TOS 2014 summary: It’s good to connect

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It’s been a week since I came back from Boston and it’s time to summarize my impressions. I would say there were fewer outstanding┬ápresentations this year compared to last year in Atlanta, but I would also say that there was a greater number of really good presentations.

My favorite this year was Richard Atkinson who gave a very honest and wide-ranging talk when he accepted his Mickey Stunkard award on where we are at the moment, and why we have largely failed to improve much on treatment and prevention outcomes. First of all, it’s good to hear when presenters are truly honest and not just telling everyone that things are great when they clearly are not. I also appreciate it when presenters go out on a limb a little more than usual and really provide some speculation about what we can do in the future to improve on those less than perfect outcomes. Even though I did not entirely agree on how to best go about doing this (more basic science and epigenetics), it is still very much appreciated when informed individuals speak their minds, so well done Dr Atkinson.

The best overall seminar was the one on obesity prevention in Mexico. Mexico has sky-high rates of childhood obesity, even higher that in the US, and a very high consumption of soda. The presenters pained a very interesting picture of how to coordinate a very thoughtful and effective campaign to reduce childhood obesity rates and taxing sugary drinks in a very challenging environment. The opposition they faced from those who wish to keep the status quo, such as Big Soda, was quite formidable, yet they were able to make considerable inroads. This serves as a positive example to us all who think that prevention of childhood obesity is a big ask. It certainly is, but by no means impossible as the team in Mexico clearly demonstrated, inspirational stuff.

But for me, the main positive was meeting up with other researchers who are pursuing similar lines of inquiry as myself, such as the influence of childhood adversity, socioeconomics, stigma and discrimination, and psychological and emotional aspects of weight control. It’s when we connect like this that I believe we take those significant leaps forward and really get somewhere. Conversely, it is when we argue and become divided that our egos get in the way of making those significant leaps forward.┬áRegardless of our personal opinions, we can gain so much more from connecting with each other as opposed to arguing about who is right.

Were you in Boston, or did you read the updates? Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

Erik Hemmingsson