Amanda Ivester- Creative Inquiry- Obesity and the Home-food Environment

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Amanda IvesterCreative InquiryObesity and the Home-Food EnvironmentAt the beginning of spring semester, Dr. King, I, and four other students formed a creative inquiry team devoted to studying obesity. Our ultimate goal simple to me at first, make a home-food inventory to analyze the foods people keep in their homes and then use this information to make a weight loss management plan. I figured out pretty quickly that this wasnt as simple as it sounded. The first thing we did was to establish why weight loss maintenance is so difficult and important. I learned that it apparently stems back to prehistoric ancestors. Food during those periods was scarce so they craved fatty, high calorie food products. Since evolution takes thousands of years to work, we still have that craving even though food is no longer scarce. Couple that with the knowledge that obesity is 60% genetic that I gleaned from another class and I had a pretty good grasp on why weight loss maintenance is so difficult. The next step of the journey to making our very own home-food inventory was to learn what other people had done. A few studies had analyzed all the food present in the home, but we pretty quickly decided that that lettuce was not really significant to weight loss maintenance. Of all the studies we looked at, only one ever analyzed quantity; however, the way they did it was entirely impractical and very time consuming. They scanned each food item present in the house and wrote down the exact amount present as well as calories, fat, etc. Although this is very helpful data, we decided that it was too detailed and involved for our purposes. So by this point we had managed to establish what the liked from other studies and what we felt like was unnecessary for our home-food inventory. Finally we were ready to start making our very own home-food inventory. Our first task was to just look at food both in grocery stores and our own homes, apartments, dorm rooms, etc. It was most useful to look in our own homes, apartments, dorm rooms, etc. because looking here helped to give us better insight into what types of foods people ordinarily keep in their homes. We were, over the course of weeks, able to compile a concise but comprehensive list of all the foods we believed to be relevant to weight loss maintenance. We also decided to group foods together under categories like condiments, high sugar foods, and high fat foods to make the survey easier to understand. We had already decided we wanted to measure quantity for the foods that were most likely to disrupt weight loss maintenance. Although mayonnaise is very high in fat, we did not anticipate that someone would sit down and eat it like they might potato chips or cookies. For these likely snack foods as well as high-sugar drinks, we asked for both the quantity (number of bags, boxes, bottles, etc.) and the size of the bag, box, bottle, etc. Unfortunately the final home-food inventory was all that we were able to accomplish this semester. Possibly starting as soon as this summer, we intend to take this home-food inventory into the homes of volunteers to begin data collection. Initially we will be testing the validity of our home-food inventory but having the participants do the inventory and then doing it ourselves a day or so later. If the two inventories coincide reasonably well then we know we have a reliable survey. From there we will begin comparing the foods present in the houses of the volunteers. These volunteers will be classified into several groups relating to their weight, at the very least these groups will be fit and obese but probably far more specific than that. We will then compare the foods present in the two households. I suspect that we will find less junk food in the houses of the fit people. Based on the food differences between the groups, with enough data we should be able to have a reasonable hypothesis about which foods should be removed from the home-food environment for weight loss maintenance. We will then request that participants who have lost weight remove these foods from their homes. After a period of time (at least one month, most likely closer to two or three months) we will then follow up on these individuals in order to ascertain if the removal of these foods from the home-food environment aided in weight loss maintenance. Of course this whole process is far more complicated than I make it seem and there are so many variables that must be held constant for any conclusions gleaned from data to be viable. I am actually quite looking forward to the complexity of our future research. Not only will it be a rewarding challenge to attempt to create a viable research plan, but, once we have accomplished that, we will be able to use our research to make a real difference in someones life.

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