Can Small Changes Really Curb Obesity?

Tara Parker-Pope addressed an interesting topic in her blog post last night: the debate as to whether or not small changes in eating and physical activity really can help people lose/maintain weight and avoid the dreaded “O” word.

She discusses recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that noted the “small changes” theory fails to take the body’s adaptive mechanisms into account – when we eat a little less or move a little more, the body compensates. The extra cookie we eat goes toward taking care of the slightly higher body weight instead of leading to increasing weight gain. This camp also argues that childhood obesity is due to more than a little extra soda and a little less gym class.

The “small changes” camp counters that, while it’s important to be realistic about the effect little changes will have, little changes often lead to big changes. As people feel better and see very slight differences, they have the confidence and motivation to make bigger and bigger changes. A study was also highlighted that found these small changes could prevent weight gain.

However, with many typical restaurant meals, for example, it’s more than just an extra cookie – it’s a whole meal or sometimes a day’s worth of calories. Many agree that to make serious impacts on obesity, the environment will need to do some changing, too. Perhaps a gradual shift in culture from “more is better” to moderation will help people make decisions individually that are better for their waistlines – and their health overall.


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