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Thinking in Circles About Obesity : Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management
Hamid, Tarek K. A.
Springer (Verlag) / Hardcover / 2009-11-01 / 0387094687
Eating Disorders
price: $37.95 (may be subject to change)
447 pages
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*Written in an engaging, lively, accessible style yet manages to convey a great deal of information about the basic science of weight loss at a level suitable for professionals or educated lay readers
*Ideal for schools and businesses (structured environments that are well suited and motivated to leverage prevention models to contain escalating health costs) and public policy organizations (seeking to move beyond the bankrupt mass-communications model of prevention to a customized knowledge restructuring model)
*Presents a novel approach to addressing the obesity problem that should also appeal to health care professionals and the diet/weight-loss industry

Thinking in Circles about Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management

Tarek K.A. Hamid, Operational and Information Sciences, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California

Low-carb…low-fat…high-protein…high-fiber…Americans are food-savvy, label-conscious, calorie-aware—and still gaining weight in spite of all their good intentions. Worse still, today’s children run the risk of a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

Thinking in Circles About Obesity brings a healthy portion of critical thinking, spiced with on-target humor and lively graphics, to the obesity debate. Systems and medical physiology scholar Tarek Hamid unites systems (non-linear) thinking and information technology to provide powerful insights and practical strategies for managing our weight and our health. Hamid’s clear insights dispel dieters’ unrealistic expectations and illuminate dead-end behaviors to tap into a deeper understanding of how the body works, why it works that way, and how to better manage it. Included are innovative tools for:

• Understanding why diets almost always fall short of our expectations.

• Assessing weight gain, loss, and goals with greater accuracy.

• Abandoning one-size-fits-all solutions in lieu of personal solutions that do fit.

• Replacing outmoded linear thinking with feedback systems thinking.

• Getting the most health benefits from information technology.

•Making behavior and physiology work in sync instead of in opposition.

Given the current level of the weight crisis, the ideas in Thinking in Circles About Obesity have much to offer clinical and health psychologists, primary care physicians, public health professionals, parents, and lay readers. For those struggling with excess weight, this book charts a new path in health decision making, to see beyond calorie charts, body mass indexes, and silver bullets.

From the reviews:

"Systems thinking is a perspective and a set of conceptual tools that enable us to understand the structure and predict the behavior of complex systems. While already commonplace in engineering and in business, the use of systems thinking impersonal health is less widely adopted. Yet health is precisely the setting where dynamic complexity is most problematic and where the stakes are highest. Thinking in Circles about Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management, aims to fill this gap. The book applies systems thinking to personal health in a form that’s accessible to the general reader with the hope that it would have a profound influence on how ordinary people think about and manage their health and well being." BehavioralHealthCentral.com, December 30, 2009 “Commonplace in engineering and in business, the use of systems thinking in personal health is less widely adopted. … health is precisely the setting where dynamic complexity is most problematic and where the stakes are highest. Thinking in Circles About Obesity: Applying Systems Thinking to Weight Management … aims to fill this gap. The book applies systems thinking to personal health in a form that’s accessible to the general reader … .” (The Systems Thinker, Vol. 20 (10), December/2009 - January/2010) “‘Thinking in Circles About Obesity’ and is by Tarek K. A. Hamid … . I first saw the book reviewed while doing a Google Fast Flip search for ‘obesity’ and was intrigued by it. … I have a copy and read … I’m really excited by it. It’s well-researched (with about 300+ endnotes and index), written for the lay person, and explains very well both how complex weight loss is and how we can better think about it.” (Stephen Colbert, Weight Watchers, May, 2009)

About the author

Dr. Tarek K.A. Hamid is a trained system dynamicist (with a PhD from MIT, and a winner of the Forrester award for his first book). He has been a Professor of System Dynamics at the Naval Postgraduate School, in Monterey, CA since 1986, where he was awarded the Naval Postgraduate School's Faculty Performance Award, in recognition of meritorious faculty performance in both research and teaching.

In the mid 1990s he became extremely interested in the confluence of information and medical technologies, and saw it as one of the most promising new frontiers for system dynamics research and public policy. But he had a lot for me to learn. So, in 1997, he took an open-ended leave-of-absence and enrolled in the Master's Program at Stanford's Engineering Economic Systems & OR Dept., where he focused on decision analysis and medical decision-making. (Returning to become a master student, while already holding a PhD was certainly a "weird" experience—for him, and for his professors—but it was a lot of fun.) It was during his studies at Stanford that he began to see the natural fit between the obesity problem (as a dynamic system of energy regulation) and system dynamics. (Research was revealing that human bioenergetics belongs to the class of multi-loop nonlinear feedback systems—the same class of system that system dynamics aims to study.)

Upon graduation, he spent a year (1999-2000) as an affiliate at Stanford’s Medical Informatics Department (part of Stanford’s Medical School), where he worked on developing system dynamics models of human physiology and metabolism. In December 2001, he returned to his faculty position at the Naval Postgraduate School where he continues his research on medical decision making and modeling of human metabolism and energy regulation.

When not teaching or writing, Tarek is usually on the water. With his wife, Nadia, won first place in the 1999 San Francisco to Santa Barbara Yacht Race (Cruise Division) on their traditional Alden 45 sloop.

--- from the publisher

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