Stephen Hawking, while a bona fide genius, is also the type of friend who regularly tells it like it is, even when you kind of wish he wouldn’t. Earlier this month, he predicted that we have about 1,000 years left on Earth, and now he’s telling us we’re perilously overweight—as if we weren’t keenly aware of that already.
In a video produced by Swedish nonprofit GEN-PEP, Hawking warns that, as a result of obesity millions of lives are in danger. “As a cosmologist, I see the world as a whole,” he says in his latest public service announcement, “and I am here to address one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century.” For the 38 percent of Americans struggling with obesity, the fact that it’s a problem isn’t news. It’s more of a sobering reminder that we’ve barely made a dent in obesity rates across the country—such little progress that now Stephen Hawking feels compelled to say something in a dramatically lit library.
“Today, too many people die from complications related to overweight and obesity,” he says, “We eat too much and move too little.” While that’s true, a foolproof way to reverse these bad habits has evaded researchers, nutritionists, and policymakers for decades. In this country, we spend an annual $33 billion on weight-loss products and upwards of $60 billion on the weight-loss industry as a whole. Forty-five million Americans start a diet plan each year, but studies tend to show that a majority of dieters fail to maintain their weight loss. Despite the steep odds, Hawking proposes a solution: “More physical activity and change in diet. It’s not rocket science.”
Talk to me after gingerbread-latte season, Stephen.