It's Rarely a Lack of Information

Thursday, February 24, 2011 - 21:05

Depending on what fact source you believe, somewhere between 60 million (U.S. Obesity Trends - CDC) and 400 trillion Americans (ok, I made that one up) are obese. To combat this alleged problem (alleged only because I believe it's not the root cause and thus the real issue lies elsewhere), there is an entire industry of products, bills, books, etc to get people back to a 'normal' body mass index.

If we were only able to connect these 2 points (lots of obese people + lots of solutions for said obesity), they should annihilate each other much like a particle and an anti-particle combine to form pure energy. And yet we don't have such a scenario. In fact, the opposite appears true. Obesity levels are rising and more products continue to be produced/pitched to counter this rise. One could argue it's the result of too much information and or even disinformation (information that when followed makes things worse!). While both are possibilities, I would think some form of product darwinism would take place in the free market. The ones that truly worked would rise to the top while ineffective or scam products would quickly fall away.

What's the more likely scenario? First — one of my favorite quotes on the web (source http://www.43folders.com/2008/12/03/real-advice-hurts).

Somewhere, a sad, obese man in pristine ASICS scarfs cookie dough over an unopened Runner's World complaining that he needs more "tips."

My point is not to be inflammatory here. The point is that the information is all around us and even things that are deemed "ineffective" or "inefficient" could work for the person with the passion and discipline to carry it through. More bluntly, a person buying a premium gym membership and paying monthly for a personal trainer might have a better chance of losing the weight than a stay at home mom with limited funds... but not if the gym membership goes unused. And the stay at home mom (if creative and driven) could do things like use household objects for free weights or do some sprints up a nearby hill while the baby is sleeping.

So what's the cause?

Without going into deep psychology (my daddy didn't love me) or obvious cop outs we/I use (I don't have the time), a few of the more likely suspects are:

  • Lack of priorities
  • Lack of discipline
  • Lack of motivation
  • Emotional or Mental Block

To back this up, I'm reminded of several passages from the Effortless Success Program with Paul Scheele and Jack Canfield. They were going over a research study that found that for the average adult, it takes over 50 attempts at learning a new skill before one can truly decide if they can master it versus something they simply cannot do. However the average person will give up well before the 10th attempt. They then combined this with another study by NASA in the famous experiment of wearing glasses that inverted their vision. The punchline there was that it took a minimum of 25 consecutive days to truly ingrain and embody a new habit.

These are 2 very important pieces to the puzzle. One one hand, it takes approximately 30 days and 50 attempts to truly get something under our belt. On the other hand we typically give up after a few days and a half dozen attempts.

Discipline requires both prioritization and motivation to truly work long term. But what inhibits this? I feel it's likely due to emotional and/or metal blocks. But that's a posting for another day.

One caveat: There are clearly situations where their truly is a lack of good information. Autism is perfect example. There are many concerned parents who do have the discipline to see things through that have (or in the near future have) an autistic child. If better information existed as to the true cause of this condition, there would certainly be a lower rate of this across the country as people would change habits and environments to combat it. But just like obesity, would people have the wherewithal to do it right if the barrier to completion was difficult? My hope is yes...  but we still have obesity to make us think twice.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.