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Olwen Anderson's Blog

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Saturday, June 24, 2017
“There must be an easier way to do this” was probably on everyone’s mind. So it seemed like a good idea at the time, I’m sure. Back then, people had to expend enormous amounts of energy just for day to day living. Wood cutters were swinging axes then somehow getting huge logs onto the bullock train. Housekeepers faced the laborious chore of lifting wet heavy linen in and out of a copper each week, on and off the line, then smoothing them with a heavy iron.  Almost everyone had to walk or ride a horse to get somewhere. 

So the motor car, the automatic washing machine and the chainsaw would have been welcome inventions: easing sore backs and aching muscles. Enabling much greater mobility and freedom for us all. With each new invention, the reduction in energy expenditure would have made little difference at first; so much of life still required effort. But as time has passed less and less energy has been asked of us to manage daily life. Cars carry us home from the supermarket. Leaf blowers replace using a rake and broom. Automatic dishwashers spare the drudgery of washing up after dinner. We even have robotic floor sweepers – you may never have to pick up a broom again. 

I suspect it’s no coincidence that over the last 100 years and particularly within the last 50 years, waistlines in general have expanded. Now we’re faced with a population obesity crisis of epidemic proportions. Perhaps there’s a connection here. Maybe our quest for an ever easier, more convenient way to get things done has got out of hand.
Why should this matter to you? Well, if you sense that you’re slowly but surely putting on weight when your diet hasn’t changed, it may be that the ease of modern life has caught up with you. Why not do a quick review of how much technology is now sparing you from expending energy between when you climb out of bed and when you lay your head back on the pillow at night.

It would be extreme to switch off the electricity, abandon your car, head out to gather firewood for cooking, or set aside Mondays completely for clothes washing like we had to. We don’t need to return to the Stone Age. But there may be many ways you can subtly shift your energy expenditure to stop your waistband becoming ever tighter. 

If you enjoyed this article you might also enjoy 'An Antidote to the Hand Wringing About Childhood Obesity' 

Image credit: Edwin Garcia via MorgueFile

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