Is obesity purely a willpower problem?


A fascinating article by David Berreby about obesity as a clinical issue. Are public policies that focus on personal responsibility helpful? Does that even matter?

The issue, rather, is whether the government policies and corporate business plans are in fact doing their best with the evidence they already have. Does the science justify assuming that obesity is a simple matter of individuals letting themselves eat too much? To the extent that it is, policies such as Japan’s mandatory waist-measuring […] will be effective. If, on the other hand, there is more to obesity than simple thermodynamics, some of the billions spent on individual-centred policies and products may be being wasted. Time, in that case, to try some alternative policies based on alternative theories, and see how they fare.

Your mileage may vary

gI_79198_One%20size%20does%20not%20fit%20all[1]We’re a funny lot, us people. Give us any subject, and we’ll probably find a way to argue about it.

Some people get very upset when others tell them their approach to dieting. Others become zealots about their own method and wish they could pull the wool from other people’s eyes to let them see the light!

Why do people who find a diet that works for them try to force it on everyone else? Because they’re so overjoyed that they’ve found the holy grail and they want you to benefit too. It comes from good intentions. But YMMV.

In case you’re not familiar with this term, it stands for “Your mileage may vary”. In the 70’s, American car adverts had to include this in the small print if they mentioned a car’s fuel economy. Nowadays it’s used on the internet to indicate that your personal experience may differ.

Your body – and your mind – are different from mine. And (unfortunately) this means that the diet method that worked and works for me won’t always be the one that works for you.

But some diet tips completely contradict each other! How can I make sure I have a good breakfast if I’m not meant to eat until lunchtime? Why would locking myself into a commitment to go to the gym twice a week work well if I should really be trying to increase my non-exercise activity?

Because the approach that works for you is personal (unfortunately, that’s a fact). The only way you can work out what’s right for you is to experiment and to build a ‘suite’ of mental and nutritional approaches or rules that work for you.

Of course, once you have you’ll probably want to write a book about it. Or perhaps a blog (why would anyone do that?) And that’s ok – in fact, it’s great! But never claim that your approach is the ONLY ONE. After all, YMMV.