Modern Economics Has Given Us Abundance and Obesity

Modern Economics Has Given Us Abundance and Obesity

I read with great interest the book review published this week in the wall street journal. The Economists’ Diet: The Surprising Formula for Losing Weight and Keeping It Off is the book title written by two economists: Chris Payne and Rob Barnett. Both Chris and Rob suffered from obesity and managed to lose a combined weight of 120 pounds. They did not follow a particular diet or exercise program but rather applied what they know best: economic principles to build healthy habits and keep the weight off.

Modern day economics has increased our income, but also our portion size and waistlines resulting in a classic case of market failure: Unbounded demand has met almost unlimited supply. The food industry responded to our voracious appetite for sweet, salt and fat with bigger, juicier, sweeter, and saltier processed food items. The abundance of cheap, calorie dense food in the setting of a largely sedentary lifestyle has fueled the obesity epidemic.

The Economists’ diet plan presents a “behavioral” austerity program to fight abundance and keep weight under control. The authors recommend rethinking the traditional 3 square meals a day. They typically consume a light breakfast and lunch allowing for a larger evening meal to enjoy with family. In order to reinforce the austerity plan, the authors recommend weighing yourself daily. Daily weight is a powerful behavioral reminder to avoid snacking in between meals when hunger or boredom kicks in. Payne and Barnett continue to advise us to be calorie conscious as opposed to the tedious and impractical calorie counter. They recommend eating boringly and have the same salad and protein over and over to build a habit. New culinary experiences stimulate eating, even in the absence of hunger, leading to weight gain. Still, the authors maintain that life without the occasional splurge or feast is a life less well lived. You need, however, to learn how to budget your diet: For every feast there need to be a fast. When you have a large lunch, we learn to skip the next meal to balance your daily caloric intake.

This book will be published on January the second of 2018 and I look forward to reading it. Payne and Barnett offer practical tips to limit calorie intake and prevent weight gain in an obesogenic environment. However, obesity as a disease is much more complicated than a simple calorie in and calorie out equation. There is no doubt that chronic overeating is a major cause of obesity and preventing such a habit and lifestyle is highly recommended. Weighing yourself frequently and actively working on maintaining your weight by increased physical activity and decreased food intake is also recommended. The problem, however, is when we are already 50 or 100-pound overweight such preventative tactics no longer work. Obese patients have a metabolic problem and skipping meals can only exacerbate the disease. Starvation at this point, does not reverse the underlying neuro-hormonal imbalance. The authors warn us that adopting their strategy for weight loss is challenging. It takes at least 18 months to lose significant weight and a lifetime of restrained behavior after that to keep it off. Indeed, the bigger you are the more difficult it is to achieve durable weight loss using such an approach.

Today, bariatric surgery, also known as metabolic surgery, is the most effective solution for significant and durable weight loss. Bariatric and metabolic procedures like gastric sleeve surgery allows patients to eat less and at the same time, feel full and satiated. In the absence of hunger, and appetite control it is quite hard to maintain the austerity program, Chris Payne and Rob Barnett are advocating in their book. Prevention, however, remains better than treatment. If you are overweight, follow the Economists’ Diet for 2018 and put an end to weight gain. If you are obese, BMI more than 35, give Houston Weight Loss Surgery Center a call, and reclaim your health.

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