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The Internet is making me FAT!

Jeremy Hendon | March 1

fire-hydrantThere’s a term that I like to use called "Information Obesity".  It’s pretty apt, because one of the first things when a person gets physically obese is that they lose a lot of energy.  They’re often tired all the time and can’t motivate themselves to do much – it’s a natural, physiological reaction.

Amazingly, the same thing happens to a lot of people when they get too much information.  Instead of taking action based on the information they have, they lose the energy to do anything and end up taking no action.  Personally, this is a constant struggle for me.

There’s no denying that the internet has contributed at least somewhat to our increasingly sedentary nature and therefore our likelihood of getting and staying fat. But that’s not the real issue here…

The real problem with the internet when it comes to health is that you can read and learn endlessly about every minute detail of diet, exercise, and other aspects of health. 

Want to read about the latest research into enhancing your mitochondrial activity?  PubMed.com to the rescue.

Wondering exactly how many sets and reps of reverse barbell curls you need to do?  Bodybuilding.com has you covered.

There is a website or forum discussing pretty much every aspect of nutrition and fitness, and it’s killing us.  Here’s how:

Information Overload:

In psychology, there is a phenomenon known as the paradox of choice.  In its simplest form, it’s the notion that the more choices we have available to us, the less likely we are to take ANY of them (note that I didn’t say "take ANY ONE of them").  In other words, excess choice leads to an increased likelihood of inaction. 

Think about the last time (maybe even today) that you had an overwhelming amount of things to do, either at home or at work.  Though you may have eventually started and gotten some things done, your initial tendency or reaction was probably to sit there dumbfounded, not knowing where to start.  THAT WAS THE FIRST 3 HOURS OF MY DAY TODAY – which sounds worse now that I’ve written it.

There is a famous ancient parable whereby a donkey is unable to choose between 2 bales of hay that are equidistant from it, and so the donkey eventually dies.  I don’t believe a donkey has actually ever died this way, but the lesson is the same: even when it come to food – the most basic of necessities for survival – too much choice can be detrimental.  (For what it’s worth, the parable is known as "Buridan’s Ass", and the story was actually about a human first, then got changed over time to a dog and then a donkey).

Health Overload:

Let’s be clear – good health decisions are not something that any of us are particularly excited about when we wake up in the morning.  Will I ever be more excited about a couple hard-boiled eggs than I would be about a donut?  I doubt it.

Eating healthily and getting enough exercise are already tough decisions, and having too many choices and too much information is going to make a tough decision nearly impossible.

What to do?

In the all too clich├ęd words of Richard Carlson, DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. 

Get back to basics.  If you want to lose weight, (i) make sure you have a sustainable system, (ii) make sure you’re taking in the right amount of calories, and (iii) make sure you’re taking in enough protein.  If you want to put on muscle, (i) make sure you’re lifting heavy, (ii) make sure you’re getting sufficient rest, and (iii) make sure you’re eating enough. 

It’s really that simple.  I see tons of people trying to achieve a relatively common health goal, and they’ll tell me how they just can’t do it.  They’ll tell me that "it must be their genetics or something."  But when I ask them questions about certain important fundamentals, they’ll sidestep the question, give me some excuse, or generally tell me about some random tip they read on the internet that they’re trying.  

(Photo courtesy of Will Lion)