Bioethics Blogs

The Harms of Believing in Exercise

Can beliefs make you fat?

The answer to this question might seem pretty obvious. If I believe that the best way to lose weight is to super-size five meals a day at McDonald’s, while consuming bags of Doritos to tide me over between meals, that belief is probably going to make me fat. If I believe that the best way to get in shape is to watch other people exercise, I’m probably never going to have a six pack abdomen.

But what if I believe that exercise is the key to losing weight? Research suggests that this belief might be bad for my health.

Let’s be clear – I like to exercise. Maybe even too much for my own good, if the amount of money I’ve spent on orthopedic surgery is any indication. But I like to exercise because it is fun to exercise and makes me feel better, not because it keeps me thin. Let’s also be clear that exercise helps people avoid becoming obese. One of the reasons I’m still under 160 pounds in my early 50s is because I exercise six or seven days a week. But regular exercise, alone, doesn’t guarantee a trim figure. I have plenty of friends who exercise quite a bit, and still have hefty frames. They are hefty because they still manage to consume more calories than they burn.

And that’s where belief about exercise can become dangerous. (To read the rest of this article, please visit Forbes.)

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.