Livin' on the MDedge

The road to weight loss is paved with collusion and sabotage


Three big bumps on the weight-loss journey

The search for the Holy Grail. The destruction of the One Ring. The never-ending struggle to Lose Weight.

Like most legendary quests, weight loss is a journey, and we need support to help us achieve our goal. Maybe it’s gaining a new workout partner or finding a similarly-goaled Facebook Group. For a lot of people, it’s as simple as your friends and family. A recent study, however, suggests that the people closest to you may be your worst weight-loss enemies, and they might not even know it.

Spencer Davis/Unsplash

Researchers at the University of Surrey reviewed the literature on the positives and negatives of social support when it comes to weight loss and identified three types of negative effects: acts of sabotage, feeding behavior, and collusion.

Let’s start with the softest of intentions and work our way up. Collusion is the least negative. Friends and family may just go with the flow, even if it doesn’t agree with the goals of the person who’s trying to lose weight. It can even happen when health care professionals try to help their patients navigate or avoid obesity, ultimately killing with kindness, so to speak.

Next up, feeding behavior. Maybe you know someone whose love language is cooking. There are also people who share food because they don’t want to waste it or because they’re trying to be polite. They act out of the goodness of their hearts, but they’re putting up roadblocks to someone’s goals. These types of acts are usually one-sided, the researchers found. Remember, it’s okay to say, “No thanks.”

The last method, sabotage, is the most sinister. The saboteur may discourage others from eating healthy, undermine their efforts to be physically active, or take jabs at their confidence or self-esteem. Something as simple as criticizing someone for eating a salad or refusing to go on a walk with them can cause a setback.

“We need to explore this area further to develop interventions which could target family and friends and help them be more supportive in helping those they are close to lose weight,” said lead author Jane Odgen, PhD, of the University of Surrey, Guildford, England.

Like we said before, weight loss is a journey. The right support can only improve the odds of success.

Robots vs. mosquitoes

If there’s one thing robots are bad at, it’s giving solid mental health advice to people in crisis. If there’s one thing robots are very, very good at, it’s causing apocalypses. And joyous day for humanity, this time we’re not the ones being apocalypsed.


Liu et al., 2023, PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, CC-BY 4.0

Taiwan has a big mosquito problem. Not only do the mosquitoes in Taiwan carry dengue – among other dangerous diseases – but they’ve urbanized. Not urbanized in the sense that they’ve acquired a taste for organic coffee and avocado toast (that would be the millennial mosquito, a separate but even more terrifying creature), but more that they’ve adapted to reproduce literally anywhere and everywhere. Taiwanese mosquitoes like to breed in roadside sewer ditches, and this is where our genocidal robot comes in.

To combat the new, dangerous form of street-savvy mosquito, researchers built a robot armed with both insecticide and high-temperature, high-pressure water jets and sent it into the sewers of Kaohsiung City. The robot’s goal was simple: Whenever it came across signs of heavy mosquito breeding – eggs, larvae, pupae, and so on – the robot went to work. Utilizing both its primary weapons, the robot scrubbed numerous breeding sites across the city clean.

The researchers could just sit back and wait to see how effective their robot was. In the immediate aftermath, at various monitoring sites placed alongside the ditches, adult mosquito density fell by two-thirds in areas targeted by the robot. That’s nothing to sniff at, and it does make sense. After all, mosquitoes are quite difficult to kill in their adult stage, why not target them when they’re young and basically immobile?

The researchers saw promise with their mosquito-killing robot, but we’ve noticed a rather large issue. Killing two-thirds of mosquitoes is fine, but the third that’s left will be very angry. Very angry indeed. After all, we’re targeting the mosquito equivalent of children. Let’s hope our mosquito Terminator managed to kill mosquito Sarah Connor, or we’re going to have a big problem on our hands a bit later down the line.


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