Beyond willpower: Three TEDMED talks on how to fight obesity

What’s the best way to combat our national obesity epidemic?

To preview the issues behind our live online Great Challenges conversation about obesity this Thursday at 1 PM EST, we’ve collated three recent talks on the topic, a running theme of which is: It is immensely difficult for any single person to tackle the health issue of obesity alone.

How can America lose weight?
The CEO of Weight Watchers, David Kirchhoff, says America’s obesity crisis isn’t about people eating too much; it’s about our “obesogenic” environment. Beating it will involve lots of collective willpower.

Why can’t America “weight” any longer?
John Hoffman, vice president of HBO documentary films, and Judith Salerno, executive officer of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, talk about the HBO documentary The Weight of the Nation, why obesity is indeed a health crisis, and why it demands action on a national scale.

If we can’t cure the patient, can the community do it?
Mark Hyman, MD, best-selling author and chairman of the Institute of Functional Medicine, relates a story of how a stringy chicken in Haiti led to a revelation about using social networks to combat chronic health issues, one community at a time.

Great Challenges live online event Thursday: Can we manage our obesity crisis?


This week’s Great Challenge conversation: Can we manage our obesity crisis?

Join the Challenge Team at 1 PM EST on Thursday, December 6 to watch a Google+ Hangout, share your thoughts with other viewers, and ask questions of Team members that they’ll answer in real time.

They are:


James Zervios – Director of Communications, Obesity Action Coalition


John M. Auerbach – Director of the Institute on Urban Health Research and Distinguished Professor of Practice at the Bouve College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University


Christine Ferguson – Strategic Initiatives Advisor, STOP Obesity Alliance; Professor, The GWU School of Public Health and Health Services


Rebecca Puhl – Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University


Maya Rockeymoore PhD – President and CEO, Global Policy Solutions


Dan Callahan – Senior Research Scholar and President Emeritus, Hastings Center


Scott Kahan, MD, MPH – Director, STOP Obesity Alliance


To get started, follow the TEDMED Google+ Page or @TEDMED #greatchallenges on Twitter.

What’s really causing our obesity epidemic?

What are the top 10 contributing factors to our nation’s struggle with obesity?

TEDMED’s Great ChallengesTeam Leaders, who address the problem every day from their top posts in advocacy, academia and public health, had varied perspectives on what’s causing this vast, relatively recent, and growing health threat.

A big part of the issue is that we oversimplify the problem, says Joe Nadglowski,  President of the Obesity Action Coalition. Gaining or losing weight is not just a matter of calories in, calories out, he says, but a matter of what does get consumed, and when.

Professor Christine Ferguson of the School of Public Health and Health Services at George Washington University, pointed out that interventions for children’s health may be the most effective way to stem the tide of obesity, and that working at less than peak health impacts our workforce and hence, our economy.

Dan Callahan of the Hastings Center pointed out industry influence as a factor, including resistance to resistance to regulation and taxation of unhealthy food and beverages, and large restaurant and sugared beverage portions.

Maya Rockeymoore, President and CEO of Global Policy Solutions, singled out portion sizes and the easy access to high-fat and sugary foods as causes, while adding that for many neighborhoods, access to healthy food was also a major barrier.

And Rebecca Puhl, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University, added agricultural policy, commodities pricing and the built environment to her broad-view perspective on the issues.

Click here see their full responses and comments from the rest of the team members on the Great Challenge of obesity.