Health & Beauty
|Obesity: Lifestyle Choice or Lifestyle Chance?|
Arya Sharma - National Post
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March 01, 2010
Although energy balance is simply a matter of energy in and energy out, the determinants of energy in and energy out are anything but simple. indeed, the how, when, and why we eat is perhaps the most complex of all human behaviors.
It is perhaps, therefore, not all that unexpected when study after study (let alone your own experience) shows that the simplistic formula: "eat less - move more" is so disappointingly ineffective in either preventing or treating excess weight. the issue is not whether or not obese people eat more or move less -the question is why they do so.
Health professionals, decision makers and the general public continue to believe that obesity is simply a matter of "choice", or in other words, people struggling with excess weight are simply making the wrong choices. Were they only to smarten up and chose differently, their fat would simply melt away - hopefully forever.
Unfortunately, this "simple" formula for achieving a healthy weight is about as realistic as telling someone who is depressed to go and watch something funny on television. Spending all available resources on "prevention" only perpetuates the common notion that obesity is entirely preventable.
Let us for a minute assume that "lifestyle" truly is a major determinant of weight gain the question remains how much of lifestyle is truly simply a matter of "choice".
How many of us simply chose sedentary jobs that keep us in front of a computer all day, simply chose to live in neighborhoods with no sidewalks, simply chose to work in jobs where we earn so little that we can only afford to feed our family fat and sugar-laden foods, simply chose to live so far from work that we face daily hour-long commutes that leave little time for recreational activity (let alone enough sleep), chose to work rather than stay home so we can be around to fix a healthy meal from scratch in time for when the kids come home from school, simply chose to drive a car rather than spend our money on the 5-9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables for everyone in our family, simply chose to have a tV in the house that streams endless hours of advertising to our children, simply chose to drive our kids to school rather than let them cross those five busy intersections, etc, etc, etc? Are all of these "lifestyle" factors simply a matter of choice? if yes, then i am sure we can all simply choose differently and obesity will vanish!
What if obesity is not simply the result of lifestyle "choice" but rather the result of lifestyle "chance"? do we all truly have a chance to always feed our families healthy foods, have the chance to live in neighborhoods where it is safe for our kids to walk to school and play outside, have the chance to enroll them in daily sport programs, have the chance to prevent them from ever seeing ads for unhealthy foods, have the chance to ensure that they (and we) get eight to nine hours of sound sleep every night, have a chance to convince our politicians to make the right food and environmental policies?
if we don't, but rather chose to continue living in this obesogenic environment, then do we truly have a chance of not gaining weight? Remember also, that the same environment does not treat everyone the same - some people can apparently eat all the junk food they want and still stay as thin as rakes, others, despite their best efforts simply keep packing on the pounds.
When it comes to lifestyle's impact on obesity - is it not far more often a question of lifestyle chance than of choice.
Let us do our best to first give everyone a fair lifestyle chance and then see if we can perhaps beat the obesity epidemic after all.