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Thinking in Circles About Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management Paperback – November 5, 2009
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From the reviews: "Systems thinking is a perspective and a set of conceptual tools that enable us to understand the structure and predict the behavior of complex systems. While already commonplace in engineering and in business, the use of systems thinking impersonal health is less widely adopted. Yet health is precisely the setting where dynamic complexity is most problematic and where the stakes are highest. Thinking in Circles about Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management, aims to fill this gap. The book applies systems thinking to personal health in a form that’s accessible to the general reader with the hope that it would have a profound influence on how ordinary people think about and manage their health and well being." BehavioralHealthCentral.com, December 30, 2009 “Commonplace in engineering and in business, the use of systems thinking in personal health is less widely adopted. … health is precisely the setting where dynamic complexity is most problematic and where the stakes are highest. Thinking in Circles About Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management … aims to fill this gap. The book applies systems thinking to personal health in a form that’s accessible to the general reader … .” (The Systems Thinker, Vol. 20 (10), December/2009 - January/2010) “‘Thinking in Circles About Obesity’ and is by Tarek K. A. Hamid … . I first saw the book reviewed while doing a Google Fast Flip search for ‘obesity’ and was intrigued by it. … I have a copy and read … I’m really excited by it. It’s well-researched (with about 300+ endnotes and index), written for the lay person, and explains very well both how complex weight loss is and how we can better think about it.” (Stephen Colbert, Weight Watchers, May, 2009)
From the Back Cover
Thinking in Circles about Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management
Tarek K.A. Hamid, Operational and Information Sciences, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California
Low-carb…low-fat…high-protein…high-fiber…Americans are food-savvy, label-conscious, calorie-aware―and still gaining weight in spite of all their good intentions. Worse still, today’s children run the risk of a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
Thinking in Circles About Obesity brings a healthy portion of critical thinking, spiced with on-target humor and lively graphics, to the obesity debate. Systems and medical physiology scholar Tarek Hamid unites systems (non-linear) thinking and information technology to provide powerful insights and practical strategies for managing our weight and our health. Hamid’s clear insights dispel dieters’ unrealistic expectations and illuminate dead-end behaviors to tap into a deeper understanding of how the body works, why it works that way, and how to better manage it. Included are innovative tools for:
• Understanding why diets almost always fall short of our expectations.
• Assessing weight gain, loss, and goals with greater accuracy.
• Abandoning one-size-fits-all solutions in lieu of personal solutions that do fit.
• Replacing outmoded linear thinking with feedback systems thinking.
• Getting the most health benefits from information technology.
•Making behavior and physiology work in sync instead of in opposition.
Given the current level of the weight crisis, the ideas in Thinking in Circles About Obesity have much to offer clinical and health psychologists, primary care physicians, public health professionals, parents, and lay readers. For those struggling with excess weight, this book charts a new path in health decision making, to see beyond calorie charts, body mass indexes, and silver bullets.
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was a review of concepts I have learned and to that extent my reading this book
has the author `preaching to the choir'.
That said; everyone can benefit from reading this book
to get perspective in terms of realistic expectations
for preventing obesity in the future.
The Systems Thinking perspective is needed in order to make people keenly aware of the
long delays involved between actions and outcomes/risks with respect to obesity.
A heightened awareness and perspective on prevention are the takeaways from this book
in terms of individual responsibility that acknowledges the pressures to overeat
that exist in this day & age in our society.
This book does an excellent job illustrating how to communicate that awareness in a way
that leads to changed behavior and healthier living.
As Dr. Hamid argues, first and foremost, parents need to understand that a major driver of the obesity epidemic--for both children and adults--is the mistaken belief that it is O.K. (normal?) to defer to the body's wisdom and to "cruise" on automatic feeding control. That is, to regulate feeding behavior in accordance with our body's hard-wired biological drives--which drive us to eat to our physiological limits when food is readily available and selectively focusing on foods high in energy density.
To maintain a healthy body weight, our children thus need to learn to replace the passive model of involuntary (automatic) feeding regulation and assert cognitive control to proactively resist the obesifying aspects of the current environment. (In some oriental cultures, for example, children are taught "not to eat until hungry, and when eating to stop before feeling full.") And here's the really hard part: not for a week, or a month, but for a lifetime.
Many parents, for example, assume that children are fundamentally incapable of regulating their food intake--determining what, when, and how much to eat. Thus, to en sure adequate, well-balanced food intake, we see many parents, rather than empower their children with cognitive skills to make their own healthy nutrition choices, simply take-over the decision-making responsibility on their kids' behalf. They do this instinctively and, of course, with the best intentions--because they believe they can do it better or more easily; or because they do not want to saddle their children with the onerous respon sibilities that personal control entails. It is a common pitfall that many parents fall into--and a risky one.
Obviously, parents need to exert some control over their children's dietary options--ensuring, for example, that a variety of rea sonably healthful foods and snacks are readily available on the kitchen's shelves. If the house is stocked with cookies, cakes, candies, chips, sodas and ice cream, naturally that's what children will want to eat. But if parents go too far in tightly controlling the what, when, and how much of feeding, they risk seriously impeding their children's abilities to build self-regulatory competence and thereby promote the very problems they are attempting to avoid--overeating and weight gain.
It is a comprehensive, well-researched, and fun to read book that enhances our understanding of how our body regulates energy, and the many (reciprocal) interactions between our health and our environment.