It’s been a while since we’ve taken a hard look at emerging research regarding obesity. Today, several stories offer some needed insights.
Australian researchers report that watching lots of TV is associated with a higher risk of death. This wouldn’t seem novel—except that even regular exercisers who had a lot of tube time had a higher risk of dying. As lead author Dr. David Dunstan explains, it’s because people are losing the minor bouts of activity around the house:

It’s not the sweaty type of exercise we’re losing. It’s the incidental moving around, walking around, standing up and utilizing muscles that [doesn't happen] when we’re plunked on a couch in front of a television.

This phenomenon of the ways in which we’re getting less activity isn’t restricted to sitting on the sofa. We detail in our book Small Choices, Big Bodies the many ways in which society has engineered physical activity out of people’s lives through the spread of labor-saving devices, among other modern conveniences. Our lives may be more convenient, but we’re also burning fewer calories.
Taking a different approach, researchers from Tulane are pointing the finger at snack food in the obesity debate. It’s worth pointing out that one of them is Tom “Dr. No” Farley—NYC’s newest nanny and Tom Frieden replacement—who yesterday promoted the city’s overzealous salt reduction initiative. As Reuters reports, Farley and coauthors report that “the widespread availability of snacks could be fuelling obesity.”
By researchers’ estimates, this availability “problem” could lead to people consuming an extra 2,600 calories per year. Doing the math, that works out to just over 7 calories a day. That’s right—the equivalent of 5 raisins. That’s hardly worth making a fuss over (unless your modus operandi is playing the blame game and creating draconian regulations). An easier option might be to ask people to take a 3-minute walk on the way to get those raisins.
And lastly, as USA TODAY details, a British study finds that having a few extra pounds isn’t even necessarily a bad thing. Researchers from Oxford report that having a little extra “cushion” in the hips, thighs, and buttocks is healthy and protects against heart and metabolic problems.
Obesity has many factors and inputs, but in the end (or hips or thighs) weight gain or loss boils down to one thing: An imbalance of “calories in” and “calories out.”