Monday, March 21, 2005

Obesity

I'd like you to think for a moment about just how widespread obesity is. According to the American Obesity Association, "Approximately 127 million adults in the U.S. are overweight, 60 million obese, and 9 million severely obese." In other words, about half of all adults in the U.S. are overweight, and about a quarter of all Americans are obese.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that the number of obese adults in the U.S. has doubled in a decade.

Obesity is so widespread that it will actually start to shorten our life spans. According to this article, "U.S. life expectancy will fall dramatically in coming years because of obesity, a startling shift in a long-running trend toward longer lives, researchers contend in a report published Thursday."

Now consider just how easy obesity is. Basically, it is this easy:
  1. You see a piece of cake sitting on the counter.
  2. It looks yummy.
  3. So you eat it.
That's it. And poof, you have just started down the road to obesity.

Think about it. If you weigh 150 pounds, your body is only going to burn about 1,800 calories in a day. The piece of cake contains 400 calories, say. That piece of cake, therefore, contains nearly a quarter of all the calories you are "allowed" to eat in a day. A hamburger can easily contain twice that many calories. So can a couple of slices of pizza. So can a bowl of ice cream, if it is real ice cream.

So what you end up doing, if you want not to be obese, is forcing yourself not to eat all day long. The food is all around you. But every time you see food (ANY kind of food), and every time your body has the completely natural and hard-wired reaction of, "Food! EAT!" you have to override the reaction. Which obviously is quite difficult, or half of the people in the U.S. would not be fat.

I think that people in 2050 will laugh hysterically about this because it is incredibly sad. The conversation might go something like this:
    Grandkid: You mean, anything you ate made you fat???? How could you not eat????

    You: It was incredibly hard. Every time you saw food, you had to consciously think about it and tell yourself, "NO!"

    Grandkid: But how could you do that? Millions of years of evolution have wired in the "EAT!" message every time you see food. It's not like you can override a hardwired reaction that is wired into your brain. It would be like only allowing yourself to take one breath every 60 seconds or something like that.

    You: True, but that's how it was back at the turn of the century, and over half of the population was F-A-T fat.

    Grandkid: Yuck!!! Don't talk about it!
Something will have to solve this problem in the next decade or two. Either:
  • Medical science will deliver a pill that overrides the hard wiring in the brain, so that the sight of food does not trigger the "EAT!" reaction. Or...
  • Medical science will create a pill that blocks absorption of calories. Or...
  • Medical science will create a pill that causes the body not to store fat. Or...
  • Food science will create foods that taste normal but contain zero calories. Or...
  • Vertebrane will do the exercising for us so we can eat a lot more. Or...
  • Something...
Because the way we try to do it today, quite obviously, does not work at all for the majority of people. It is nearly impossible for the majority of people to override the hard-wired EAT! signal in the brain.

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32 Comments:

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people are thin - what gives them the edge?

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When you're little, your body essentially "decides" if you're going to be thin or fat, and sets up your metabolism depending on your diet as a baby and toddler.

 
At 5:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It took the human race less than 50 years to turn from stand up to seated workdays. How can possibly the human body cope with such a mess ?

 
At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

> Some people are thin

Most of them are less than 25 years old. They are still growing. Teenagers are legendary for being able to eat "anything" and stay rail thin. As soon as they stop growing and growth hormone levels off, they start getting fat. Lots of people get fat for the first time in college.

 
At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thats me! I'm 20, eat everything I want and still don't gain a single pound even if I try and yes I tried before. Everyone tells me I will be fat when I will get older cause I don't control my diet, but since I'm skinny now I don't listen to them.

 
At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Jay said...

Hard as it is to control your diet, I have actually done.

I dropped more than 35 kilo's from a weight of 105 kilo's to less than 70 kilo's. I'm in damn good shape thanks to working out, and I plan on staying that way. I've been in the healthy lifestyle for 7 years now. I wouldn't go back to eating fatty junkfoods even if someone gave me a hundred thousand. It makes me sick to my stomach.

Anyway..... a drug for controlling obesity is already underway. It already works in mice, too. It's all about the Insulin Fat Receptor (IFR) gene.

When turned off in mice, the mice eat all they want and stay lean. Furthermore, they enjoy some of the benefits of caloric restriction.

Kurzweil has told this in a few interviews he has done. It's also on his site www.kurzweilai.net somewhere.

There is also a drug underway that will allow us to hold on to muscle mass without effort. This also already works in mice, I believe.

Yes gentlemen... the future looks cool

 
At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Jay said...

Correction to the above post:

Hard as it is to control your diet, I have actually done IT.

 
At 9:29 PM, Anonymous brian1625 said...

Research in a "Psychology Today" stated that 2004 is the first time in 10 or so years when we haven't gotten fatter. We leveled out, will 2004 be the year we topped off? I don't think so, but we'll see.

My thalamus get's the best of me. I'm known for eating off other people's plates. How I beat it by simply denying myself of the stimuli by not hving a lot in the fridge. I don't stock up. (I'm 145 5'8") I've beaten cigs and Alcohol by simply not starting.

 
At 6:14 AM, Blogger Roland said...

Obesity is sad, sad, sad. Half the world are dying of starvation and the other half are dying of overeating!

The problem is the flippin' automobile. You can go about your life without ever having to walk anywhere. This means exercise has become a chore, rather than a subliminal part of life.

I think Arthur C. Clarke said obesity is a sure sign that we're heading towards a fully-automated future. In a survey in Australia about why people didn't exercise, something like 60% of people said because it was "too expensive". People don't realise that you don't have to pay money to move your own limbs around!

The solution is to reintegrate physical exercise with your daily routine, by bicycling or walking everywhere. If you do thirty minutes of cycling to get to work each morning, you don't have to think about exercise, ever. That's what I love about cycling - you never have to worry again about whether you've done exercise today.

On the other hand, if you drive a car, you'll finish work at 6:00 and weigh up whether to drive through traffic to a gym to pay money to sweat in a dark smelly room with scantily clad people.

Cycling or walking is not "sad", although it's an old technology, because it's highly enjoyable, very cheap, very efficient, and the product of a personal choice (not necessity). Sometimes the old technologies are the best - the automobile is much sadder than the bicycle, so we've actually taken a step back, I think.

The other solution is teaching people to cook well and repopularizing high-quality, fresh, "real food". Again, "new" (over-processed, packaged) food is actually sadder than the old stuff, because it's environmentally harmful and really bad for you. In the future, I imagine we will have highly nutritious, healthy, and extremely tasty food created by nanobots in our own homes, but in the meantime the best thing is to go back to ripe, juicy tomatoes ... mmm ... and red chilli ... mango ... organic t-bone steak ... swordfish ... spices ... fresh garlic ... mmmmmmmm

That said, some people just have a metabolism which makes it impossible to stay thin; they kept us alive during the ice age. Kudos to them, and no offense meant.

 
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