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by Catherine Moy
Feb 16, 2005
Donít blame me for being overweight. My over fluffy appearance is not because I eat too much spaghetti, itís because I have low NEAT.
The NEAT thing has nothing to do with the clothes on my daughterís floor, or my disheveled underwear drawer. It just means that I donít fidget enough. Thatís right. I need to do more leg tapping, hair twirling or even nose picking and Iíll be slimmer.
Thatís what researchers at the Mayo Clinic in the United States discovered. People who have ants in their pants burn 350 calories more every day than folks who donít fidget, according to the journal ďScience.Ē Dr. James Levine calls the fidgeting thing NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
NEAT people donít necessarily have higher metabolisms than others, they just fidget their calories away. Conversely, folks who think they may have a low metabolism actually have low NEAT, which means they are biologically programmed to sit around more.
I guess that NEAT people could probably reverse their NEATism for important things such as sitting through the Super Bowl drinking Bud Light, or at a choir performance.
ďA person can expend calories either by going to the gym, or through everyday activities,Ē Dr. Levine said in the article. ďOur study shows that the calories that people burn in their everyday activities - their NEAT - are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined.Ē
Mayo Clinic researchers made special undergarments with sensors that monitored the way fat and skinny people moved. The sensors tracked every nail bite, hair twirl, or toe tap. They also changed the diets of their subjects. Even after the fatties lost weight, they still moved less. And the skinnies gained weight, but moved more.
This whole thing puzzles me. Iím a known fidgeter. My dad used to throw paper clips in front of me when I visited his office. I would pick them up and twist them into new shapes without missing a beat.
I pull my eyebrows and eyelashes, bite my nails and scribble on notepads when Iím in a class or especially dry meeting of a sewer board. At home, I rarely sit through an entire movie without washing dishes, picking up papers, folding clothes or making the next dayís lunch.
Still, my waistline appears more like a SLUG, or Sumo Looking Under-active Gulper, than a NEAT.
If you believe the NEAT theory, then we Americans are training our kids to be SLUGs. Iím not just saying that because we feed them McDonaldís. Kids arenít allowed to fidget their calories away. If they fidget in school, educators tell us they need Ritalin. If they squirm in church, we tell them theyíre sinning.
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