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Hank the Tank

A picture of a huge black bear caught my eye in a newsfeed this week.  This big, beautiful animal has been dubbed “Hank the Tank”.  According to the report, Hank has been roaming around a gated community in Lake Tahoe, California eating from the trash and actively breaking into houses to get more human food.  

An average black bear in the wild in California who is eating grubs, berries, plants and the other usual food for this species, weighs around 190 pounds (according to wikipedia!).  After 7 months of rummaging for human food in Lake Tahoe, this bear is now estimated to weigh more than twice that at 500 pounds.  He has become significantly overweight because he has been eating what we humans regularly eat.  He is experiencing one aspect of living in our “obesogenic food environment”.

The term “obesogenic” refers to things that “promote excessive weight gain” or “produce obesity”.  An “obesogenic environment” includes our food system as well as our homes, schools, and workplaces.  I include the advertising and marketing of highly processed foods (the foods that got Hank the Tank up to 500 pounds), our culture of constantly snacking, frequently eating out, a sedentary lifestyle and screen time as heavy contributors to the obesogenic environment that our kids live in today.  This is part of the “nurture” aspect of the problem of obesity.

But the fact that we live in an obesogenic society does not have to mean that we are hopelessly doomed to suffer negative consequences from it, especially if we become aware of all of the things promoting obesity in our everyday lives.  My approach is to actively try and understand the big picture and then do what I can do, control what I can control.  Just because highly processed foods are easily available does not mean that I have to eat them or serve them to my child every day.  And when I do choose to eat or serve them, I fully understand and accept the metabolic and hormonal consequences of doing so.  Just because I have a sedentary job does not mean that I have to live a sedentary life.  I can choose to get some exercise on purpose.  

I love using the phrase, “I’m choosing to” because it means that I have given whatever follows those words some thought in advance.  I’m choosing to do whatever it is on purpose and I accept full responsibility for the results, both wanted and undesired.  Unfortunately for Hank the Tank, his prefrontal cortex likely doesn’t offer him the ability to think and live on purpose like our human brain with a prefrontal cortex does.  Hank is likely driven by his primitive brain that is mainly wired for survival.  Luckily, we humans can get skilled at understanding our human brains (both our primitive and prefrontal brains) and learn to leverage our brains to our own advantage.  

If you are interested in working with me to change the trajectory of your child's life, 

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