by Marion Nestle
Aug 30 2007

We’re Smart: How Come We’re Gaining Weight?

A comment on my August 15 post, “Playing With Obesity Maps” (click on Obesity), asks: “…can you “weigh in” on…the fact is that the nation’s getting fatter even though there’s so much information available out there that should make these numbers go down instead of up?”

Sure. Happy to. We like to think that knowing what to do to stay healthy would be enough to make us do it and it would be great if it did. But mere mortals need more help than that. That’s why the social environment is such an important influence on what we do. Right now, we have a social environment that encourages us to eat more (larger portions! food everywhere!) and move less (computers! remotes! cars! elevators!). As individuals, we fight society when we try to eat less and move more. So education, which is easy to do, rarely turns out to be enough. We have to change society–and that, of course, is not so easy, not least because doing so runs up against a lot of vested interests.