A new study came out recently which proclaimed that junk food doesn’t make you fatter; or rather, access to junk food doesn’t make you gain weight. Its methodology was suspect; it found highway intersections with a lot of fast food, and then looked at obesity patterns (using BMI) for people who lived different distances from the food. On the one hand, that makes sense; since a Chipotle opened up near my house, I eat there a lot more. But on the other hand, I don’t think living five miles from Chili’s as opposed to one mile really stops anyone from going there who wants an Awesome Blossom. It will take a lot more than this to convince me that a person with a limited budget who lives or works near junk food will not suffer consequences from eating it too much, no matter how much they tend to adjust their other eating habits. Remember that sedentary lifestyles are encouraged by the frequent crashes and burns of a high-fat, high-sodium and high-sugar diet.
I thought Megan McArdle’s comments on appetite, in response to this study, were very interesting:
Appetite is an evolutionarily wired signal on par with pain; urging obese people to just eat less is like urging someone to tough out root canal surgery without anaesthesia. Every day. Peoples’ calorie consumption is dictated by their appetite. Which makes sense, if you think about it; it only takes a swing of ten calories a day (about five tic-tacs) to gain or lose a pound over the course of a year. If our appetites weren’t doing a surprisingly good job of regulating our weight, we’d all be bone thin or morbidly obese.
Which I think is less of an argument that you’re destined to be one weight or another, but rather that your body doesn’t need that much help to get you to a healthy weight if you can cut out the trips to McDonald’s and resist buying Spicy Sweet Doritos for the cupboard. You probably won’t need to do much else.