Archive | Obesity RSS feed for this section

Fat is smarter than you’d think

20 Oct


Well, at least in terms of where it gets stored in your body.

A couple days ago, summarized a study that found different weight gain patterns for the upper and lower body regions. Specifically, weight gain due to increased caloric intake seems to occur at a faster rate in the hip area versus the abdominal region. Why is this significant? It shows that our body may have its own internal mechanism to prevent weight-related diseases:

The findings also support the idea that an increased capacity to produce lower-body fat cells increases protection to the upper body and can potentially help prevent metabolic diseases. The authors said that their findings “potentially provide an explanation for the purported beneficial health effects of leg fat”

What do you think? I’m still not completely sold. To those in the medical field, this is a pretty astonishing finding that may change how we analyze body composition changes in response to high calorie diets. But to the general public,who can use this as an excuse, this may be more detrimental.



PHarmers: Saving America from Obesity

15 Oct



Kevin Coles/flickr


Let me start with Michel Nischan’s explanation of how the term “PHarmers” came into existence:

I have no idea how it came to me, but I came up with a one-word-notion approach to make the connection obvious, and dubbed the physicians in underserved communities the new American “PHarmers.”….I introduced the notion that because we are giving these noble folks the ability to provide the food their patients so desperately need to make the lifestyle change that can prevent expensive diseases, “PHarmers” seems appropriate.

What he’s referring to is the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) which, through a partnership between physicians and local farmer’s markers, provides lower-class Americans with the opportunity to fight obesity and its associated diseases by issuing prescriptions that can be exchanged for fresh fruits and vegetables.

Personally, I think this program has great long-term potential. While it primarily provides a “quick fix” to our obesity epidemic by providing immediate access to healthier foods, it also allows these individuals to teach the next generation how to live healthy–a crucial factor in halting our rising obesity statistics.

Interested? You can read more about the initiative here.


Why are we Obese?

22 Sep

Several days ago, Hank Cardello focused on the consumer’s role in our current battle against obesity. As a Kinesiology major, his take on why consumers should be held accountable intrigued me. He argues that much of it can be blamed on our personality type. He even goes as far as to define two major groups of consumers:

Consumers are not a homogeneous group like grocers, restaurateurs, or food activists are. They run the gamut from solid-like behavior (that ability to consistently say “no”) to a more combustible gaseous state (feeling they must say “yes”).

He later explains that those with gas-like behavior tend to be more susceptible to weight gain than those with solid-like behavior. I agree with him to a certain extent.

While I do believe that personality has a lot to do with how we eat and view food, I do not think it’s the root cause. If you go one layer deeper, it becomes obvious that environmental factors contribute to how our personalities dictate our relationship with food.

One main environmental factor that commands more attention is parenting. As my professor put it: If your parents are overweight they’re more likely to overeat. If they overeat, you overeat as well because they’re the ones who set the food on the table. And it’s not like you’ll magically change your eating habits the day you turn 18.

Even if your New Year’s resolution is to adopt a healthier lifestyle by exercising more and eating healthier, you probably won’t succeed unless you’re like Jack LaLanne. It’s a sad, but true fact about how we work as human beings.

So what can we do? Most of our initiatives to stop rising obesity levels depend on individuals changing who they are. Hank Cardello sums up my response to the efficacy of this approach:

But demanding that consumers change who they are is a dead-end street, as evidenced by our lack of progress.

This implies that comprehensive, permanent change must come from another source.

Easier said than done. Even with Michelle Obama’s new wellness initiative called “Let’s Move” program targeting parents, school physical education programs, and consumer education on nutrition facts, how effective can these programs be?

Look at the Healthy People 2000 initiative. Funded by the US government, this program aimed towards improving nation’s health through increasing physical activity and adopting healthier eating habits has had little to no success. After 10 years we’re still getting fatter.

So what can we do? Even though I hesitate to agree with Michelle Obama’s one year goal, I support her approach. Parents need to be educated on how to provide optimal environments that teach kids healthy habits, and children need to learn how to retain these habits on their own.

So kids, listen to your parents if they tell you to eat something healthy (even if it might not be delicious) and speak up if you don’t think you should be eating one of those big breakfast meals from McDonalds (even if you think you can finish it.) And parents, just put some goddamn vegetables on the grocery list. You can keep ice cream on the list–just remember to pair the bad with the good.