Friday, October 3, 2008

Friday Rant - Technology and Obesity

So there are lots of different factors contributing to the recent rise in obesity. I'm not going to talk about genes, or about the prevalence of fast food (and the prospective banning of it). I'm not even going to talk about how all the yummiest food seems to be bad for you, the whole problematic calories in vs calories out debate.

No, today's rant is about technology. And don't get me wrong, I love technology. I'm technologized to the hilt. I have a big flat panel tv that I can hook my computer into for a larger monitor. I have a laptop on wireless in a tiny apartment. I have a cell phone which opens normally, then you turn it sideways and it opens into a full QWERTY keyboard. I have a car, though I live in the city and within walking distance of the subway and the bus (though I don't use my car often, only fill the tank about once a month). Long story short, I live a connected life. And I love the fact that I can sit down and google to find out what B-list actor starred in Gotcha (Anthony Edwards) or what exactly a caper is (the pickled bud of the caper shrub).

The problem comes when people use technology to be lazy. They drive to the gym (in some places, St Louis for instance, you really do have to drive there because there's no public transport), but when they get there, they park illegally in the lot right by the front doors because they can't walk an extra TWO minutes to get to the gym. TO EXERCISE. Um....

An interesting take on it is in this post on the Freakonomics blog. Basically, it's the accessibility of the outhouse. Way back when, people had to walk back and forth to the outhouse, which added more activity to their day. But apart from that, imagine it's the middle of a New England winter and it's a blizzard outside, or it's the last (crazy blowing) remanants of a hurricane outside. Do you want to trudge outside to the outhouse? I certainly don't. So you would perhaps eat a bit less, and certainly drink a bit less, and therefore end up consuming fewer calories.

Seems a little out there as a theory, but when you think about it...if you're concerned about how much output you're going to have, or how much trash you'll have to take to the town dump, then you're probably likely to take steps to consume less. I know, for instance, that when I was in Egypt I was always very concerned about water consumption. I didn't want to get dehydrated, certainly not, but I definitely didn't want to get stuck having to pee over a fly-infested hole in the ground (I attempted that once and quickly decided I didn't have to go that badly). But with clean, close-at-hand toilets everywhere? No worries, go ahead and have three large cups of coffee with plenty of milk and sugar, go for it!

My random list of technologies that make our life easier, and promote our laziness:

1. Remote control: my absolute favorite. I'm a total tv addict. And if I had to get up every 10-15 minutes to fast forward through the commercials on my DVR, it would annoy me to no end. But you remember back in the day when remotes weren't as prevalent (ok, so I don't really remember, but I remember when the remote was broken...)? You had to get up every time you wanted to change the channel, so sometimes you ended up watching something not quite as interesting (but potentially more edifying). And there wasn't as much tv ADD.

2. Food processor: again, one of my favorites. You chop something into medium chunks, dump it in, and it's all chopped up in less than a minute. Sweet! Before I had the food processor, I'd spend literally 30 minutes chopping up some carrots, or onions, or what have you. So the food processor is a time saver, but it also means less time standing, less time chopping. I made pesto last year and didn't have a food processor. So I chopped all the basil, garlic, and pine nuts by hand. And it seriously sucked. My shoulder and arm were very sore the next day. But hey, I was working!

3. Cell phone: honestly, I can't really imagine life without a cell phone now. I mean, I can, obviously, since I'm old enough to have been a teenager before cell phones were common. But I don't have a home phone, just my cell. When I was growing up, I didn't have a phone in my room. Whenever I'd hear the phone ring, I'd have to race at breakneck speed into my parent's room, or into the kitchen, to pick up the ringer before it went to the answering machine. And yeah, it was kind of a pain in the ass. But it got me moving, got me running around. Now, all I have to do is frantically search through my bag in search of the phantom Dropkick Murphys tone which I can hear ringing but has seemed to have disappeared somewhere in the depths.

4. Video games: I don't think these are the evil that lots of people have made them out to be. I think that they do promote analytical thinking, hand and eye coordination, and such. And my teen years were spent on a Gameboy playing Tetris, or the computer playing Doom or Heretic. That said, I think that kids nowadays are so much more likely to be sitting at home, alone, playing video games, rather than going outside and playing a pick-up game of whiffle ball, or riding their bikes, or climbing trees, or just running around and making trouble.

5. Alarm clock: there's no way I could get by without my trusty cell phone alarm. But here's the thing...because of all the technology (electricity, television, computers) that let us stay up super-late, we need the alarm clocks to wake our groggy selves up in the morning. Way back when, people went to sleep when the sun went down, and the woke up when the sun came up. Now, that might make work a bit....interesting. In the winter, you get to leave at noon, asleep by 5, then awake at 7:30 to be at work by 9? Ok, so that's not going to work. But the thing is...our bodies respond to the sunlight. It sucks to wake up before the sun in winter, doesn't it? And if you acclimate your body to sleep when it's sunny, or not sleep when it's dark, then it throws off all the circadian rhythms. And when we're tired, we don't feel like exercising, and it's hard to find the motivation when you have to keep your eyes open with toothpicks.

Ok, so that's my list for now. You guys got anything else?

There are so many ways where technology helps us get active too (music, exercise equipment, MBT sneakers), so let's not forget those! Maybe I'll put another post up on that at some point.


The Dieting Ninja said...

*laughs* Have you seen Wall-E?

Nuff said.

Then again, when am I ever done talking? NEVER, I say!

I think air conditioning's a big one. Bear with me here.

Back in the day, it sucked just as much to be INSIDE as it did OUTSIDE (sometimes worse) - especially during the summer months. Without the AC, the best you could do was open some windows and maybe set out a fan. Might as well be outside, right?

Now, however, it''s HOT out there? Jeez, why go outside, I'll ruin this shirt?

I'd much rather stay indoors and play video games. =]

(also, whee, capers! that was for me!)

Lethological Gourmet said...

That's a good one! My condo generally gets really hot in summer (hotter than outside) and really cold in winter (ok, not colder than outside). And if it's really hot outside, I have no problem whatsoever sitting on my butt all day in the nice AC :)

Maybe if people spent more time sweating because of heat, it wouldn't be such a big deal to sweat because of exercise?

MizFit said...

amen on the wall-e.

so funny so sadly true.

hmmm....for me it is 100% the car.
lived without one for 6 months are was far more healthy fit and CALM.

Romny said...

The microwave! I had one, gave it away and didn't get another one for several years. Didn't miss it one bit. When I moved there was a built in one that came with the stove but I rarely use it. In fact, if I could afford to re-model my kitchen I'd take it out. Do you think I could get a $70,000,000 loan? LOL

WeightingGame said...

what about the car? If we had to walk or bike everywhere, we'd all be skinny minnies. Everytime I visit NY and walk all over I think "If I lived here, I wouldn't even need a gym!"