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Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting Hardcover – May 1, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0374103989 ISBN-10: 0374103984 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. New York Times reporter Kolata may be the best writer around covering the science of health. Here she offers an eye-opening book that questions all our received wisdom about why we get fat and the health hazards of those extra pounds. In chapters equally entertaining and dismaying, Kolata (Flu) traces the history of dieting fads back to the 19th century; discusses our changing ideas about the ideal body (thinner and thinner); and, most importantly, explains how genetic and biochemical understanding has (at least among researchers) replaced the view of obesity as a lack of self-control. Most dramatic is Kolata's recounting of Jeff Friedman's groundbreaking search at Rockefeller University for the "satiety factor," a hormone he called leptin that tells our brains when we're full. The science alternates with moving chapters in which Kolata follows a group of people in a weight-loss study who are trying desperately to get thin—a quest that, as Kolata makes increasingly clear is sadly futile. In her final—and perhaps most surprising—chapter, Kolata blasts those in the obesity industry—such as Jenny Craig and academic obesity research centers—who are invested in promoting the idea that overweight is unhealthy and diet and exercise are effective despite a raft of evidence to the contrary. This book will change your thinking about weight, whether you struggle with it or not. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* When New York Times science writer Kolata took an unbiased look at society's war on fatness, she found that the spoils of the conflict fatten the pockets of a multibillion-dollar dieting industry, while most ever-hopeful yet hapless dieters lose only money. Why, then, do we still repeat a mantra--"eat less and exercise more"--that has failed dieters for 2,000 years? Why, in diet study after diet study, do chubby participants consistently fail to reach their target weights? And why do the majority of dieters end up regaining most of their hard-lost weight, or regaining and then exceeding it? Following up on participants in a two-year clinical weight-loss study comparing the overall efficacies of the Atkins diet and a highly regarded low-calorie, low-fat diet opened Kolata's eyes to the plight of millions who can't seem to measure down to today's weight ideals. The experience led her to examine the millennia-old history of humanity's battle against the bulge. She interviewed several credentialed authorities, and she cites sound scientific evidence that calls in question the productiveness of common weight-loss methods. Her report reveals well-documented intelligence certain to annoy those segments of society and commerce that stubbornly cling to the ignis fatuus that all one needs to be thin is willpower. Donna Chavez
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1 edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374103984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374103989
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,124,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Kolata has done a LOT of research here and it's a great read!
The thin person who preaches discipline will gain compassion from Kolata's perspective, and the naturally large person will be empowered.
The only way a person can maintain a weight loss is to stay on a very restrictive diet permanently.
ghost of a red rose

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 95 people found the following review helpful By CMCM on May 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I actually found this book extremely good reading, and couldn't put it down! It's not that Kolata presents anything earth shatteringly new, but she does a great job of compiling a lot of fascinating information about studies and attitudes that most of us would probably never get a chance to read through our usual casual reading. Kolata has done a LOT of research here and it's a great read!

We have been led to believe that obesity is a relatively recent development in U.S. society, but this apparently is not the case. The stories of weight loss strategies and weight attitudes from even 100+ years ago are fascinating to read about. Discussion of our past attitudes about what is fat and what is a desirable weight shows that these attitudes have changed substantially through the years: for example, flappers of the 20's, who most of us vaguely recall to have been quite thin, would actually be considered overweight by today's extreme standards. The "Gibson Girl" ideal of the early 1900's would be considered absolutely obsese today.

Studies and experiments which have been done to figure out the "why" of overweight show that everything is still not well understood about weight gain, obesity, and weight loss. There are still more questions to be asked and not yet enough answers, and to complicate things each person is unique in physiology. Genetics is thought to play a strong role, and studies of twins and adopted children reveal the genetic component plays a strong role in your weight and how easily you can gain or lose excess weight.

Don't read this book expecting to find some new weight loss miracle. There are no real solutions in this book, but rather, it can give you a more realistic and educated understanding of what you are up against in the weight loss wars.
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157 of 199 people found the following review helpful By Werner Cohn on May 18, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book has been a tremendous disappointment to me.

I read an article by Kolata in the New York Times a few days ago that was based on this book. I thought that the article was excellent, stressing the heritability component in obesity, and pointing to the failures of weight-control diets. I rushed to get the book, fully expecting fuller, more satisfactory explanations -- a truly book-length treatment of this important subject.

But the book here is actually no more than an article that has been heavily padded with cutesy anecdotes so as to achieve the physical corpulence of a book.

There are interesting (but not original) descriptions of diet fads throughout the ages. There are interesting (but depressingly familiar) accounts of failures of diets. There is an interesting account of animal studies on obesity. There are interesting accounts of twin studies that point to high heritability of obesity. And then there is endless prose that over-interprets all this: to wit, obesity is inherited, nothing can be done about it.

There is also an instance of gross malpractice of journalism. In the introduction, Kolata tells us that her book is the story of a high-science, two year long, carefully planned study of diets: Atkins versus LEARN. In chapter after boring chapter she gives us personality sketches of some of the participants and trivia about the progress of the study over the two year period. Then, at the end, while we wait for her to tell us the outcome, she tells us that, well, no, she can't say. The scientists haven't had the time to write up the results. Come on, Ms. K.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful By J. A Carty on June 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Earlier this evening I finished Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata. Kolata presents a history of dieting in America from about the 1800's to present while interspersing the comments of several participants in a recent study comparing Atkins to a program called LEARN (basically the type of calorie counting, measure everything diet your doctor would give you). There is something sad about the book in some ways, because dieting is ultimately a series of false hopes. Interesting, this is something I have been thinking is true but then the next diet comes on the market and if you aren't "thin" you feel you have to try it. This time it will be different. This time it will work. What is that quote that they attribute to Einstein?: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

While overall the book makes me feel a bit sad because there is no magic solution it also gives me a little sense of peace. I know I am a very successful person in pretty much every area of my life, except for weight loss, and I'm not the only one.

I won't give away everything in the book, but it is definitely worth a read for the "overweight" and the "normal size." Maybe especially for the thin people to see how tough it really is to have gained wait, how frustrating and defeated you can feel. Also, the book is very well written. Kolata has an easy straightforward style that balances presenting factual/scientific details w/ anectodal information so that her reporting does not become just boring and didactic.

Very much enjoyed :)
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