Neuroscientist Sandra Aamodt looks at the ways that obesity is like nearsightedness (emphasis mine):
Obesity has also increased in the population much faster than genes could change. Weight is as heritable as height. And like nearsightedness, weight is influenced by the environment, with the strongest effects on the genetically vulnerable.
Scientists don’t yet know which environmental changes are most important for the increase in obesity. Candidates include processed foods, antibiotics, stress, sleep loss, prescription drugs, reduced exercise, and decreased cigarette smoking, among others. Whatever has changed over the past 50 years, it probably isn’t our collective willpower.
So why do we treat nearsighted and obese people so differently? You wouldn’t tell a person who wears glasses, “Well, it’s your own fault. You should have played outside more as a child.” But even health care professionals tend to blame their patients for being overweight, though they should know how powerfully the body fights against weight loss.
Maybe it’s time to rethink our cultural focus on individuals and their willpower as the cause of weight gain. In addition to being more fair, concentrating on the bigger picture might give us some ideas that actually work to promote health and fitness.
BTW, Aamodt did what looks to be a fab talk at TEDGlobal 2013 on why your brain doesn’t want you to lose weight. I can’t wait for that to be posted!
HT Linda Bacon.