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104 of 114 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skinny volume throughly investigates why Americans are fat, March 14, 2003
This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Hardcover)
Back in the 1970s and before, about 25% of the American population was overweight. But in the late 80s, the rate of overweight spiked upwards, and is now around 60 percent. Also, the rate of obesity in children has doubled in 30 years, with about 25% of Americans under age 19 overweight or obese. Why? What has happened between the 1970s and today to cause this dangerous and dramatic increase in overweight and obesity? Journalist Greg Critser does a thorough job of answering this question in just 176 pages (the appendix begins on page 177). In addition, he presents the above statistics and more, discusses the hazards of obesity, the politics behind overly lax weight and exercise recommendations to the American public, and discusses why the low income people are more obese as a group than high income people.
There�s the obvious answer as to why Americans have a huge weight problem: We eat more and exercise less. But Critser digs much deeper than this. Why do we eat more? For one thing, fast food restaurant meals and movies theater snacks are supersized. And Critser quotes research studies that people tend to clean their plates, regardless of how big the plate is. So why are meals supersized? Critser describes the history of supersizing, (the brainchild of David Wallerstein of the McDonald�s corporation), with the skill of a master story teller. Each of Critser�s discussion topics, such as childhood obesity and lack of exercise, is treated with considerable depth. Critser ends on a positive note, presenting some solutions that have worked on a small scale in areas of California, and are worth trying in other parts of the U.S.
As someone who has taught nutrition and weight management to college students, I was impressed with the thorough job Critser did of researching and explaining these issues. He summarizes studies in the peer-reviewed weight loss literature, quotes from the popular media, interviews some of the top weight loss researchers in the U.S. and others who shed light on the obesity problem such as California school officials. Far removed from the dry prose of the scientific literature, Critser presents his material in an entertaining and occasionally sardonic style.
My problems with �Fatland� are minor: My biggest problem is there are no footnotes in the body of the book, making it difficult to cross reference the studies presented in the 37-pages notes section at the end. Also, the organization of the book can be a bit awkward: each chapter begins with an anecdote, some longwinded, and it can take several pages to ease the anecdote into the chapter topic so that the reader knows why the anecdote is presented in the first place. Also the chapter �What the Extra Calories Do to You�, would make logical sense for chapter 1, but instead is chapter 6 of 7 chapters.
Overall, this is an excellent, well-researched, and entertaining read. I highly recommend �Fatland� for anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of why America�s overweight and obesity problem has spiraled out of control.
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