Geneticists and developmental biologists refer to yeast, worms, fruit flies, and mice asmodel organisms because they’re easy to study in the laboratory and what we learn from them about genetics will almost assuredly apply to humans as well. This is considered the fundamental principle underlying modern genetic research: once evolution comes upon a genetic mechanism that works, it reuses it again and again. Those genes that regulate the development and the existence of any single living organism will likely be used in some similar fashion inall of them.“When reduced to essentials,” as the cancer researcher J. Michael Bishop suggested in his 1989 Nobel Prize lecture, “the fruit fly andHomo sapiens are not very different.” But the trap that Stunkard and Mayer had identified is built into the logic of the positive-caloric-balance hypothesis; there is no escaping it. Mayer, as we’ve discussed, proceeded to insist in his bookOverweight, as in all his writing, that obesity was the result of sedentary behavior, which simply implicated sloth rather than gluttony and still left the issue defined as a behavioral one. Although Mayer gets credit for convincing his peers that obesity has a genetic component, he implied that the only role of these genes was to make us want to be more or less sedentary. By the end ofOverweight, Mayer was insisting not only that the obese must exercise more, but that they must also try harder to eat less.“Obesity is not a sin,” he wrote. “At most, it is the consequence of errors of omission, the result of not having kept up the life-long battle against an inherited predisposition and against an environment which combines constant exposure to food with the removal of any need to work for it physically. In the pilgrim’s progress of the constitutionally plump, salvation demands more than the shunning of temptation. It requires…the adoption of an attitude almost stoic in its asceticism and in the deliberate daily setting aside of time for what will be often lonely walking and exercising.” “These ‘western’ diseases…”: Burkitt 1971. I knew I could no longer rely on the“sticking plaster” of memory. I could forget a word in the second part of what I was saying, even though I had already used the word a moment earlier. . . . I learned to write things down in the “memory book” [the moment I thought of them]. . . . The memory book gave a lift to my sense of being in the driver’s seat of my life. [It] became my constant companion: part diary, part appointment book, part commonplace book. Hospitals, to a degree . . . breed a passive spirit; the memory book returned a piece of myself to me.

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