Saturday, December 22, 2007

Roundup - What's the Problem?

"... as an adult, we understand even if you ruin an appetite, there's another appetite coming right behind it. There's no danger in running out of appetites. I've got millions of them." --Jerry Seinfeld. The "Heart Attack" episode.

Fact: When food is in short supply, obesity as a public health problem does not exist. As a matter of fact, being obese under those circumstances signifies being wealthy or of higher economic status than the average population. Look at countries where some are living in poverty, and others are more affluent. Which segment of that society has a problem with obesity?

Fact: When food is made available and affordable, in the presence of abundance, the average person will eat more. Much more. Bigger portions. It is surprising to see people who immigrated as adults from less affluent countries continuing to eat the portions and at the times that they were used to, and stay slim. They have already developed the habits and controls and they stay satisfied with the portions and types of food that they used to consume. Their first generation kids, however, who were not raised in such a controlled environment, may become overweight or obese.

Fact: When food is not only made available in abundance 24 hours a day, but is also advertised all day long, people tend to consume even more. And branding does affect their choices.

Fact: Social networks can strongly enhance the spread of obesity.

One conclusion I can draw here is that: External influences tend to have a stronger effect on controlling how much we eat than spontaneous internal influences, in the average person. It takes a conscious effort and proper habit building and modifications to overcome those external influences. That we are victims of an environment and a culture that facilitates (or may even encourage) habits that will make us unhealthy, the only true refuge is our own ability to change habits and behaviors that developed under those circumstances. Although I stress on over-eating as a deadly habit, it is important to notice that serious under-eating as in anorexia nervosa is at least as deadly, if not more.

Remember, weight control is achieved through three elements:

1. Diet (portion acontrol and quality control)

2. Exercise or physical activity

3. Behavioral change towards healthy habits

Everything else (a diet program, a trainer, a pill, a surgical operation) is a tool that helps you control your energy storage (and, consequently, the weight of fat) through one or more of the above mechanisms.

Stay healthy! Happy Holidays!