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The futility of out-educating fat

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Superb:

“Years ago, Tufts University invited me to lecture during a symposium on obesity…

Lecturer after lecturer offered solutions for America’s obesity problem, all of which revolved around education. Americans would be thinner if only they knew about good nutrition and the benefits of exercise, they told us. Slimming down the entire country was possible through an aggressive public awareness campaign…

When it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t help beginning with an observation. “I think it is fascinating that the other speakers today have suggested that education is the answer to our country’s obesity problem,” I said. I slowly gestured around the room. “If education is the answer, then why hasn’t it helped more of you?”

There were audible gasps in the auditorium when I said this, quite a few snickers, and five times as many sneers. Unsurprisingly, Tufts never invited me to lecture again.'”

–Clotaire Rapaille
The Culture Code

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NomadicNeill
5 years 5 months ago

That’s because they’ve been taught and are teaching the wrong thing.

The mainstream used to think that eating fat was the cause of the obesity crisis. Now everyone realizes that it’s actually carbs and sugar.

Read up about the paleo / primal way of eating.

Blogs:

http://www.marksdailyapple.com
http://www.paleohub.com
http://freetheanimal.com/

Books:

The Primal Blueprint
The Paleo Diet
New Evolution Diet
Good Calories, Bad Calories
Why We Get Fat
The Vegetarian Myth

Adam K
5 years 5 months ago

@NomadicNeill – from one paleo eater to another, I totally agree – with the solution, but not the approach.

You’re preaching education, bro, same as the speakers in the story.

What if, in addition to teaching the right stuff, it was more about the ‘how’ than just the ‘what’?

Craig Rodrigues
Craig Rodrigues
5 years 5 months ago

You’ve already made the same mistake they did. Paleo is just another bandwagon.

Marcy
Marcy
5 years 5 months ago
I disagree that he’s making the same mistake. It’s true that education is not the only answer – how about we quit subsidizing grains and abolish the food guide pyramid? But another way to read the point is that all those people ‘know’ what’s good and bad for them and they’re overweight – because what they ‘know’ is wrong. Also, when everyone in society ‘knows’ this same thing – eat less & exercise mroe to lose weight – you have social pressure in that direction. Look at the progression of smoking from something almost everyone did to something that is… Read more »
Greg Connor
Greg Connor
5 years 4 months ago
Read Gary Taubes Good Calories, Bad Calories for some education. Eating less does NOT make you lose weight! Your carb intake (and your genetics and any insulin resistance you’ve developed) determines whether you lose weight or not. Eating less ultimately makes you gain MORE weight – studies prove it again and again as does the anecdotal experience of virtually every dieter who’s lost weight and gained it back again and then some. There is also evidence to suggest that exercising does NOT make you lose weight – that it makes you hungrier so that the calories you burn are offset… Read more »
Kulutusluotot
5 years 5 months ago

If education is not a solution, what would be? Using taxation to create incentives for people to eat less junk food and sweets?

Celeste
Celeste
5 years 5 months ago
I cringe when I hear suggestions that the way to control the population toward a desired end – whether it is good for them or not- is to enforce taxation. This is the art of control via collectivism that is so rampant in our society. The premise is that we would vote on an eating tax of some sort, and those that didn’t vote for it would be ruled by force by those who did, or else face the IRS, is insane. We are talking about the personal relationship between you and your food here. This is not the realm… Read more »
Anthony
Anthony
5 years 5 months ago
@Celeste I completely agree with how you feel, and feel the same. However we are in this circumstance because as society we have ASKED the governments to do these things for us. A lot of people want to be taken care of, think welfare, universal healthcare, etc. People are so damned afraid of everything they want some one to tell them it will be ok, even when it means giving up their individuality. This is not new, it has been a slow progression of many many things for a long time, and happens in most cultures. As for being told… Read more »
K00kyKelly
5 years 4 months ago

We could just reform the exisity food subsidy system. Currently 73.8% of federal subsidies dollars go do meat and dairy production and 13.4% to grains. 0.4% goes towards fruits and vegtables. Humm, I wonder why fruits and vegtables are so expensive.

Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago

-Celeste
A “fat tax” is not about personal freedom; it’s about picking up the tab at the Doctor’s office.

Philip Johnson
Philip Johnson
5 years 5 months ago

I think the point is this: no amount of education will make a difference if the person doesn’t have the motivation to change their circumstances.

In weight gain, most people need only do two things: eat less and exercise more.

In finances, things are more complicated (three things!): spend less, earn more, and invest.

In both cases, the person who does something will be ahead of the person who does nothing but get “educated”.

Greg Connor
Greg Connor
5 years 4 months ago
@Philip – this is exactly why you (and everyone else) need to be educated. Read Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories. We all have been misled by bad science. The solution to losing weight is very simple, but it has nothing to do with eating less and exercising more. I kid you not (read my other comments on this blog). Read his book – it is a history and analysis of nutritional science in our country over the last 60 years. It will open your eyes and make you mad and in disbelief that we could allowed things to… Read more »
Benjamin Williams
5 years 5 months ago

*I* have to decide to loose weight. I have to change my thinking on my own; no one can convert to me Islam, Atheism, or Catholicism just as no one can convert me to be thin. My feelings and emotions are always true, no matter what data you may bring to the table. Education and prohibition to “cure” obesity will fail. Rally my heart to change my actions, back me into a corner and watch me double down the fight.

Justin
5 years 5 months ago
I LOVE this post! I was actually thinking about this this last weekend- you must’ve read my mind, Ramit. It’s like when overweight dieticians recommend something. I’m willing to listen to the gorgeous ones that are in shape, but not one that’s 220 pounds of flabbiness. Or when personal finance “experts” tell us how to invest, but they haven’t proven themselves to know what they’re talking about (the best way to know would be if we saw their personal portfolios!) I definitely don’t think education is the answer. Everyone knows smoking is bad and its taxed like crazy- yet they… Read more »
Holli
5 years 5 months ago

Totally agree with you.

I was just talking to my husband about this – the fact that eating healthy isn’t sexy or appealing…a loyal reader of this blog, he pointed me to this post.

We’ve recently “accidentally lost weight” by changing our diet to help our daughter with her food sensitivities – we had some major motivation to help her. Experience has shown us that it’s better for our health too.

Personal experience or seeing someone close to you succeed is usually the most inspiring. But sadly, I think, pain or becoming uncomfortable with yourself can be the biggest motivator to change.

Barry
Barry
5 years 5 months ago
Well Said. Behavior change first before attitude change. Thanks for voicing this insight. I managed to lose a total of 30 pounds last year from exercising/proper nutrition ever since you have posted “Education is not the solution to all personal-finance problems”. I managed to put systems in place (and came up with the equivalent “baby steps” approach on my own!) when setting this goal. This time, after the success of improving my physical health (and looks xp) I set a goal to learn Chinese (Mandarin) using the same psychological techniques and practices BJ Fogg and you recommended. As I am… Read more »
Erin
Erin
5 years 5 months ago

If more people were like this dude, calling people on their bullshit, we’d all be a lot better off.

The truth shall set you free.

Cameron
Cameron
5 years 5 months ago
I think obesity suffers the same way that investing does. Both processes are not immediate, people do not get fat overnight, and most people do not get rich by investing overnight. Motivation is an option and using an immediate incentive would be most effective. Don’t expect people to eat right and exercise today and promise a pay-off in a month..or worse in a year… they have to have a reason/incentive to change their habits today. At Timberland they have implemented a similar idea with respect to employee health benefits and walking. Employees can get a pedometer and if they reach… Read more »
Jim
Jim
5 years 5 months ago
Blah blah blah “Eat Paleo Educate Yourself Our Nutrition Pyramid is Messed Up FDA’s Recommendations are Terrible” blah blah blah. I was 6’3″/280lbs at one point. I was a fat fuck. I got rejected by too many girls because I was a fat fuck. I stopped eating shit, started exercising, lost 40 pounds BEFORE finding Body For Life or any type of real education. BFL helped me lose 50 more. I’m 6’3″ and 190lbs now. “Change will come when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change” Same with personal finance. I say : if… Read more »
Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago

“Change will come when the pain of staying the same is worse than the pain of change”

I totally agree with you Jim. Too bad when people hit what could be considered their rock bottom they don’t recognize it as such. Instead of helping themselves they wait for someone else to take care of them. Enabling someone will never give them cause to change.

Kevin Evans
5 years 5 months ago

A couple years ago I attended a seminar with celebrity fitness trainer Valerie Waters and she said:

“Strategy trumps willpower.”

She said you could have all the education and willpower in place, but if you still have junk food in your house, have difficulty packing your gym bag, etc., you don’t need to change your motivation, you need to change your strategy echoing the advice found in BJ Fogg’s interview.

david
david
5 years 5 months ago
Where to begin. There are so many parallels between finance and weight loss/maintenance. invest in low cost index funds and hold them…save money by cutting costs…don’t trade stocks or day trade (odds are, you will lose). invest in 30 minutes-1 hour of exercise every day or so…cut calories by eating less food……don’t do crash diets (odds are, you will eventually lose) Every book you ready by someone with a common sense approach to finance or losing weight will have these same messages in one way or the other. It isn’t rocket science…doing 80% of it will make you better than… Read more »
david
david
5 years 5 months ago
Eating right and exercising isn’t ‘sexy’, as a post said above. You ate fruits and vegetables, whole grain wheats, and lean proteins? You didn’t have third and fourths? You don’t have desert every meal? As opposed to the, “I am on the cookie/south beach/atkins/caveman/protein shake/vegetarian diet” Investing over the long term and not stressing about the days ups/down in the stock market isn’t ‘sexy’. Target Retirement lifecycle fund? Boooring. But, it’s better than what most can do…. Gosh, I’m wondering if I could do a ctrl+f of a few key words of Ramit’s blogs and turn it into a weight… Read more »
Angela
Angela
5 years 5 months ago

Ain’t this the truth. My mom is fat, and complains all the time about it. She’s been on diet after diet and she KNOWS what to do. She just DOESN’T do it. She KNOWS how to count calories/count points/count carbs/exercise more. Yet she cannot follow through. Talk about annoying!

Greg Connor
Greg Connor
5 years 4 months ago

Your Mom doesn’t KNOW what to do. Counting calories is a myth. Exercising more is a myth. Read Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories to get the truth about what a healthy diet and lifestyle looks like.

trackback

[…] Bwa ha: When it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t help beginning with an observation. “I think it is fascinating that the other speakers today have suggested that education is the answer to our country’s obesity problem,” I said. I slowly gestured around the room. “If education is the answer, then why hasn’t it helped more of you?” […]

Heather
Heather
5 years 5 months ago

Education and counseling to determine the emotional reasons for self-medicating with food need to be explored and solved before any food/diet/exercise based education can be beneficial. Obesity is almost always linked to an emotional deficit or crisis.

Ed
Ed
5 years 5 months ago
Ramit – I was listenting to the radio, Tina Rosenberg came on and was talking about the power of peer presure for positive behavior change – I thought I would link to it. “The term “peer pressure” usually carries negative connotations of teens trying drugs and families going into debt to keep up with the Joneses. But Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tina Rosenberg argues there are also powerful and often overlooked benefits of peer pressure. ” http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2011-03-29/tina-rosenberg-join-club If educating for behavior change doesn’t work, what does? It seems like building a group that will keep you accountable and were like you… Read more »
Andrew
Andrew
5 years 4 months ago
Speaking of peer pressure, I think we have become too politically correct and accepting with regards to obesity. I know many will say I am an insensitive jerk here. We’ve labeled obesity a ‘disease’ and implied that being obese is something not fully within an individual’s control. We tell people to love themselves and their body image no matter how morbidly fat they are. Fat people are essentially becoming a ‘protected class’ that can claim discrimination, etc. I’m not saying we should chastise the obese or go out and tell fat people they suck. But maybe if our attitude as… Read more »
Laura
5 years 5 months ago
I think a large part of it IS education, but we’re not necessarily educating people in the right way. What we need to focus more on is teaching people the actual strategies that will help them, and frame them in an easy light. I recently read “Switch!” by Chip and Dan Heath (Ramit, I think you’d find it a really interesting and quick read), and they provided a really great example of how they were able to reduce obesity in a small (West Virginian?) town: by providing just ONE focus point. They encouraged everyone to switch to 1% milk, and… Read more »
Greg
Greg
5 years 5 months ago

“Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom, when he has no heart for it?” Proverbs 17:16 or, if you prefer;
“You ain’t gonna learn what you don’t want to know”. The Grateful Dead from “Black-Throated Wind”,

NomadicNeill
5 years 5 months ago
I stand by the fact that correct knowledge (education) is the most important thing. You can have all the motivation, strategies, leverage etc. in the world but if you are doing something wrong (not saving money, following government advise on food etc.) then you will get no where. I can point to several areas in my life (relationships, money, nutrition) where having the correct knowledge provided the motivation because progress was easy. You may all think that paleo / primal / low carb is a band-wagon or some kind of fad, but it explains the current obesity epidemic much better… Read more »
Sadylady
Sadylady
5 years 5 months ago

You beat me to the punch…. 🙂 Go Paleo!

Anthony
Anthony
5 years 5 months ago
@NomadicNeill I think you may have missed something. No one mentioned that having eduction is not useful, or that people should not be educated. The point is that education alone does not solve the problem for most people. If you have a strategy, and no eduction, then most likely your strategy will suck anyways, so it goes without saying that it does take some correct information/education from the start. But it certainly does not take a masters in nutrition to lose a few pounds and keep them off. However, combining some good, relevant, basic information, with a solid strategy that… Read more »
Greg Connor
Greg Connor
5 years 4 months ago
I would agree with Ramit and Anthony and others that education alone does not solve the problem in most cases. However, with nutrition/health, I think education solves the problem far more frequently than with something like finances. This is because 1) 90% of people don’t KNOW what a healthy diet and lifestyle looks like and 2) there is little sacrifice to eating a healthy diet – food tastes good and you’re not as hungry any more – it’s only problematic if you’ve become addicted to sugar and carbs and because our society is so clueless about healthy food that sometimes… Read more »
Anthony
Anthony
5 years 4 months ago
@Greg Connor Greg, i see your point and agree that education is more or less important depending on the subject matter at hand, that is a good point. However there is also an element that you seem to be missing, and that is being open minded, and learning from history. What i mean by that is that what humans “KNOW” to be “TRUE”, is only true today, and only to those that believe it. You have mentioned many times on here about “Gary Taubes’ book Good Calories, Bad Calories”, almost like it is your bible or something, but you know… Read more »
Anthony
Anthony
5 years 4 months ago
@Greg Connor Thank you for your comment, is it interesting. I am a proponent of healthy living, although i myself do not live very healthy, it is not for the lack of understanding, but rather weakness for fantastic food, primarily Italian. So while i understand pasta is bad for me, it is like “The Blacc SocialKenny” commented below, i simply choose to ignore what is best, and do what i want instead. I am curious about the book, and will grab it on my reader later. Just a quick observation, “The Blacc SocialKenny” also mentions that people rebel when pushed.… Read more »
Sadylady
Sadylady
5 years 5 months ago
I find it funny that people say “I *know* what to do, I just don’t do it.” Common wisdom = eat lots of whole grains + eat low fat + not too much protein/red meat (or even vegetarian??) But *all* of the components above are dead wrong. I agree with the paleo posts above. If you haven’t looked up the paleo/primal diet, you need to. The basic premise is that humans evolved to eat a hunter-gatherer diet, and while agriculture was great for humanity in terms of civilization and cultural achievement, it wreaks havoc on our bodies in terms of… Read more »
Greg Connor
Greg Connor
5 years 5 months ago
I can’t agree enough with NomadicNeill. I have never read a better book than Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. It is not a diet book, per se, with recipes and exercise routines – it is a history and analysis of nutritional science over the past 60 years in this country. This is the education we need (and by the way, the same kind that Ramit gives us) – the kind that factually and persuasively debunks the conventional wisdom around nutrition, exercise and disease that has misled our entire country (and to a large extent, the world). If it… Read more »
Kevin
5 years 5 months ago
Hey Paleo lovers! Way to hijack the thread! As a CrossFit owner, I couldn’t agree with you more. Yes,the information nutritionally is bad,and I constantly work with people who tell me they know what to do and then tell me they ate a grapefruit for breakfast. Fail! HOWEVER, the point is that, EVEN with superior,correct information,you still land on behavior change. And that is a deal breaker for most people. Habits and life inertia are incredibly powerful. Ramit’s point (and a theme of the blog) is that we need to have systems, barriers, and positive peer pressure to help make… Read more »
Greg Connor
Greg Connor
5 years 5 months ago
I know I just wrote a long post, but thought I’d add something that addresses Ramit’s point more directly. It’s my assumption that KNOWING how to change your diet, exercise and lifestyle would solve the problem for many people (at least half?). I know that was all I needed – my motivation is high due to various factors – I had low energy, I’m overweight after being athletic and fit most of my life, my father was diagnosed with Diabetes a couple of years ago, and my father has gone off all medicine/treatment simply by changing his diet. But the… Read more »
Gretchen
Gretchen
5 years 5 months ago

I applaud the chutzpah of the person denouncing education as the be all and end all of the obesity solution.

We need specific, actionable steps. We need ideas like:
1)Transform your desk into a treadmill desk and walk slowly 2+hrs/day while you work at your computer.
2)Never watch TV without stepping in place in front of it.
3)Never shop at a grocery where 7/8 of the food is junk (Super Target, etc.)
4)Limit yourself to one small junk food purchase at each grocery run.
5)Shop at places that don’t tempt you to buy crappy food.

Anthony
Anthony
5 years 5 months ago

All of which take effort 99.9% of people will not do.

Anoel
Anoel
5 years 5 months ago

My question is, what are the systems and barriers that people put in place to lose the weight? What specific actions (NOT education) do people use to lose and maintain their weight? I get that education isn’t the answer but what specifically IS?

Susan Chang
Susan Chang
5 years 5 months ago

Good question. Are you looking for specific tips from readers? People have a lot of different reasons for being overweight, so the solution is going to depend on the individual. Is the problem that you’re a stay-at-home-mom, or that you’re a workaholic who eats out for every meal? So, first observe your own habits and figure out what you’re doing that isn’t working.

Debt Donkey
5 years 5 months ago

Ha! That is truly classic. In general we take easy solutions over the obvious ones. The solution to just about anything – from obesity to poor financial habits – is discipline. I suppose it’s a lost art, and much harder than “education.” The irony is that most people already know what is healthy and what is not. Most just have no will power (I admit, including me!)

Susan Chang
Susan Chang
5 years 5 months ago
This is both true, and untrue. Rapaille makes an valuable point – however – he said the lecture was “Years ago.” I’m guessing that particular audience grew up a generation ago, when not so much attention/research was given to obesity issues, childhood health education, etc., especially during the important early years. But now that we’re all paying attention, we’re learning what works and what doesn’t. The *right* kind of education is effective at preventing obesity – but there’s plenty of ineffective education out there as well. We also know that as “socioeconomic status” (which comes partly from education) increases, health… Read more »
Will
5 years 5 months ago

Diets that concentrate on conspicuous intake of specific food types, when useful at all, are advanced. Overwhelmingly, the largest dietary issue resulting in obesity is that people eat more calories than they burn on a daily basis.

After reversing that imbalance, essentially anyone who has weight to lose will lose it.

Emma Chace
5 years 5 months ago

I think the most difficult part of motivating people to eat healthier, is that is not a habit that they can just quit like cigarettes or drinking or even poor financial habits.

Eating is a necessity. Food is there literally everyday to test your resolve. You have to continue making the right choice again and again and again. Whereas in personal finance, for example, you can automate per Ramit’s advice and rarely have to think of it on a daily basis.

AD
AD
5 years 4 months ago

I’ve been finding this website actually useful for weight loss. You can use it for other goals, too. Placing stakes towards an anti-charity is remarkably motivating.

http://www.stickk.com

Dereque
Dereque
5 years 4 months ago
This is a great little article! I have to “second” what some of the people here have said. I agree that there are no “magic bullets”, that motivation is important, that education is not -as- important as it’s trumped up to be. But as someone who has successfully lost a lot of weight recently after years of trying a variety of approaches I have to say the following: a) While there are no “magic bullets” per say, that doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t invest time in experimenting with and educating oneself about different strategies. There may not be any magic… Read more »
Rosie
Rosie
5 years 4 months ago

The answer to obesity is quite simple: Do Something. But we as a nation don’t do, we watch, we sit, we live vicariously thorugh the few people who do (mostly on Facebook and reality TV, from the comfort of our overstuffed chairs). Educating a complacent, watcher-mentality populous isn’t going to get us anywhere while walking is still seen as something you only do when you’re old. All the learning in the world can’t make someone who isn’t in to someone who is.

The Blacc SocialKenny
The Blacc SocialKenny
5 years 4 months ago

Guys,could it be that ppl generally just go with what they want to do?
How many of governmental programs,lectures,awareness classes,gyms,etc.time after time teaching and dvising the same thing:yet no one listens.
People rebel against what they’re told not to do,not to eat,etc.
We dont like to be dictated to;be it in our own best interest.
So there must be a new approach to this than education.

Ryan
Ryan
5 years 4 months ago

Education helps to a certain extent. It helps us make better food choices…if we really want to! Without an education you wouldn’t know whats good…even if you wanted to make better choices.

But i agree with the basic premise that education wont make you slimmer.

Thanks to Mr B. J. Fogg i now build sucess on sucess 😉
This is ironic…cause it was education…and it helped me

Hey if education does not help then maybe I shouldn’t even be reading this…and hope by chance I will get rich! Lol!

Michelle
5 years 4 months ago

I love that you love these type of posts! Very amusing and confronting!

In Melbourne today, we are having a debate over how to educate young males to make them aware of the dangers of driving too fast or under the influence, after 5 young men have ended up dead or very seriously injured from a very bad car crash.

The obesity example may also be appplied here!

Natalia
Natalia
5 years 4 months ago
Weight and education are not in direct proportion. I can say this from first hand experience. Or were you not aware of the fact that eating that third serving of pasta wasn’t going to make you lose weight? And motivation? What does it even mean? I may not know anything about psychology, but I do know that many fat people who absolutely hate being fat and have HUGE motivation to get thin still won’t do what it takes to lose those pounds. Personally, I’ve found out that trying to “force” myself to get a new eating habit is useless. I… Read more »
Jeremy Johnson
5 years 4 months ago
I think the main thing for me is I do what is easiest, comfortable, or most desirable for me at any given moment. I’d be willing to bet most people are that way, even if what seems comfortable, easy, or desirable is going to cause pain in the future. Because I’m not going to feel that pain now, why not chug that 2-liter soda and eat that pizza? It tastes and feels good. One way I have been able to overcome that with regards to my weight, fitness, and eating is simply this: I put pictures of super fit people… Read more »
K00kyKelly
5 years 4 months ago

LOL. You might end up with a stalker problem. Just imagine some random, unkempt person on your doorstep: Hey, I just need another hit of the good stuff, right from the source. Tell us about passive barriers again Ramit!

Jeremy Johnson
5 years 4 months ago

K00kyKelly, That made me laugh.

Mind you, the brain washing and conditioning was necessary at the beginning. It’s only semi-necessary now as I’m so used to working out/eating healthy that not doing so just feels un-natural and icky.

Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago

I’ll have to agree with you Jeremy, you crave it once you are used to it…besides, nothing beats a Crossfit high.

Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago
What about moderation? Eating healthy is not an all-or-nothing concept, neither is finance. Ramit says it all the time, buy your $8.00 lattes and $200 jeans, but do something to make up the monetary difference. Automate your finances so you’re saving money and you can still spend $200 on jeans that make your ass look good. Same concept to losing weight/being healthy…Just because I ate a piece of cake for breakfast doesn’t mean I need polish it off for lunch and dinner. If you’re starting from the negative maybe you should lose 5lbs first before you eat cake for breakfast… Read more »
Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago
I do blanket label them. There are too many excuses and too much whining. You don’t want your life to be a certain way…Change It! The concept is simple. We have so many resources available to us there is no excuse! Don’t gripe to me life is unfair and you didn’t have the “same chances” as someone else. Put on your big girl panties and do something about it. I have no pity for my friends who want to lose weight but drink 4 sodas at every meal. I also don’t feel bad for being able to do things my… Read more »
Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago

I guess I just feel there is no way to “help” people begin to change their behavior. Perhaps I can set an example and I will encourage and support them when they have started down a new path but I can’t start the change for someone. Motivation is a personal thing. We can only inspire it, we can’t make it.

Laura
5 years 4 months ago

Karisma, I COMPLETELY agree with this comment. People have to want to change. I have never understood the disconnect between someone wanting something and then whining to me about how they didn’t get it… and then I find out they didn’t really do much to earn it. I definitely believe that you can get (almost) anything you want if you put in the required effort. Will it be tough? Absolutely. But if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.

Eve
Eve
5 years 4 months ago

I think there’s a lot more to this problem. Most overweight people have developed some form of metabolic syndrome due to their previous eating habits. We know that exercise and calorie restriction don’t really have much effect on these people. I’ve witnessed this personally as I have friends who exercise more and eat less than I do (I’m not overweight), but they can’t manage to lose weight. So for these people, behavioral change hasn’t been much help either. If education intervenes before people become overweight, it may actually be effective.

Karisma
Karisma
5 years 4 months ago
I agree with you Eve. They should be educated before weight becomes and issue. This whole page is about out-educating fat but you can’t out educate when there isn’t even a basic education. I’m not an expert in any sense of the word but it’s frustrating to hear common misconceptions about saving money and losing weight. It’s not all about skipping expensive lattes and eating less. Our bodies are efficient; you give it less calories, it will run on less calories. Still, people are eating less working out more and confused about not losing weight. I guarantee if your friends… Read more »
K00kyKelly
5 years 4 months ago
“If education intervenes before people become overweight, it may actually be effective.” What do you think that high school health class was trying to do? What do you think millions of magazines with their one liners are trying to do. Where do you think those comments – heart attack sandwich – came from? The problem is these are all untested societal myths. The problem is that people think they know how to loose weight, but when you look at who is saying this crap it’s the people who either have never had trouble loosing weight (lucky bastards) or people who… Read more »
Gerard
Gerard
5 years 4 months ago

Love it. Probably the best laugh this year so far. Thanks.

Lang
Lang
5 years 4 months ago
Obesity is not an education problem, I think it’s just the culture. Our culture makes it super easy to get fat. Thats all. If you look at it, we are called “consumers”, we consume things, the bigger, house, the better car, the love of SUVS. Huge malls, large buildings. Everything is big. Buying McDonalds and fastfood is so easy and convenient. Very low barriers to getting fat. Getting fit takes more money, gym memberships, nutrition, home cooked meals. No wonder we fat. So what’s the solution ? Maybe a slow shift in culture perspectives, and I think that is what… Read more »
Ben
5 years 4 months ago
Awesome, it’s about time these people in the health industry got called out on their bullshit. We have an over-abundance of health information in this country, most of it is absolute bullshit perpetuated by food and drug companies that want you to believe that the crap they’re selling you will make you healthy. Stephen Covey likes to say “To know and not to do, is really not to know”. So appropriate here. How can fat out of shape people be in any place to dispense health information to other people when they themselves can’t apply it? Education clearly isn’t working.… Read more »
Contrarian
Contrarian
5 years 4 months ago
It’s interesting that many, if not all, of these comments, rest on three implicit premises: 1) That overweight and moderate obesity are inherently unhealthy and lead to early mortality. 2) That losing weight is strictly a matter of calories in, calories out. 3) That we have identified effective ways for people who lose weight to keep it off long-term. Thirty years of hand-wringing about the rise in obesity with no effective “solutions” identified would indicate to me that it might be worth checking those premises to see if they are still correct. If your knee-jerk reaction so far is “but… Read more »
K00kyKelly
5 years 4 months ago

One big comment here…. which person is considered overweight as medically defined and what popular opinion consider overweight are two very different things. Play around with a BMI calculator and you won’t be surprised that “overweight” people live longer.

Tude @ Low Back Pain Exercises
5 years 4 months ago

Awesome post. Sometimes the truth hurts, but that doesn’t make it less… true. 🙂

OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
Kazza
Kazza
5 years 4 months ago
Dare I mention rationing? During the 2nd world war and for about 10 years afterwards in Britain, food supplies to the general population were strictly rationed and the population was extremely healthy, this is the generation that has lived a longer average life. Obesity is a national problem, not just a personal issue. It costs nations huge amounts in medical bills and lost productivity. Today, I live in SW France, peer pressure from my slim, fit and very healthy French neighbours makes me watch what I eat and take exercise. If you’re even a bit big here, people will ask… Read more »
OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
Kazza, the US government also takes steps (the Food Pyramid, for example) to ensure the public gets “good” messages about food (though in fact, they are completely in opposition to what’s actually healthy). Their health education program has motivated millions of people to consume a low-fat, rich-carbohydrate diet. It has motivated doctors and trainers to pass along this “knowledge” to their susceptible (and highly motivated) patients who have become obese and/or diseased. It has motivated enormous food companies to change their product lines to the detriment of the US population as well as countries all over the world that are… Read more »
Sadylady
Sadylady
5 years 4 months ago
You know who’s fat, on a larger scale (no pun intended) than any other group? Poor people. Because the food they have available to them is completely nutritionally deficient. You CAN be fat, and actually be not getting enough nutrients. There are many poor children who are overweight, but actually do not get enough food every day (you’ve heard of “food insecurity”?). IF the “calories in = calories out” algorithm actually worked, wouldn’t poor people, when surveyed on a large scale, on average be UNDERWEIGHT? Especially when hunger activists tell us that food insecurity is at it’s highest level in… Read more »
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[…] but I don’t expect a perfect solution. As some really well educated folks have already pointed out, our national health crisis hasn’t been helped by […]

Crystal
Crystal
5 years 4 months ago
I’m going to comment before I read all the comments so that I’m not tainted: People are fat because they are lazy. They can be the smartest people on the planet, or the most ignorant, it does not matter. They are too lazy to shop for and prepare good foods; too lazy to get up and exercise; too lazy to place the blame on themselves and all to happy to blame the ‘disease’ of obesity. Since we are making up ‘diseases’ to explain why our lazyness is not OUR fault I’d like to have one for my shoe addiction. It… Read more »
Crystal
Crystal
5 years 4 months ago

..and PS repeating BIG IS BEAUTIFUL louder and louder does not make me believe it any more than yelling FIRE IS COLD. No, its not beautiful. Or healthy. Or, once again, beautiful.

Jonathan Manor
5 years 4 months ago

HA! THAT WAS EPIC!

People seriously need to stop talking hypothetical solutions and just point out the truth.

Great post!

Kazza
Kazza
5 years 4 months ago

Onionlover,
you’re right that the french govt message about healthy eating involves a lot less carbohydrate than the USA or UK. BUT french people tend to choose quality of food over quantity and the pride themselves on having their local produce available at local markets.
For the kids message; my daughter’s school lunch will be a 3/4 course meal = salad/soup starter, fish/meat+vegetable main course, fruit and either a yoghourt or piece of cheese to finish. a small piece of baguette (bread) is available if they want it. Sandwiches are NEVER served. emphasis is on variety and freshness.

OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
Kazza, I agree with you local, quality food is essential, but more so is the absence of a carbohydrate-rich diet. There are very few carbs in the French government-recommended salad/soup, fish/meat & veggie main course with fruit and yogurt/cheese. That sandwiches are never served and a small piece of bread is optional speaks to how much carbs seem culturally less accepted in France. And more to my original point that what the French (and their government) thinks is healthy, differs radically from what Americans (and our government) thinks is healthy. We both agree that local, quality food is essential (though… Read more »
Tom
5 years 4 months ago

We are educated out the ass about nutrition and healthy lifestyle. People are just lazy and then complain that they can’t seem to lose any weight.

Same thing with finance. Everybody knows the basics of saving and earning more. But few people actually do anything about it and then wonder why they are poor as hell.

Justin
5 years 4 months ago
I’m convinced that education is part of the solution here, but not all of it. We preach the same thing about personal money management. We believe that success with money management is less about accounting and more about psychology….yet every tool out there is simplified accounting. If we as human beings were rational, nutrition education would work great to fight obesity and accounting based apps and tools would work great to help you save more money for the things you really care about…but we’re not rational. Fast food companies know it and exploit it–that’s why we’re an obese society. Retailers… Read more »
OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
@Tom, if you were educated about nutrition (or for that matter, manners), then you wouldn’t say what you said. My point above was that our very government “educates” us about nutrition, but tells us to do the very thing that makes us fat – eat carbohydrates. I just can’t see how getting fat has anything to do with motivation if you are trying really hard (the definition of motivated) to do what you think is right. @Troll Master, yes I went on a fat rant, but I also specifically addressed Ramit’s point (“So, bringing it back around to Ramit’s original… Read more »
Justin
5 years 4 months ago

@ Crystal for “..and PS repeating BIG IS BEAUTIFUL louder and louder does not make me believe it any more than yelling FIRE IS COLD. No, its not beautiful. Or healthy. Or, once again, beautiful.”

AllI can say is- preach it sista!

Kevin @ Thousandaire.com
5 years 4 months ago

It isn’t an insult to describe the physical characteristics of another person. It’s just the truth.

OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
@Kevin, I agree with you that in theory it’s certainly possible to describe a person as fat without meaning to insult them (examples: a doctor telling you, a close friend trying to help you). It’s hard to dispute being fat (particularly if you are, in fact, “fat”). The problem is that many (not all) people in society either include additional spoken judgment along with the factual statement (we’ve seen several judging comments on this thread – “fat fuck”, “lazy”, suggesting that it’s simply a matter of motivation, etc.) or imply it with their tone, facial expression or the context in… Read more »
OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
@Ramit, It’s been almost 3 days since you weighed in on anyone’s comments here. I’m wondering what you think overall about this thread, and if you’d be willing to respond to this post – what you’ll find here is my passionate attempt to change your mind and others’ about “the futility of out-educating fat”. Specifically, I’m hoping you will reward my time and thoughtfully-constructed reasoning by providing your reaction to what I have to say (content) as well as your feedback on how to say it better to motivate people to believe me, as well as anything I could do… Read more »
Jeremy Johnson
5 years 4 months ago

This is a very thorough and well thought out response. However, were I Ramit, I’m not sure I’d take the time necessary to both read and understand what it is saying…

OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago

Interestingly, I just saw the following story on food addiction (http://abcnews.go.com/Health/brain-activity-food-addiction-similar-addictions-study/story?id=13291191), which implies that there may be more to effecting behavioral change than your typical strategies for getting off your ass.

Panda
Panda
5 years 4 months ago

I know of book by a French woman. I guess it works since the book focuses on lifestyle and eating habits. The author even explicitly states it needs at least 3 months to work and then a lifetime to work [shout-out to instant diets out there].

Why French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano

[She schooled in America -> gained weight -> returned to France -> was retaught the French ways of eating by her doctor and mother.]

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[…] recent post by Ramit Sethi suggests that is just the case, specifically about obesity and our efforts to lose weight. I have […]

Tim Carlson
Tim Carlson
5 years 4 months ago

A lot of responses suggest other eating methods or books, but I that misses the original point.

The original point can be summed up by the Bill Phillips quote “There is a world of difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it.”

OnionLover
OnionLover
5 years 4 months ago
@Tim, This is a classic argument that applies in so many situations…except for this one, at least not at the level we are dealing with today in society. To rephrase the Bill Phillips quote and apply it to this situation – (when it comes to diet), there is a world of difference between following expert advice and actually knowing what to do. The expert advice we’ve received for decades has been 100% wrong. Following it has gotten millions of people killed and diseased, and it’s getting increasingly worse. How many aspects of life can you point to where there is… Read more »
John Newland
5 years 4 months ago
so, if we know that education is only part of the battle, what is the rest of it? Generally, in order to change behaviors, there have to be some carrot and some stick. The stick, dying miserably, is well known, but again, just like education, has not helped much. Would it make sense to perhaps not charge sales tax on whole foods? subsidize them? excise taxes that are highest on the least healthy foods? Perhaps we do not sufficiently stigmatize unhealthy living? My experience is that someone will only switch from fat to healthy living after they have hit some… Read more »
Michael
5 years 4 months ago
I was “normal” physique with some fitness, trained for a marathon, then stopped exercising afterwards and put on 10 kg / 22 lb, for a period of about 4 years. By making say 2 willful decisions to have a tea instead of a coffee, and two rather than three serves of dinner, I lost slightly less than a kg / 2 lb per month, for the last 7 or so months. No added exercise beyond a couple of sessions a week. That took some will power to do, and I had prior experience being lighter and healthier, was losing the… Read more »
Ben
Ben
5 years 4 months ago
I have been rather skinny, perhaps even under weight, 6′ 3″ never exceeding 150 pounds in my life. Sometimes with my world view, it annoys me that I will see a fat person and I see them eating like there is no tomorrow. Some of it, I think stems that they were born like that, and many of their family members have the same type of body condition and it just reinforces that they don’t have to do anything, since their family members aren’t exercising and don’t give a shit about how they look, why would they need to. They… Read more »
Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
5 years 4 months ago

The comparison of information intake to food intake has another similarity in that the value of the intake is dependent on what you DO with it.
Eat –> Do Nothing –> Get Fatter
Eat –> Exercise –> Build muscle, get stronger
Read –> Do nothing –> Make it harder to take action next time
Read –> Do something appropriate –> Build capacity and get results.

Speaking of which, I have to get back to work on Ramit’s 48 hour challenge.. .Bye, break’s over.

Christopher Jones
Christopher Jones
5 years 4 months ago

I should have said perhaps, Read –> Do nothing –> Reinforce fat headedness.

Justin @ MoneyIsTheRoot
5 years 4 months ago

Education to prevent or fight obesity is still valid…but education needs to start with the parents raising their children. Health and activity are learned behaviors from a young age, like many other things, think financial fitness!

js
js
5 years 4 months ago

Tax the heck out of gas and cars.

Put that money towards public transit and bike lanes and sidewalks.

Don’t fund public school busses.

Do not air any television between 10am and 7pm.

Done.

Fat Loser
5 years 4 months ago
Wow, there sure are a lot of naive people fooled into believing the Paleo diet, the Four Hour Body diet, etc., are anything more than calories in vs. calories out… If carbs are so darn bad for you and make you fat in and of themselves, how is it that the rest of the world, INCLUDING places like Asia where carbs are a huge part of the diet, are so much thinner than Americans? Why is it that Americans keep getting fatter by the minute if they’ve eaten carbs for as long as they can remember? If carbs, and not… Read more »
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