Some people are bewildered by the existence of fat homeless people. They just don't understand how this could be. Of course most people asking that question are usually insinuating something negative about homeless people, but I'll not address that here. Others are just so far behind the times that when they think of homeless, they think of 1940s poverty and John Steinbeck's, "The Grapes of Wrath." Instead of addressing those misconceptions, I'll only provide information about what contributes to weight problems for homeless people.
Homeless People Are Fat Before They Become Homeless
If someone was fat before becoming homeless, more than likely they will continue to be fat while being homeless. So, we have a lot of overweight people in this country. And with a certain percentage of them becoming homeless, no doubt some homeless people will be fat. Losing weight takes a long time, even when on a diet. And, rent being so high these days, and landlords being less than lenient, it usually takes less time to lose the ability to pay your rent or mortgage and be evicted than it does to lose your excess weight.
Most Food Provided To Homeless People Contributes To Weight Gain
Look at the food given to homeless people. It's usually cheap and easy to prepare. There are a lot of bad things there, like bread and pasta and fried chicken and spaghetti and lasagna, all which contributes to weight gain and a pot belly. Chips, crackers, soda are not healthy food either. They contribute little or nothing of nutritional value, and often leave a person even more hungry than they were before. Many people give fast food gift certificates to the homeless, even I recommend doing so (but only because of circumstances), yet we all know how fast food contributes to weight gain and overall unhealthy people. Fast food is the cheapest of all, and when conserving money, a fat greasy burger may be the best if only option.
The Living Conditions Of Homelessness Contribute To Weight Gain
Whether staying in a shelter or in a city alley, sleep deprivation is common. It is easy to image how difficult it is to get sleep outside in a city, but most if not all rescue missions purposely make conditions unpleasant as well, believing that comfort inspires people to stay homeless. Of course nothing could be further from the truth, but people running shelters are not usually the smartest. And homeless life is stressful, whether you stay on the streets or in a shelter. Both locations are dangerous and difficult to negotiate without getting into trouble, or getting hurt. And people naturally compensate for stress by eating more. The availability of food also fluctuates. Food can be plentiful on the streets, and then without warning, food will become scarce. This too can negatively effect one's metabolism. In cities like Nashville, two meals or more a day are almost guaranteed. But in other cities, one meal a day is the best homeless people can expect.
Anyway, sleep deprivation causes weight gain by slowing down metabolism. And many people react to stressful situations in life by overeating. So, their appetite increases. With an increased feeling of hunger due to the stress of being homeless, combined with a slowed metabolism due to sleep deprivation and other factors, and the only food available is unhealthy fatty foods, gaining weight should be obvious and expected.
Intelligence Plays A Role In Good Decisions
That may sound like a no brainer. (pun intended) Although you can find people of every intellectual and educational level among homeless people, many of the homeless are under educated and have under average intelligence. When they are given an opportunity to control what they eat, they do not often go for healthy foods. When they get food stamps and other subsidies they are likely to choose candy and sodas over fruits and vegetables. Nutritional education would help these folks, but such things are not always available to homeless people. Personally, I do believe there should be more restrictions on what people can buy with food stamps and the like, as a way of circumventing this problem. Still, it is easy enough to sell the value of food stamps for cash, so such restrictions would have a limited effect.
The only things in homelessness that could lead to weight loss are drug and alcohol addictions. Other than that, you will find most homeless people maintaining the weight level they had before becoming homeless, or actually gaining weight.