Thursday, March 4, 2010

The "One Cookie" Debate

The NYT Well blog this week features an interesting article debating whether cutting one cookie or a can of soda a day from your diet is enough to make any significant impact on weight loss. Or taken writ large that question could be posed: Can small changes in behavior be enough to make a dent in the obesity epidemic in America? The 385 + comments that trail from the blog post, while not in unison, pose an important challenge to the author: if we don't have the "small changes" to make, what do we have? Some people report how several small changes, taken together, start to amount to broad changes toward healthier lifestyles. Others seem to suggest that a commitment to a better diet or improved activity has to start somewhere. Only a few seemed willing to throw up their hands and give up.

Another issue is that we are actually not talking about ONE cookie; we are talking about many cookies and extra snacks a day. (See Parker-Pope's blog the every next day: Generation Snack.) And sometimes it's the GIANT cookies or muffins or bagels you find at the local bakery, which are many times the calories of a lowly normal cookie. The habits of having a cookie a day or a soda a day are not learned overnight, and may take some doing to unlearn. Again, acknowledging the problem and starting "somewhere," is an important step.

Sometimes dramatic change in lifestyle or diet is needed. Often a surprising lab result from a doctor's visit or a loved one's illness can prompt one to review diet and activity levels. But what's the best way to make life-long behavior changes? Single drastic changes, such as adopting "the all fruit diet," "the all carb diet," or whatever fad diet is in the spotlight, are doomed to be short-lived. On the other hand, focusing on the "small stuff" can actually mean making mindful changes in eating or exercising habits. This represents a constant, on-going process of decision-making that can result in more profound changes. It is not an overnight fix, mandated and scripted by someone else. It is taking responsibility for ones' self and making manageble changes that will improve your health, both now and long term.

In Obesity Epidemic, What's One Cookie? Tara Parker-Pope, Well Blog, NYT, 3.1.10
U.S. Children: Generation Snack, Tara Parker-Pope, Well Blog, NYT, 3.2.10

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for highlighting this issue. I think the small steps are empowering in and of themselves in profound ways. If I can successfully and fairly painlessly reduce intake by one cookie and change my pattern of behavior, perhaps I can switch successfully from cookie to apple for one snack... etc. Not impossible goals, not huge immediate results but clearly a net gain in attitude and responsibility for personal choices.


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