In Awe of Nature Eat. Sleep. Lose Weight.
by Julie Willis
Feb 01, 2024
My kids have been laughing at me. I recently learned that when brown bears are getting ready for hibernation, they eat a lot and get really fat. And yes, that is probably common knowledge. But I recently read an article that told just HOW MUCH they eat and just HOW FAT they get. And it occurred to me that there was no possible scenario in which I could have imagined what it means that bears get fat before they hibernate. 

My kids think it is hilarious that I am so excited about fat bears.

But how can you not be excited? Apparently, some brown bears can eat up to forty sockeye salmon a day at up to 4,500 calories apiece.

I don’t think I knew that one fish could contain 4,500 calories.

And at forty fish a day, those bears are eating 180,000 calories. A day. Every day. For months.

The truly amazing thing here is not that I was impressed with this data but that my kids were not.  

You gotta respect an animal that can eat that much.  There is a NAME for the state their brain and body go into that allows them to not feel full (hyperphagia), so they can just eat and eat and eat. Imagine going to a buffet and staying there all day, eating one 4,000 calorie double cheeseburger after another, and the waiter offers to bring the check, and you’re like, “Nah. I’m good. I got this hyperphagia thing going. I’ll take another plate, though.”

I mentioned one day at dinner that maybe we should go to Alaska someday, and my kids were like, “Why, Mom? So you can see fat bears?” as if that were a bad thing. What could be bad about seeing those fat, happy bears?  (Because let’s face it: If you were eating 180,000 calories a day and not feeling stuffed, wouldn’t you be happy?) But the best part about being a female brown bear has got to be the hibernation. They have their babies WHILE THEY HIBERNATE.

They wake up to give birth and then go back to sleep. For months.  Moms, imagine it: You have your baby and then you just SLEEP for MONTHS without being bothered. The babies just kind of hang out, snuggle, nurse, sleep.  This is the most amazing, brilliant, beautiful thing I can imagine.  You give birth. Then you sleep. You just SLEEP. 

If I had slept like a bear for the first few months of my children’s lives, I could tell you this: I would have been a lot happier when I did get up and have to start behaving like a mom.  

We humans have it all wrong: We labor for hours or even days, then give birth, then we are exhausted, and we must wake up every two hours to feed our offspring. Things would be so much easier if the babies would just cuddle up, sleep, and figure out the whole nursing thing on their own.

And imagine this: An adult female brown bear might weigh around 600 pounds when she enters her den to hibernate.  When she walks out of the den in the spring, she’s down to about 400 pounds.  It would be like taking a long nap and waking up sixteen sizes smaller.

Next time someone asks me what kind of animal I want to be, I won’t hesitate for one second. Brown bear. Hands down.

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