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Wellness

What The Internet Tells Us About Weight Loss

Over the past decade, the Internet has exploded into a global marketplace for self-reported information about one’s health. In response, we have seen our attitudes about weight change radically, and as of October 2013, Americans are the fattest people on Earth. In this presentation I will explore these recent changes in our attitudes about weight, and explain how to use this information both negatively and positively (or less).

An important change in weight perception occurred last year as the media was covering research showing that an increase in saturated fat levels were linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. A growing group of doctors and other health experts were also coming out with similar findings. Many people became alarmed and began looking to diet rather than medicine to make sense of their bodies. And yet, as with everything else about being modern, the information didn’t sit in place very long, because the public conversation eventually went to weight loss.

One result was the rise of the celebrity blogger who published weight loss books.

The popularity of these books and celebrities is, ironically, a reflection of the growing interest in nutrition, weight and body image.

At its heart, the diet book industry is built entirely around the idea that dieting will lead to weight loss. If people really believed in the power of dieting, why wouldn’t they buy a diet book that would help them lose weight?

In my presentations there is a very common belief that people who are obese, and therefore have the same health risk factors as a normal person, have different diseases. So if I was a weight loss author and I could persuade one person to lose weight, and that person lost weight then I would feel more successful. But the fact is that our genes, our lifestyle, our diet, and a host of other variables all play a role in weight gain and loss and whether people gain or lose weight.

In fact, an increasingly large percentage of the obese in this country are overweight or obese and yet live healthier lifestyles than normal weight people, even if it means that we now have more obese people than normal weight people.

Because of this, diets don’t work. And, in fact, they can make things much worse and they can be very dangerous.

To understand this, it is important to understand that diet and exercise don’t get at the same kinds of health problems – like heart disease — they are best at preventing and at addressing.

Here’s an example: we all know that people who exercise often have greater health benefits than those who don’t.

But how many people realise that people who exercise regularly tend to keep their weight down, too, and that people who exercise frequently tend to have very low risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes than people who don’t exercise?

We believe this is the case because we have a very clear understanding of the differences between exercising and sitting all day and the dangers of sitting all day. But what many do not understand is that the dangers of sitting all day don’t diminish with exercise.

So, for example, people who walk to work have lower risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease than people who drive to work. But people who sit to work have a higher risk of diabetes and heart disease. But people who don’t exercise and sit instead are at no greater risk of having diabetes or heart disease than people who drive to work. Even the difference in mortality between active and sedentary people is the same for walking vs. driving.

So the risks of health problems for people who regularly exercise vastly exceed those of the same people who sit to work all day.

So, not only do people not have to be overweight to prevent health problems, many people are significantly more healthful than they think they are

What you want in a diet book is a book that helps you lose weight. But that’s just the beginning.

What the Internet Tells Us About Weight Loss

Let’s look at the Internet for information about weight loss.

A common myth is that the Internet tells people that diet books work.

Not exactly: the Internet doesn’t “tell people about what they want.”