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

By - Source: UM | B 41 comments
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Could an attractive avatar convince you to moderate your eating style?

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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  • 26 Hide
    weierstrass , November 12, 2012 12:22 AM
    How about a weight tax?
  • 22 Hide
    Chairman Ray , November 12, 2012 12:30 AM
    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.
  • 21 Hide
    killerclick , November 12, 2012 12:29 AM
    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.
Other Comments
  • 26 Hide
    weierstrass , November 12, 2012 12:22 AM
    How about a weight tax?
  • 21 Hide
    killerclick , November 12, 2012 12:29 AM
    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.
  • 22 Hide
    Chairman Ray , November 12, 2012 12:30 AM
    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.
  • 7 Hide
    killerclick , November 12, 2012 12:35 AM
    Also, lack of activity isn't the main cause of obesity. It's overeating, it's the food. The way fatties eat, they'd have to swim 6 hours a day like Michael Phelps to create a calorie deficit. And that would just make them more hungry, so it's a vicious cycle.
  • 11 Hide
    A Bad Day , November 12, 2012 12:40 AM
    killerclickHow 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.


    Because sick people makes unproductive people, and unproductive people makes an unhealthy society.

    See the Roman Empire as an example.

    (Hint: It had no middle class. Much of the working people weren't working because slaves had occupied most of the jobs, and had to be fed and entertained so they wouldn't riot. It wasn't a problem until there were no more places worth plundering, then you had expenses exceeding revenue.)
  • 3 Hide
    chumly , November 12, 2012 12:41 AM
    14/f/cali.jpg
  • 1 Hide
    joytech22 , November 12, 2012 12:48 AM
    What they SHOULD do is create a VR headset and body suit and create a game similar to GMOD (Or use GMOD). Then through this suit the user should be able to play around with spawned objects like bouncy balls and play sports through the game.

    They not only would have fun in this virtual world, but they could also do some real working out (As in, they could run around) and they'd be able to have fun while doing it.

    Although.. I'm not sure how it would be more fun than doing the real thing unless they are playing over the net or something.
  • 16 Hide
    Shin-san , November 12, 2012 12:48 AM
    People still play Second Life?
  • 3 Hide
    killerclick , November 12, 2012 12:51 AM
    A Bad DayBecause sick people makes unproductive people


    Fatties are not unproductive, maybe they're less productive than they would be if they were slimmer, but that's their business. People have no obligation to fulfill their potential. If you want to make fat people lose weight so they would be more productive, what would you do about lazy or unambitious people?

    Besides, how productive is someone who spends 8 hours a day being miserable thinking about food they can't eat?
  • -1 Hide
    southernshark , November 12, 2012 1:01 AM
    Taxing unproductive people might be a good idea, however since the Democrats are the ones who usually go for taxes, we may rest assured that "their people" will never go for that.
  • 4 Hide
    amuffin , November 12, 2012 1:07 AM
    Too much time thinking about food, not enough time doing work!
  • 7 Hide
    Anonymous , November 12, 2012 1:10 AM
    Yes I want to look like my Dragonborn in Skyrim. Need those ripped abs and shouting at everyone :p 
  • 3 Hide
    the1kingbob , November 12, 2012 1:35 AM
    This is partly true. If people were not so fat, the nation as a whole wouldn't be spending so much money on food and health related problems to being fat. They would though, be spending money on activity based consumer products. This overlooks the drastic savings to businesses that provide healthcare coverage. We already see a shift, companies realize that it is economically beneficial to pay employees to work out to get long term savings and discounts from insurance companies.

    I agree with your second comment, diet is 80% of weight control. You can run for an hour on a treadmill, but it is going to help much if you eat a few donuts for breakfast. The problem is what we eat, but more importantly how much we eat.
  • 2 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , November 12, 2012 1:36 AM
    Oh yeah, and skinny people look healthy. Lets all look like LeAnn Rhimes.

    /sarcasm
  • 15 Hide
    mrmez , November 12, 2012 1:46 AM
    I've tried everything to lose weight.
    Everything but exercise and eating healthy.
  • 5 Hide
    bllue , November 12, 2012 1:50 AM
    Cut the snacking
  • 4 Hide
    memadmax , November 12, 2012 2:11 AM
    There is also the job aspect. Alot of american jobs are now barely active, from a physical aspect. You sit behind a desk or counter all day, hardly doing anything physical.
  • -1 Hide
    f-14 , November 12, 2012 2:36 AM
    lostmyclanIam Fat I have a died of 1500 Kcal per day. =) Still fat 110kg. I don´t walk too much. Never run. but I play some games. 6 hours per day.And Iam still fat. How much the people can eat doesnt matters. When aim im army loose about 1kg for week. Eating like a pig more than 3000 Kcal per day.Exercise make you slim. Sitting all day make you fat. Doesnt matter if your pic is fat our slim

    +1

    the only times i have lost weight are when i had the flu for a week straight i lost 10#'s or when i am not sitting on my duff and busting my arse off physically

    thanks to the cloud i am going to be able to sit on my duff more and not have to get out of my chair and eat more twinkies and hoho's and drink more colas and energy drinks.!

    i find it very hard to exercise with day light savings time as the only time the sun is up for 6+ months of the year is during working hours just so my employer can save some money on their electric bill and stiff us with higher electric bills as we have to get up in the dark to go to work and get home in the dark leaving no time to go on walks, mow the lawn, yard work, bicycle rides play sports rather than come home turn on the lights eat dinner and sit down in front of the boobtube.
  • 0 Hide
    f-14 , November 12, 2012 2:38 AM
    it's also no surprise the author of this study is also overweight, pretty, but fat.

    Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, assistant professor of communication in MU’s College of Arts and Science
    Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz, assistant professor of communication in MU’s College of Arts and Science, studied how avatars can influence a person’s health and appearance.
  • 5 Hide
    GoldenI , November 12, 2012 2:42 AM
    Here is a solution - cut your daily caloric intake in half, and I guarantee you that the fat will literally just melt off of you. Combine that with a brisk 15 - 35 minute walk every day, and you are golden. It is not difficult to reach this goal.
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