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The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health Hardcover – May 3, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 68 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

When an entire society is told that thinner is better and studies everywhere agree diets don't work, it's time to take a look at the assumptions behind the messages. For better or worse, this happens in Paul Campos' (Jurismania) book The Obesity Myth. Packed full of lengthy discussions of popular studies (particularly the Harvard nurses study), dense chapters run through statistics and conclusions at a breathtaking pace. Campos regularly insists on two points: BMI is basically meaningless, and a variety of media-based sources are contributing to an enormous industry that blends oversized portions with trendy, potentially harmful, diets. He grabs attention to the first claim with early assertions that by BMI standards, Brad Pitt is overweight and George Clooney is obese; more detailed discussion covers how insurance companies developed the BMI tables in their earliest forms and the federal government later tinkered with measurements in a way that accounts for much of the sudden "explosion" in obesity (yes, a BMI chart is included at the end of the book). Repeatedly, Campos rails against media stars whose main qualification is their leanness, questions medical conclusions, and demands that we look at weight as a class issue. Also highlighted is the idea of the diet industry being an extremely powerful political force, which may be at the root of the controversy; the hollering about his sources is likely to be louder than the comments about his accuracy in assessing those sources. As with any highly inflammatory topic, a single book presents only a part of the whole picture--but the myth-busting opinions offered here are an important part of the weight-based discussions. --Jill Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

Just as low-carb dieting becomes a national obsession and McDonald's begins downsizing its super-sizing, Campos, a law professor and syndicated columnist, offers a sure-to-be scandalous message: maybe fat isn't all that bad. Through solid prose, Campos builds a case against the "social institutions" that have misled the public about the dangers of being overweight. He boldly states that a cultural phenomenon—society's hysterical fear of body fat—is the real health hazard, not the over-consumption of food. Through a series of anecdotes, readers are told that the media is responsible for crushing healthy body images (particularly women's); how the dieting industry perpetuates the myth of obesity for its own gain; and how yo-yo dieting cycles have destroyed more lives than obesity ever will. Campos also says there's no real medical or scientific justification that fat is bad. "Given that Americans are enjoying longer lives and better health than ever before, the claim that four out of five of us are running serious health risks because of our weight sounds exactly like the sort of exaggeration that can produce a cultural epidemic of fear." While the studies and statistics Campos presents are convincing enough to launch a new debate about weight, some of his conclusions border on the absurd (e.g., he blames "Fat Politics" for the impeachment of President Clinton). And so begins the anti-fat backlash.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition edition (May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592400663
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592400669
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.2 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #543,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Campos is a Professor of Law at the University of Colorado. In addition to his numerous academic publications, he is a widely published journalist, who writes a weekly column for Salon.com. His work also appears regularly in Newsweek/The Daily Beast, and in The New Republic. Campos's blog "Lawyers, Guns, and Money," where he co-blogs with five other academics, is one of the top 100 political blogs on the internet, as measured by site traffic. In August of 2011 Campos began another blog, "Inside the Law School Scam," which in the first year of its existence hosted nearly two million visits. In January of 2012 Above the Law named Campos its Lawyer of the Year.

His books include DON'T GO TO LAW SCHOOL (UNLESS), THE OBESITY MYTH, JURISMANIA, and AGAINST THE LAW (with Steven Smith and Pierre Schlag).

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"From the perspective of a profit-maximizing medical and pharmaceutical industry, then, the ideal disease would be one that never killed those who suffered from it, that could not be treated effectively, and that doctors and their patients would nevertheless insist on treating anyway. Luckily for it, the American health-care industry has discovered (or rather invented) just such a disease. It's called 'obesity'."

In THE OBESITY MYTH, author/law professor Paul Campos makes an erudite and scathing case against the American diet industry, which, with its paid-lackey researchers and gullible fellow travelers in the medical and government health establishments, directly and simplistically links obesity with disease and generally compromised health. Rather, Campos concludes that the evidence shows that:

1. It's more dangerous to be underweight than overweight.

2. Health is not improved by long-term weight reduction.

3. Health is adversely affected by the yo-yo pattern of weight loss and subsequent regain experienced by serial dieters.

4. The nebulous connection between weight and health disappears when other factors are considered, e.g. the individual's cardiovascular and metabolic fitness. An overweight fit person is better off than a thin sedentary person.

Rather than being a monotonous, 250-page diatribe against the Fat Police, Campos goes out on a limb in a couple of chapters to make some novel observations.
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Comment 71 of 76 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Hardcover
I was very interested in the science Campos presented, but completely turned off when he resorted to personal attacks against particular people -- which unfortunately took up most of the book. It doesn't exactly scream "balanced" or "unbiased." Even some of his science was less than completely balanced, in my opinion. I've done enough reading on diabetes to know that the rise in the disease is not imaginary, as Campos claims -- for instance, a change in the diagnostic criteria some years ago does not explain the 3% per year rise in diagnoses since then. And there is a well-studied correlation between diabetes and obesity, despite what Campos says. Now, that is not to say that being overweight causes diabetes. Diabetes (or prediabetes) may cause weight gain rather than vice versa, or they may both be caused by something else entirely, such as poor nutrition. But to deny any correlation (correlation does not mean causation) between overweight and diabetes, and to deny the steady rise of the disease, seems like it would require either poor research or blinders -- just what Campos accuses others of.

That's just one small point, but it made me question Campos' perspective, and the rest of his science. The book contains a lot of valuable information, and I only wish it had been presented in a way that didn't strike me as one-sided and, well, just a little pissy. The shame of it all is I think Campos is absolutely right in his basic premise. Unfortunately he falls prey to the exact sort of "us vs. them" thinking he says he dislikes about "infotainment" TV, and his message is tainted by it. I wish I could recommend the book to friends, but I can't. It's worth the read if only for the science and the point of view, especially if you've never heard the premise before.
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In the process of reading this book, I'm struck at how amusing the response is from Michael Fumento and his friends/alter-egos posting here. Every point they raise to "refute" Campos is specifically addressed in the first chapters of the book. Campos carefully addresses the flaws in these arguements and backs up his assertions with a straight-forward presentation of the facts behind the accusations of fat bashers. Nothing Fumento and his ilk have brought up addresses any of the criticisms Campos levels on their arguement, leading me to the conclusion that not a one of them has opened this book. They are just offering the same knee-jerk hyperbolic condemnation fat bashers always offer when anyone questions their highly unfounded attacks on fat. Campos has provided the public with a valuable study of the issues surrounding weight and health. It may not be what you're used to hearing, but don't make the mistake some have made by damning the book without examining its arguement.
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By A Customer on May 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Campos and Fumento could go toe to toe and argue endlessly about how epidemiological studies can be interpreted. But, when you imagine Fumento, don't forget to envision the giant 40 Billion-with-a-B dollar weight loss industry behind him. Who is behind Campos? His x-ray vision is used to great effect in the Obesity Myth, especially when he exposes the ugly underbelly of classism and racism in the so-called fight against obesity.
When American anti-fat capitalists went to the World Health Organization to promote a "health plan" for obesity, they rightly told them, "Uh, we think malnutrition and AIDS are more important issues right now," revealing how off the mark we are in this country. We are not dying from obesity, in fact, we Americans are living longer than ever before, fat and all!
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