About 69 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, and more than four in five people say they are worried about obesity as a public health problem.
But a recent poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health revealed a curious schism in our national attitudes toward obesity: Only one in five kids had a parent who feared the boy or girl would grow up to be overweight as an adult.
Put another way, assuming current trends persist, parents of 80 percent of American children think all these kids will somehow end up being among the lucky 31 percent of adults who are not overweight.
Tali Sharot is a neuroscientist at University College London who studies why large numbers of people — faced with a large number of different kinds of risks — believe they and their family members will dodge the odds.
Psychologists have noted the phenomenon in a number of domains that have nothing to do with health: Most people getting married believe they will stay married forever, for example, even though the divorce rate is around 50 percent.
More recent research by Sharot and others has found that we not only have rose-colored glasses about our future, and the future of our kids, but that we actually discount negative information.
In a series of brain experiments, Sharot has identified two areas in the frontal lobe — the left inferior frontal gyrus and the right inferior frontal gyrus — that appear to regulate how people process good and bad news. When she temporarily disables the normal functioning of the brain areas using a magnetic field, Sharot finds that the bias disappears. People stop being overly optimistic. They start to take risks seriously.
Now, this bias isn’t a brain defect. In fact, multiple studies have shown the optimism bias produces a variety of positive life outcomes. We do better in life when we expect to do well.
The trouble arises when it comes to major public health problems like childhood obesity.
Sharot suggests that these results have an implication for how public health concerns over obesity are communicated: “If the message is, ‘You know, there is a high likelihood of your kid being obese and that would lead to all these negative things,’ people will tend to shut down and say, ‘This is not related to me,’ ” she says.
You can read the whole article at NPR.org
The bad news is, I guess I’m the one with the brain defect; this describes many of my friends who like to tell me I worry too much. The good news is, none of them are obese, so at least that is one less thing for me to worry about.
Blackberry Walnut Salad with Lime Ginger Vinaigrette
2 limes, juice and zest from (aprox 1/2 cup juice and 2 teaspoons zest)
3 teaspoons finely chopped shallots
1 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoon agave or raw honey
Himalayan salt and pepper to taste
1. Whisk all ingredients together.
1 cup blackberries
4 cups lettuce
1/2 cup walnuts
1. Toss all ingredients together. Top with vinaigrette to taste.