Katie Hopkins set out to prove in her show “My Fat Story” on TLC that overweight people are lazy, they eat too much, and move too little and that is why they are overweight. She sets out to prove this by setting out to intentionally gaining 42-56 pounds in three months, then losing all* the weight in the same amount of time, just by only eating when she is hungry, walking 10,000 steps, and exercising an
hour three times a week.
Hopkins bases her theory that overweight people are lazy on the calorie deficiency theory of weight loss, which basically states if a person burns more calories than they consume, they will lose weight. If they consume more than they burn, they will gain weight. She says this is basic math, but as Zoe Harcombe points out in Katie Hopkins: My Fat Story, the math doesn’t work out the way it should. What Hopkins doesn’t take into consideration is the difference between individuals metabolisms. The average person burns about 2000 calories per day, however differences in individuals can greatly differ. Some athletes burn over 12,000 a day when training. If an average person ate that much, they would be gaining almost 3 lbs a day. Some people who have slow metabolisms only burn 1100 per day.
Hopkins herself probably has a base metabolic rate of around 4000 calories per day. When she went to the doctor before her experiment, she was told she would have a very difficult time gaining weight since she was underweight at the beginning of the experiment. At first, she ate 4000 calories per day for two weeks without gaining any weight. 4000 calories is a lot of food and is twice what the average person burns. It’s equivalent to over 12 McDonald’s cheeseburgers in one day, yet she didn’t gain a single pound. I ate 3000 calories 1 day last month and gained 2.8 lbs. I think Hopkins view is quite skewed about how much overweight people actually eat because of how much she had to eat to gain weight. She had to hire a personal trainer to gain weight and ended up eating 504,000 calories in the three-month period and only gained 43lbs. If she burned only 2000 calories per day she should have gained a whopping 92 and a half pounds! Since she had to absolutely stuff herself to gain weight, she would have very little compassion for a people who are overweight, not understanding that some people can gain weight on a 1500 calorie diet.
Secondly, to lose the weight she had what many people would think was a very reasonable weight loss plan. She ate only when she was hungry (TV documentary stated she averaged 1700 calories per day), she walked 10,000 steps per day and exercised for an hour three times per week. I do admire that the only things she used were a pair of tennis shoes and a pedometer. She said she didn’t want to use a gym membership or nutritionalist because she wanted what she was doing to be an option for everyone.
If she had burned what an “average” person would that would end up with a calorie deficit of about 6921 calories per week (2000 cal -1700= 300 calorie deficit from metabolic base rate + 450 calories per day from walking 10000 steps + 557 x three days a week from running for an hour). That is roughly 2 lbs a week weight loss, a generally good recommended weight loss goal. However, Hopkins lost 11 pounds in her first ten days, about four times what she should have lost. She finds weight gain difficult and weight loss easy so she judges other people by her own experiences instead of being able to empathize and realize that experiences with weight are not universal. She is unable to put herself in another person’s shoes.
As a psychologist states during the documentary, all she proves is that Hopkins herself, as a thin
person, can gain a lot of weight and lose it very quickly. She is an experiment sample of 1 so her results and experiences cannot be generalized.
This brings me to my experiment example of one. What I found most offensive about her statements was that overweight people are lazy. This is similar to the idea that poor people are lazy. I know for a fact that I work much harder when I am poor than when I make more money. When I have less money, every overtime hour possible is worked, every penny accounted for, car and house maintenance are done by hand the cheapest (usually most labor intensive) way possible, gifts are handmade, coupons are cut, and every meal is planned and made by what is on sale. It is much more work being poor than having money to hire a mechanic and order a pizza ever once in a while.
In the same way, most overweight people I know work much harder than slimmer people at just maintaining their weight. Calories are counted, exercise is mandatory, and difficult fad diets are tried on the off-chance of that this one may just work. I have similar stats to Hopkin’s at her largest. She weighed 168lbs and is 5’7”. As of February 28, I weighed 171 and am 5’6”. I am five years younger than she is, so I should actually have that as an advantage in loosing weight since people’s metabolisms slow
with age. Unlike Hopkins though, I have struggled to maintain my weight since I was 14 years old. I have tried P90x, The Game, Whole 30, Atkins, Nutrisystem, counting calories, diet diaries, eating no carbs before dinner, no eating after 7:00, eating five small meals a day, only eating during an 8 hour period, walking, swimming, running, cycling, and dancing. To suggest I haven’t worked at maintaining my weight is ludicrous. But just to prove to myself that I can work just as hard as Hopkins did and loose substantially less weight, I am doing exactly what she did, eating 1700 calories on average, walk 10,000 steps daily (increasing to 20,000 in the last month) and exercise an hour three times per week for three months. This seems very easy compared to some of the things I have tried, however I can basically guarantee my results won’t be the same as hers (she lost 32lbs in three months) because we are each unique individuals, something Hopkins doesn’t seem to understand.
Hopkins finds weight gain difficult and weight loss easy so she judges other people by her own experiences instead of being able to empathize and realize that experiences with weight are not universal. She is unable to put herself in another person’s shoes and find compassion for those who are different from her.
Each person has a different metabolism based on age, sex, genetic background and other factors (previous eating disorder, illness etc.) A person can be working very hard on maintaining or losing her weight and be over weight or even obese, while another person may not be paying any attention at all and be slim. How much of a work ethic you have cannot be judged by weight.
*she doesn’t actually lose all the weight but that will be a subject for another blog post.