• The IOM report on childhood obesity strategies – ctd.

    I’m getting a lot of comments on yesterday’s post on obesity. I think some of you are misunderstanding me. I’m not saying that weight loss is easy; not at all. It took me many tries, and many years, to get back to what I consider a good weight for me, and I feel like I’m, constantly on guard. So let me try an make a few points:

    I do think that the principles of weight loss/control are easy. At its heart, your weight is a function of how much energy you take in and how much you burn off. Putting this into practice, however, is incredibly hard. Getting people to change their behavior is very difficult, and it can’t be done too fast.

    Moreover, our food complicates this. High calorie/low nutrient food is cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to prepare.

    Too often, we look for gimmicks or tricks to get around this. We want an easy way out. We want to continue our current lifestyles, but also lose weight. In the long run, that rarely succeeds.

    For my wife and I, it required a complete change in our daily habits. Bad breakfasts disappeared. I eat yogurt with fruit for lunch almost every day. My wife cooks dinner most nights, and there’s always fruits and vegetables. Pasta is rare, and it’s this whole wheat stuff when it’s there. There’s lots of grilling, and no frying. I drink more water, no juice, and no Coke (which I miss, and don’t talk to me about Diet Coke or even Coke Zero). I’m even conscious of calories from alcohol, cause beer can sneak up on you. Plus, I try and exercise a lot more than I used to.

    On the weekends, I loosen up.

    There were a lot of false starts, and a lot of failures, but it finally stuck. We are in a much better place, and I think it’s working not only for us, but for our kids. I’m thrilled they’re starting from this place, and I hope they remain there.

    Please don’t think I’m minimizing the difficulty of changing behavior. I’m also not talking about the extremes, where we need to take more drastic action. But whenever I hear someone proclaim that they’ve “solved” obesity and now you can lose weight easily without sacrificing at all, I roll my eyes.

    When we finally get a handle on obesity, it will be because we eat better and are more active. How we get there is still unknown.

    • I understand that the 30 or so pounds I have gained over the past 20 years represents a calorie imbalance of something less than 20 calories per day. Sorry, I don’t think any of us are able to intellectually manage our intake at this level of precision. If I had erred the same small amount in the other direction, I would have had serious health problems from being underweight. This is HARD.

    • I still think using chopsticks is a good way to reduce calorie intake, and it goes along with Dr. Carroll’s weight loss principle. With chopsticks you can’t pick up as much food as you would with forks and spoons. I know there are more obese Chinese in Beijing nowadays, mainly because of McDonald’s. But, they don’t use chopsticks in McDonald’s, you see.

      But, seriously, I completely agree with Dr. Carroll. The principle of weight loss is really not complicated; you have to burn more calories than you take in.

    • High calorie/low nutrient food is cheap, ubiquitous, and easy to prepare.

      You seems to be implying that if we just reduce calories that we will suffer nutrient deficiency. I strongly disagree with that.

      The only advise that makes sense is eat fewer calories and exercise more.

    • Here is an interesting tweet on the subject by Garett Jones:


      Pet obesity, child obesity at all-time highs. Shouldn’t I seek same explanation-corporate greed, parents, etc.-for both?