Technology and the Conundrum of “Time”

Given all of the technology, the more time we should have…right? Are we spending the time gained by technology improving our fitness level, or are we spending it watching more television or consuming social media?

With all of the gains in technology to free up our time, many spend less time dedicated to leisure activities. More time is spent watching television and just sitting around in general.1 In fact, we seemingly have become even more sedentary given all of the existing delivery services for food that we don’t even have to leave our homes to shop for food. We can purchase nearly anything online and have it delivered the same day, or at least within a few days. Household chores used to count for 20.1% to 33.3% of TDEE (total daily energy expenditure), but we have the rumba for that now.1 While it appears that technology has made life convenient, it has not done us any favors in terms of weight control. Perhaps we just need to take advantage of the extra time it actually has afforded us.

The Joint Responsibility
Increased energy intake and decreased physical activity share a joint responsibility in the increasing rates of obesity.1 However, while both are important and work in tandem, one’s diet has more to do with obesity than does energy expenditure. While inconsistent, the data does show that the trend has moved upward with average food intake increasing between 1971 to 2000, even though many of the surveys were based on memory recall.1 In particular, overweight and obese individuals under-report energy intake, even if they didn’t intend to.1

Many folks simply don’t understand what a calorie is, nor do they understand its value, or how over-consumption can lead to weight gain. Nutrition labels are often not well-understood and are often even misleading. Labels contain all sorts of health and nutrition claims to create the perception of health, which can also lead to increased consumption of those items.2

“If it’s healthy, it’s okay to eat more!”
The creation of reduced-fat and fat-free foods may have inadvertently sent the message to many consumers that “if it’s healthy, it’s okay to eat more!”3 As a society, we are still drawn to highly palatable foods, which are typically calorie dense, paving a direct route for over-consumption and leading to being overweight and obese. Not only that, but in general, food is abundant with a mini-mart on nearly every corner in urban areas, filled with candy, chips, and snacks of all varieties begging for attention. For those that frequent the 7-11 and the Burger King restaurants, they are likely tempted by the idea of super-sizing nearly every part of their purchase. We have no shortage of social cues to eat at every business meeting and social gathering. We are cued by billboards, large flashing signs, print media and television commercials to enjoy food no matter the time of day. All of these food cues have found a way to drive food consumption that seems to tap into the emotion, enjoyment and palatability associated with food.

Both dietary habits and physical activity count
Physical activity is important, even the day-to-day activities that many have found replacements for, such as the rumba. However, what comprises the diet is highly important given that most folks don’t count calories nor do they often understand their value. Folks generally eat what they like and inadvertently consume more energy than what they are using on a daily basis. Living in areas with seemingly irresistible food cues on every block can contribute to the rising rates of obesity. But shouldn’t we all take responsibility for our food choices, you ask? Yes, we should – and we are.

Yes, and the awareness beings here. It can start right now. Get curious.

1. Crawford D, Jeffery RW, Ball K, Brug J. Obesity Epidemiology: From Aetiology to Public Health. 2nd ed. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press; 2010.
2. Mahan K, Escott-Stump S, Raymond J. Krause’s Food & Nutrition Care Process. 13th ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier/Saunders; 2012.
3. Provencher V, Polivy J, Herman C. Perceived healthiness of food. If it’s healthy, you can eat more!
Appetite. 2009;52(2):340-4. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2008.11.005.