Saturday, April 2, 2011

Tackling Obesity

The basic formula for losing weight is simple; eat fewer calories than you expend over the same time period and you’ll lose weight. So why has the obesity problem in the United States continued to grow? Why is it so hard to eat fewer calories than one expends?

There are lots of reasons. When we try to eat too few calories, our brains fight against the calorie shortage, encouraging us to eat. Our metabolism may decline when we are in “starvation” mode. Junk food is cheap and plentiful. Marketers are skilled at selling us food that is profitable, even if unhealthy. We’re encouraged by friends and families to eat. We don’t get enough exercise…the list goes on and on.

Is there a solution? According to a recent article in Scientific American, the solution is not likely to come from more knowledge about metabolic processes or even from a diet pill. Taking off those extra pounds and keeping them off over the long run will probably require the application of behavioural modification principles combined with consistent peer support (think Alcoholics Anonymous and Weightwatchers). Changes in government policy that encourage healthy eating, such as requiring calorie counts on restaurant menus, banning trans-fats from deep-fryers, or taxing sugary drinks would help as well.

Reference: Freedman, David H. How to Fix the Obesity Crisis. Scientific American Feb. 2011, pp. 40-47.

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