Amidst a spate of new US government publications on healthy eating and exercise, a number of people (myself included) have become increasingly obsessed with whether they’re getting adequate nutrition and activity.

But what’s strange, I think, is that we’re buffeted by countervailing forces that tug at our behavior, and ultimately at our waistlines. We’re ever-better informed about the consequences of inactivity and poor diet; and yet it seems we’re ever-more susceptible to them. Consider both of these items (a few weeks old) that appeared this March:

  • The New England Journal of Medicine published an alarming report that obesity—especially among children and teens—may soon reach such epidemic proportions that it will actually begin to reduce Americans’ average life expectancy. (I believe this would be the first time to happen in at least 80 years.)
  • Burger King unveiled a new breakfast sandwich dripping with a whopping 730 calories and 47 grams of fat. (For context, a person must run for 5 to 6 miles to burn that many calories.)

Good information may not necessarily be an antidote to the array of unhealthy choices facing us, but it can help, I think. (Check out this handy calculator produced the US Department of Agriculture—you can ascertain your body mass index and appropriate caloric intake given your physical activity.) Information can be a powerful motivator. In fact, it just motivated me to choose a different commuting mode this evening: walking.

UPDATE: The US Food and Drug Administration recommends a maximum daily allowance of 65 grams of fat. All by itself, that Burger King breakfast sandwich accounts for 72 percent of our daily maximum.

UPDATE II: Okay, this one takes the cake. Late last year, the fast food outlet Hardee’s started selling their "Monster Thickburger," which has 1,420 calories and 107 grams of fat (not counting the fries or drink). For reference, to burn off the Monster Thickburger’s calories you would have to run nearly a half-marathon. And, in a single burger, you would have consumed the daily maximum fat intake for 1 and 2/3 days. (Luckily for northwesterners, Hardees is mainly located in the south and midwest. It doesn’t have any locations (yet) in the Northwest, apart from a handful in western Montana.)