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Metabolism/TDEE related question

bobsburgersfan Posts: 5,461 Member
This question probably doesn't belong on the debate board, but I wanted to ask here because those of you who post on this board generally seem to have the most scientific knowledge behind your answers and I trust you!

I was talking to a friend (a super-skinny beanpole type) and she basically said that she has always had a good metabolism and that she "could eat and eat and eat and not gain weight." Since coming around here, I've come to realize that most of my pre-conceived beliefs about weight loss and diet were not true, and it got me wondering about this concept as well.

I've known other people throughout my life that have been described the same way - they have a great (or fast) metabolism, or "that person can eat ANYTHING and not gain weight", etc. Is that even a real thing? In my friend's case, it seems more likely to me that she just thinks she doesn't gain weight from eating a lot, but in reality she probably doesn't eat very much. She's definitely the kind of person who forgets to eat meals. :neutral: Obviously TDEE varies from person to person based on numerous factors, but are there really that large of variances in the baseline numbers? Or are these people just more active and/or don't eat as much as they think? Or is it way more complicated than that?


  • Riff1970
    Riff1970 Posts: 136 Member
    Don’t know for sure but I’d bet they are more active/don’t eat as much as they think.
    100% of the time when I eat more calories, I gain weight. When I eat less calories, I lose weight.
  • bobsburgersfan
    bobsburgersfan Posts: 5,461 Member
    Thanks for your answers!
  • MikePTY
    MikePTY Posts: 3,817 Member
    edited July 2019
    I went to look up some research on this to respond to this question, and it does seem that there can be some variability in BMR between similar stats people. The extent and the factors don't seem to be universally agreed on. Body composition plays a part. So if one person has more muscle than someone else at the same weight, they will likely have a higher BMR. BMR variations can be slight, but that cqn add up a lot over time. If 2 people have a 100 calorie BMR difference between the two of them, that is still a 10 pound difference per year between the two of them.

    That being said, it's not clear that's a factor with your friend. There really is no such thing as "eat anything and never gain weight". "Eat whatever you want" is not the same thing. Some people don't naturally want to eat as high calorie things as other people. Some people are much better at naturally eating an appropriate amount for their TDEE. They may think that's "a lot", but they are also likely not paying attention to calories, so how would they know? They probably think certain foods are higher calories than they are, since they are labeled "bad". But as we know that's not always a case.

    There's no way to know about your friend for sure without putting her in a lab, but my guess is that she just finds it easy to naturally eat at a level of her activity. It is possible that she has a slight BMR advantage, but it is probably not the determining factor.
  • MikePTY
    MikePTY Posts: 3,817 Member
    erickirb wrote: »
    some people also fidget and move around a lot more than others, so even if they don't exercise much their NEAT and TDEE may be higher than others with the same stats, even if their BMRs are within 5% of each other

    This I think cues in on a big difference on maintenance calories between people. It's not so much the BMRs, but the activity levels that are not always easy to measure. The activity multipliers used by a site like MFP are very general, and your own individual activity depends on a whole bunch of factors that are not always super obvious. So even though someone may not feel like they are active (they don't do a lot of intentional exercise), they could still have a high TDEE from being more generally active in their daily behavior.
  • Lenala13
    Lenala13 Posts: 152 Member
    I remember the days where I could eat anything I want and not gain weight...
    Of course, that was also when I was in my early 20's, single and a gym rat weight lifting 5 x week, and training for a marathon. Most of my activities centered around being outdoors a lot and hiking/adventuring. Never felt a need to watch my food intake during those years...

    Fast forward 15 years later...now married, 2 x kiddos under 8, far more sedentary job, far more crap and responsibilities encroaching on my free time...lucky if I can hit the gym 3 x times a week and running 2 miles twice a week seems like a huge achievement. Yeah, I'm not longer one of those people who can eat however much I want. Which is also why I'm here.

    Of course, the 20 something me never understood how my older co-workers just couldn't pull it together and stay fit. Never had the perspective of all the additional time sucking activities and responsibilities that life brings with it as one gets additional work responsibilities, family responsibilities, etc.

    Yeah, the only people these days my age that I know that claim to have a naturally "good metabolism" are also the ones that just seem to forget to eat (they do exist...my co-worker regularly skips breakfast and if he gets caught up in his work, can skip lunch as well and rarely thinks about food). Versus me, who is contemplating what to cook for dinner shortly after eating lunch.

    Everyone is different (shrugs).

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