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Stop Comparing – Our Idiosyncratic Bodies and Food Needs

  • Eating

I’ve heard many people of higher weight say that they really don’t think they eat more or more unhealthfully than thinner folks—and now science has proven them right. “Not all dieters are created equal” by Tina Hesman Saey (Science News, 1/9/16, p. 8) explains how we have differing metabolic responses to food, particularly to sugar, and provides one more reason to stop comparing our eating and our bodies.

“People’s blood sugar rises or falls differently even when they eat the same fruit, bread, desserts, pizza and many other foods, researchers reported in the November 19 Cell. The discovery came after fitting 800 people with blood glucose monitors for a week. The people ate standard breakfasts supplied by the researchers. Although the volunteers all ate the same food, their blood glucose levels after eating varied dramatically.” The researchers’ conclusion: “blood sugar spikes after eating depend ‘not only on what you eat, but how your system processes food.’ For instance, eating bread produced a postmeal blood sugar level rise of 44 milligrams per deciliter of hemoglobin on average. But some people’s blood sugar rose as little as 15 mg/dl*h, while others spiked by as much as 79 mg/dl*h.”

Researchers attribute the differences to “body mass index, sleep, exercise, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and gut microbes.” And that is good news. You can do something about all these factors to greater or less extent. You can get a sufficient amount of sleep most nights; lower your blood pressure through meditation, relaxation, yoga, stress management or medication, while decreasing your salt intake; exercise to become more heart healthy and improve the workings of all your body systems; eat foods lower in cholesterol and others, like yogurt, which will enhance your gut flora or take probiotics. It would be interesting to see what results the researchers would find if all of the above were done by participants and a second glucose test were given.

What does this research means for you? First, it’s clear that a one-size-fits-all theory does not work because our bodies differ from each other. Second, although genetics obviously plays a part in how and how well our bodies function, this research shows that lifestyle is crucial to getting and staying healthy. Third, it reinforces the idea that we need to stop comparing our eating or size to that of other people. It’s time to quit making yourself feel terrible by constantly putting yourself down because you can’t do what others are able to regarding food, activity or the scale. Instead, focus on the changes you can make to improve your very unique body, metabolism, and food needs.