Apr 242013

This Freakonomics Radio podcast: Steve Levitt runs a consulting firm called The Greatest Good. It is occasionally hired by a philanthropist or foundation to look into societal problems. That’s what happened recently, when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked The Greatest Good to put together a brainstorming session on childhood obesity. Stephen Dubner moderated the event. In this podcast, you get to be a fly on the wall as a dozen participants explore the biological, behavioral, political and economic angles of obesity.


DUBNER: Steve Levitt is my Freakonomics friend and coauthor. He stands about 5-foot-11 and weighs 160 pounds. So he does not have a weight problem. But he has been thinking about our collective weight problem—but not thinking about it in a way that most people think about it. In fact, not even close.

LEVITT: What we’ve learned over time, which is one of the most surprising things about obesity, is that the body has a very strong homeostasis device, which makes it both hard to gain weight and hard to lose weight. So, the calculation I did was a simple one. I eat probably 2,800 calories a day, and I like eating. So let’s just say I decided I wanted to go up to 3,300 calories a day, an extra 500 calories a day, and I wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Now you might think, well if you did that, that I would, my weight would essentially go to infinity, that that extra 500 calories would pile up and pile up and pile up. And the rough rule of thumb people use is that every maybe 3,500 calories turns into a pound. And so you would think my god you’re going to gain a pound a week for the rest of your life. It turns out I wouldn’t. Because of the way the body works, I would only gain 40 pounds.


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Source: Freakonomics

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