When I talk about the pace of living these days I often regale the story of the watermelon stand I passed on a deserted highway in Jordan. As we drove down this long, dusty highway, the only car for miles, we passed a man sitting under a makeshift canopy, surrounded by watermelons for sale. Totally relaxed, he sat, cross-legged on the floor, waiting for business. There was no high-tech marketing, no real passing trade (we didn't stop), just a simple hand scribbled sign and a rather contented looking stall owner.
When I think of my own work in the UK or indeed that of my friends companies we spend hours strategising, analysing, planning and executing plans and yet it is never enough.
We never achieve what we want, quickly enough, we want it all and we want it now.
But this ideology isn't just in our work goals, it's in everything. Our need for speed is infiltrating every aspect of our lives.
The latest in this need for fast fixes comes in the form of a tiny little pill. The latest in quick fix diets, this pill, once swallowed and inflated is the latest mini gastric balloon. It's being hailed as a miracle pill - but really isn't it just vanity gone mad?
The pill is designed for people a stone overweight. You know, the kind of people who could tweak their diet a bit and maybe hit the gym for an extra day a week in order to lose 'that' stone. Or apparently, alternatively, pay £3,000 and risk their health for something that is obviously much easier as it reduces the capacity of your stomach and of side affects or complications are just part of the no pain no gain ritual - a toss up right? All to drop a single dress size.
Unfortunately it's all too real. The balloon, inflated once inside your stomach, uses an endoscopy (down your throat) to complete the task. As someone who has had an endoscopy (several times for medical reasons) it's horrible - and to do so to lose a stone is crazy. While I'm not 'for bariatric' surgery in general, I understand that for many, they feel the need to have one of the many forms of surgery now available to kick start a weight loss 'journey' when the task ahead is numerous stone, starting by simply sticking to an eating/exercise plan alone can seem to great. But to simply she a stone - quickly and without any real effort it just seems our popular culture for wanting something now and more so wanting to just buy your way to a lower dress size seems, well, crude at the very least.
But is this method any safer than a traditional gastric balloon? And realistically if you're only losing a stone - what benefits does the balloon add that simply swapping crisps for an apple wouldn't? Is this just another way we can buy what we want instead of doing it the old fashioned way and putting some effort in?
The answer is there is literally nothing worthwhile about this procedure. The pill balloon comes with the identical risks to a regular gastric balloon - which is now regularly considered pointless by medical professionals - as the balloon can only stay for so long and then weight is often regained. Equally the deflated balloon (when it comes to removal) can get stuck - requiring surgery - still want to lose that dress size quickly?
Essentially the balloon reduces the size of your stomach - meaning that you can eat less - something we all know is what we need to do if we genuinely want to shift a few pounds - I don't need to spend £3,000 to find that out. Around 80% will suffer side effects, including sickness, cramps, reflux, bloating and diarrhoea - sexy stuff right? While you could use that £3,000 to join a gym, get a personal trainer and get that heart rate pumping for an altogether different reason.
Eating healthily - shockingly makes you feel great, as does exercise, shouldn't that be the real answer, feeling good inside and out? A good diet (as in healthy eating), teamed with exercise for 12 weeks will likely shift the same amount of weight as the Obalon created tablet - yet in an age of technology and a tendency to 'give up' if something isn't spoon fed to us quickly (fast food, fast broadband, fast cars, quick fix diets) the idea of this tablet in our society is sadly a viable plan.
We spend January hearing how much better we'd be as people if we just lost weight, we'd be happier a dress size down, closer to our friends and family and other heart rendering scenarios, but the problem with quick medical fixes and why they so often fail, is that no one deals with the causes. Causes take time and effort to discover and finding solutions to the real problem, not our 21st century vanity issue is key. Binge eating is as much an illness as anorexia - yet the answer to binge eating is to cut out or reduce someone's stomach - unlike anorexia where we quite rightly provide much more psychological help and backing alongside gaining weight.
People cry out that we're heading for an obesity epidemic in this country. That maybe so, but until we start helping people to overcome their true cause of weight gain and re-educate society in healthy eating, helping the UK's poorest to afford better food, there is no quick, pill shaped, solution.
While the tests for this pill were done on women as small as a size 16 - not someone who really needed their 'weight loss goal' kick started - there are no long term statistics for how patients who tried the drug fair in the long term. The likelihood is that they will put the stone back on as nothing has truly been learnt or altered.
So yes, for £3,000 you may be a dress size lighter for that wedding in the summer - however come Christmas time will an Obalon pill be on your letter to Santa once more?