 2008

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to brag here. My female ideal certainly isn’t skinny. I’m just surprised that the only thing that seems to change with me is that my hair is rearranging itself and migrating south.

  3. #3 Jon S
    October 4, 2008

    I think it’s a fair assumption that the vast majority of people who cycled that much IN COMBINATION with a healthy diet would not be significantly overweight or obese.

  4. #4 pelican
    October 4, 2008

    No alcohol probably helps, too- I know many people drifting into their later thirties and beyond (including myself) who exercise and eat well, but still have a little tummy paunch due to a fondness for booze … my lifestyle hasn’t changed appreciably in the last decade, except for the better, diet-wise, but I did start growing a small belly at about 33. It’s stable, but definitely present.

  5. #5 Jon S
    October 4, 2008

    I have 1-2 beers a day, so I just drop the 150-300 calories from another part of my diet or I exercise a bit more. Not that big of a deal. If you’re drinking a lot more than that, well, that is a problem. lol

  6. #6 Romeo Vitelli
    October 4, 2008

    I suspect that genetics plays a large role. My father is annoyingly slender and never seems to gain weight no matter how much he eats. My older sister takes after him but the rest of us take after my mother who is more full-figured.

  7. #7 aaron
    October 4, 2008

    I run 45+ K a week and have a BMI of 26.4.

    For fairly obese people I think exercise definitely makes a big difference.

    But for people in my range, I and others I’ve talked to find very little correlation between exercise and weight. Essentially if I exercise more I get more hungry so I eat enough extra calories to compensate.

    I know another super skinny guy around the same age who is in the same situation as you. It probably doesn’t have much of anything to do with cycling or diet, it’s genetics.

  8. #8 llewelly
    October 4, 2008

    I’m like Martin. One of the lucky few who has the right combination of metabolism and habit to stay skinny without paying substantial attention to either diet or exercise.

  9. #9 llewelly
    October 4, 2008

    But for people in my range, I and others I’ve talked to find very little correlation between exercise and weight. Essentially if I exercise more I get more hungry so I eat enough extra calories to compensate.

    If you’re concerned about heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes, keep in mind that BMI is a much better predictor than weight, waistline is a better predictor than BMI, and treadmill performance is by far the best predictor of them all. You’re much better off focusing on how much you exercise, rather than how much you weigh. If 500 calories of exercise makes you eat another 500 calories of food, you’re still better off with the exercise. Weight and height get over-used because they’re easy measurements to make, and doctors have access huge databases of these measurements.

  10. #10 dustbubble
    October 4, 2008

    As a circuit digger I too was worryingly slender. Same weight as when at school until mid-30′s and beyond.
    Then creaking joints, and a need for a proper job, drove me indoors.
    Less beer. But regular, eye-meltingly hot curries in town.

    Which seem to have expelled the various worms and gawd knows what else I picked up grovelling around in cemeteries and middens over the years.

    Now I’m a right porker, just like my old man.
    And central heating doesn’t help.

  11. #11 DianaGainer
    October 4, 2008

    What an interesting bicycle! I believe that exercise is the key to health regardless of weight, based on observation of myself and others. Too often, tho’, folks who are used to doing a lot and eating a lot become sedentary but keep up the eating a lot part, then gain a lot. That’s what bad, I reckon. Then comes diabetes, clogged arteries, stagnant brain cells, etc. Ooh, I just noticed I said “reckon” — how Texan of me! At least I’m not fixin’ to eat chittlin’s!

  12. #12 Jon S
    October 4, 2008

    I was obese from the age of eleven until I was in my ’20s, when I finally decided to do something about it. I was successful in my endeavor. This is acnedotal of course, but so are the “bad genetics” sob stories that I hear on a regular basis. Get specific people. How do you know it’s genetics? Let me guess, you tried really really hard and you’re still overweight? Yeah, I told myself that one for years.

    By the way, if you’re happy with your body, then no problem. I don’t judge people for that. Just don’t give me bullshit arguments.

  13. #13 aaron
    October 5, 2008

    If you’re concerned about heart disease, stroke, or type 2 diabetes, keep in mind that BMI is a much better predictor than weight, waistline is a better predictor than BMI, and treadmill performance is by far the best predictor of them all. You’re much better off focusing on how much you exercise, rather than how much you weigh. If 500 calories of exercise makes you eat another 500 calories of food, you’re still better off with the exercise. Weight and height get over-used because they’re easy measurements to make, and doctors have access huge databases of these measurements.

    Indeed I’m not too worried about the health standpoint though skinny definitely is healthier.

    But if nothing else I figure I could drop about 30 sec/km if I was 20 lbs lighter :)

    I was obese from the age of eleven until I was in my ’20s, when I finally decided to do something about it. I was successful in my endeavor. This is acnedotal of course, but so are the “bad genetics” sob stories that I hear on a regular basis. Get specific people. How do you know it’s genetics? Let me guess, you tried really really hard and you’re still overweight? Yeah, I told myself that one for years.

    By the way, if you’re happy with your body, then no problem. I don’t judge people for that. Just don’t give me bullshit arguments.

    I don’t argue that many people are fat as a result of being lazy and eating too much, but I know a lot of skinny people who have those very same habits and yet are skinny.

    I’ve gone long periods with only moderate levels of activity, and then periods like the past 8 months where I’ve run 200+ km per month. There is no correlation between my weight and these periods.

    It may be somewhat anecdotal but I’d say that running 1200km and not losing any weight is good evidence that for my body type and weight just adding exercise isn’t sufficient.

    Now for the past couple months my weight decreased about 3 lbs after some reworking of my eating habits, and past fluctuation in my mass also correspond to eating habits which seem to be a primary driver. I know I can reduce my caloric intake to the point where I’m at the point I want to be, but my point is that this isn’t necessarily related to my level of physical activity, and that for most people their body type is a very substantial factor in their mass.

  14. #14 Martin R
    October 5, 2008

    Weight and BMI are blunt measurements as they correlate not only with waist fat, but also (and even stronger) with muscle. And not all rotund people lack significant muscle.

    I have neither fat nor significant muscle, but what little muscle I have is unusually visible.

  15. #15 KING
    October 5, 2008

    is that your bike?

  16. #16 Jon S
    October 5, 2008

    Sorry aaron, I misunderstood. I’m just being cranky.

  17. #17 Martin R
    October 5, 2008

    King, no, it’s just a cool pic I grabbed off Google’s image search.

  18. #18 DuWayne
    October 5, 2008

    I wouldn’t get too comfortable with it yet Martin. From age 16, up until I was 31, I hovered between 145 (when I was going hungry too much) to 155 (the max I hit during those years). Then my metabolism hit a brick wall. There was a two week period between my weigh ins – I was 152, then I weighed myself two weeks later, after noticing a little paunch. I then weighed in at 175 – same scale and a good one, so I know it wasn’t a fuck up.

    Over those years I lived a rather unhealthy lifestyle. I drank a lot, did a lot of drugs and my only exercise was copious amounts of sex and using my feet for transportation. While the sex slowed down a lot in the year before I suddenly gained, I also pretty much quit drinking altogether (I have had about six or seven beers in the last three years – a few shots of really good bourbon too) and my drug use is limited to tobacco, coffee/mate and the occasional marijuana. My diet remained consistent until I gained twenty pounds in two weeks (blooming outward to a top weight of 185), at which point I started making big changes.

    Even with the changes, it was a huge struggle to drop myself down to my current 160-165. I actually exercise for the sake of exercise now.

  19. #19 Martin R
    October 5, 2008

    Isn’t pot indirectly a weight-gainer drug due to the munchies effect? (Not to mention the sit-around-on-yer-couch-grinning-stupidly effect.)

  20. #20 DuWayne
    October 5, 2008

    Note the “occasional” there – I smoke pot a couple of times a month. In spite of the occasional though, it wasn’t always this way. And in the way of hardcore tokers, I am aware that eating after smoking detracts from the buzz – so I eat beforehand and avoid more than a very light snack after.

    I should also note that the occasional that does happen, is on the nights when we are free of our kids. Believe me, we don’t sit around on the couch on those nights. Those are the nights we get to have the more enthusiastic sex that celebrates our fetishes. Suffice to say that our fetishes are such that we can’t engage in them when the kids are home for fear of waking them up. We eventually end up on the couch and most certainly we are grinning rather stupidly, but rest assured, we get plenty of exercise beforehand.

  21. #21 Martin R
    October 5, 2008

    I am sadly fetishless. Very target-seeking.

  22. #22 DuWayne
    October 5, 2008

    How very sad, fetishes are the big fun – especially when you have a partner who has different fetishes than your own. Of course you may just have yet to discover them.

    It wasn’t until I had been with my partner for almost a year, that she brought up the fact that she is a pretty enthusiastic submissive and wanted me to play the role of dom. It took me nearly a year to play the role to her satisfaction (my general nature is rather mellow and decidedly not into the violence), but once I did, I started to discover that it really turned me on. This is partly due to the fact that it really turns her on (sexually pleasing others is one of my fetishes – big bonus when I was in my experimental phase and tried playing with boys, I am not into the boys, but pleasing them was enough to make my pertinent bits cooperate), but I have found that BDSM porn really turns me on now.

    I am really fond of psychology and human sexuality, so I find fetishes – even those I don’t get into – very fascinating.

  23. #23 aa
    October 6, 2008

    “Sorry aaron, I misunderstood. I’m just being cranky.

    Posted by: Jon S”

    No worries :)

    It just hit a minor pet peeve where I find people skinny for largely genetic reasons tend to assume their body type has to do with their lifestyle choices and anyone living the same lifestyle would be as skinny as them. I don’t want to understate the part lifestyle does play but just emphasize that there are other significant factors as work. If fact at one point where for several months where I was mostly inactive, and pretty much ate as much as I wanted, I did put on an extra 15lbs from my current weight.

    Also of note despite the BMI I probably shouldn’t be properly classified as overweight, I certainly do have some excess circumference but I also have a larger frame and particularly extra leg muscle which adds to the total.

  24. #24 Puam
    October 6, 2008

    lucky you… I worked for two years at a place 10km away from my home, so I managed to get 100km a week.

    but did I lose one gram of weight? noooo….

  25. #25 Martin R
    October 6, 2008

    DuWayne, I misunderstood you, I thought you meant “artefactual stand-in for a human object of desire”, such as shoes, leather, rubber, classic cars, cell network base stations. You appear to mean “non-vanilla sex thing”. I may have one or two of those depending one where you draw the line.

  26. #26 eleanora
    October 6, 2008

    As a sressed out teenager I was very underweight, 56kg at 173cm, works out to a BMI of 18.7. I have a big bone structure, wide hips and shoulders, so the rest of me was really skinny and my hip bones stuck out like a pair of fins. I didn’t drive so I walked, cycled or caught the bus or tram. When I moved out of my parents house and into college at uni, I started swimming 5 days a week, weight did not change. When I was twenty I got chronic fatigue syndrome. Over the next three weeks, I slept, my only exercise was barely staggering down the hallway to the toilet, and I ate less in the entire three weeks than I normally did in a day, and I gained 12kg! That was only the start. My weight continued to climb to about 90kg, with me still too sick to exercise. Once I was back on my feet I was working as a cook in aged care facilities, hot, heavy work, and I took up belly dance, but the only time I lost any of that weight was one job with a boss from hell. After having two kids, my weight crept up to over 100kg. Ironically with the third one I was not well, couldn’t stand up without falling down, so spent most of the pregnancy in bed or on the couch, and overall lost 7kg. For me it seems that weight loss is not so much from diet or exercise, but from stress. Looks like I’m stuck with happy, fit and overweight.

  27. #27 DuWayne
    October 8, 2008

    Martin -

    It’s really kind of a floating line – one man’s fetish is another man’s normal sex kind of thing. But I tend to consider most anything outside of “typical” sexual fare to be fetish. But I cut my teeth on women’s studies texts and abnormal psychology – especially the one on abnormal sexuality. I was really fond of pictures of naked people (years before I discovered masturbation, I was no longer a virgin when I discovered that) and have a compulsive thing about reading books that I open. That was how I learned the word fetish and the definition stuck.

    To whit, my fetishes include pubic shaving (both of us), BDSM (including restraints, clamps, whips – several different sorts, suspension frame etc.), inverse foot fetish (i.e. I enjoy my feet being on the receiving end), sexually pleasing others (including other guys, though I am not sexually attracted to other men in the least), immobile sex (wherein you don’t move your bodies – only your genital muscles – objective being to bring both you and your partner to climax) and though I don’t consider it a fetish per say, I love wearing those long, lite weight hippy skirts and some other womens clothing, – and those aren’t even the kinkier ones;) (that was a joke)

    Not so much anything beyond vanilla though. I don’t really consider doggy style (for example) to be particularly vanilla, but nor do I think of it as a fetish. I suppose if that was the only way a person liked to fuck, it could be though.

  28. #28 aaron
    October 8, 2008

    Puam,

    Awesome!

    I’ve managed a couple weeks from 80-90k while house sitting but I’m not sure I could afford the time to do it on a regular basis.

    I have no idea what your weight/BMI is though it can’t be that high if you were able to do 100K/week. It would be interesting to see a study with just the effects of adding large amounts of exercise on a range of different BMIs. For people average to slightly high I suspect we’re not that unusual.

  29. #29 Interrobang
    October 8, 2008

    I have no idea what your weight/BMI is though it can’t be that high if you were able to do 100K/week.

    Oh, you think? A lot of professional athletes’ BMIs are in the “obese” or higher range because they’re highly muscular and larger than average.

    Waist measurement is also a crude indicator. Get someone who is short-waisted and broad-backed, and you get someone who has a large waist measurement even with very little fat. (Being as my ribs sit on my hipbones, I couldn’t muster a waist indention without surgery.)

  30. #30 Rebelmacaque
    October 8, 2008

    Genetics can be kind. I was a stick until I turned 45, then . . . BLAM! Instant paunch. I had a good ten extra years of eating everything in sight, but now, I just have to stay on the “Don’t Eat So Goddam Much Diet™”. This may never happen to you thought. What do your parents look like?

  31. #31 Martin R
    October 8, 2008

    My parents? My mom has always been slender. My dad developed a paunch at about 55. Ask me about this again in 2028. (-;

  32. #32 aaron
    October 8, 2008
    I have no idea what your weight/BMI is though it can’t be that high if you were able to do 100K/week.

    Oh, you think? A lot of professional athletes’ BMIs are in the “obese” or higher range because they’re highly muscular and larger than average.

    Waist measurement is also a crude indicator. Get someone who is short-waisted and broad-backed, and you get someone who has a large waist measurement even with very little fat. (Being as my ribs sit on my hipbones, I couldn’t muster a waist indention without surgery.)

    I’m aware of that, but I wasn’t talking about fat, I was talking about weight. It doesn’t matter if it’s muscle or fat, if you’re running you have to carry it and if you’re doing 100K/week you have to carry a lot of it. Maybe someone like a professional boxer can pull off that much running with a really high BMI but I think it’s a rarity. Realistically I’ve seen very few runners who could manage that and have a BMI as high as me.

  33. #33 michael
    October 9, 2008

    I’d have to agree with you on this. For most of my life, I have cycled everywhere. At one point, I had a 15 mile (24 km) ride one way to work, on a windy coastal road that often saw me cycling at a distinct tilt to the ground, often up to 10 degrees or more. Then I enlisted in the navy, and found that I can’t keep my weight down anymore, no matter what I do.

    I should also mention that I managed to stay very thin on this cycling regimen despite the fact that I frequently drank fair quantities of alcohol (but for much of it, I was a vegetarian, so perhaps that offset a bit).

    I am reminded once again how much I miss cycling.

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