Virtual Reality, a Solution For America's Obesity Problem?

Let's be honest, our views on how much food we should consume are completely out of control. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 35.7 percent of U.S. adults are considered to be obese. While the trend shows that we continue to gain weight overall, there is good news coming out of the University of Missouri. Forget Weight Watchers and pills and create an athletic avatar instead.

According to Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, assistant professor of communication in MU’s College of Arts and Science, an "alter-ego can then have a positive influence on a person’s life" and "people seeking to lose weight could create fitter avatars to help visualize themselves as slimmer and healthier."

Behm-Morawitz said that she surveyed 279 users of Second Life and found that "self-presence, or the degree to which users experienced their avatars as an extension of themselves, [will] predict the influence of the avatar on people’s physical reality." A "strong self-presence" in a virtual community "promoted health and well-being of the participants themselves" and people generally felt that an attractive avatar online made them feel better offline as well. Needless to say, that self-presence also contributed to "greater satisfaction with online relationships".

The researcher believes that this circumstance could be used in treatments targeted at helping people to lose weight. The hope is that a a positive virtual image can create the desire to reflect that image in the real world. "This study found no evidence of negative effects of a high degree of self-presence in the virtual world on study participants; however, that doesn’t rule out the possibility," Behm-Morowitz stated. "Users should practice moderation. Virtual entertainment, like other forms of diversion such as books or television, can be used in unhealthy ways."

 

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  • How about a weight tax?
    26
  • While I agree that a high-degree of self presence in virtual worlds may lead to motivation for weight loss, attaining this high-degree of self presence requires one to invest a significant portion of time on these online activities, which is one of the leading causes of obesity in the first place.

    The most obvious discredit towards this research is that in every game, the characters you play as or design are already meant to be attractive and it has never, ever curbed obesity. These characters serve to get the player to play more, rather than less. If attractive characters encouraged people to get off the computer and go outside, developers would be making ugly characters instead.
    22
  • How about you let fatties be fat? Sure, they cost more in healthcare but they die sooner, they create revenue for businesses that sell food and they make the rest of us look better in comparison.
    21
  • Other Comments
  • How about a weight tax?
    26
  • How about you let fatties be fat? Sure, they cost more in healthcare but they die sooner, they create revenue for businesses that sell food and they make the rest of us look better in comparison.
    21
  • While I agree that a high-degree of self presence in virtual worlds may lead to motivation for weight loss, attaining this high-degree of self presence requires one to invest a significant portion of time on these online activities, which is one of the leading causes of obesity in the first place.

    The most obvious discredit towards this research is that in every game, the characters you play as or design are already meant to be attractive and it has never, ever curbed obesity. These characters serve to get the player to play more, rather than less. If attractive characters encouraged people to get off the computer and go outside, developers would be making ugly characters instead.
    22