It's The Holidays: Time To Talk About Obesity

Holiday weight gain may be mostly a myth, but holiday stories about weight gain are oh-so-real. Today, even a little excess weight will kill you, but you have your city planner to blame.

First the bad news: a recent study found that being just seven pounds overweight increased men's risk of heart failure — by about 11 percent over 20 years. Being obese increased the risk by about 180 percent. The silver lining: exercising just one to three times a month lowered the risk by 18 percent.

More silver lining, sorta: Jane Brody at the Times lists a bunch of diet books that she promises won't require you to starve yourself or adopt stupid gimmicks. Some sound okay: "The Volumetrics Eating Plan: Techniques and Recipes for Feeling Full on Fewer Calories" tells you to eat a bigger volume of foods that aren't calorie-dense, while "The Instinct Diet: Use Your Five Food Instincts to Lose Weight and Keep It Off" teaches that the eating impulses that helped us as cavemen don't work in the modern world. But then there's "The Beck Diet Solution" and "The Beck Diet Weight Loss Workbook," which purport to teach the overweight "to think like a thin person." Which is okay if that thin person is, say, Barack Obama — but not if it's Amy Winehouse.

Shockingly, being smart may not be what keeps thin people so svelte — they may have social advantages. A study of rural Americans revealed that "obese participants tended to have less education and lower annual incomes than normal weight respondents. They also were more likely to view their community as unpleasant for physical activity, such as lacking sidewalks for walking or biking or to have few places to be active." One of the study authors says that "a lot of travel planning focuses on how to increase the numbers of automobiles on our roadways, not on how to make travel friendly by foot or bicycle," and that we should think about preventing obesity when we're planning communities. ""Everyone will benefit," he writes, "if we make the healthy choice the easy choice."

Being just seven pounds overweight can raise the risk of heart failure [Daily Mail]
Weight-Loss Guides Without Gimmicks [NYT]
Eating At Buffets Plus Not Exercising Equals Obesity In Rural America [Science Daily]