- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 15, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195118537
- ISBN-13: 978-0195118537
- Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 1.2 x 5.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,028,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Fat : Fighting the Obesity Epidemic 1st Edition
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Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic, by science writer Robert Pool, is the story of obesity research: the quest to find out why people get fat, why certain people are more likely to gain weight than others, why it's so difficult to lose weight, how the body's weight-regulating system works, how genes and environment interact to produce obesity, and why dieters regain their weight more than 90 percent of the time.
Pool presents story after story about the obesity scientists and their research, along with the evolution of social attitudes about corpulence. Some of the anecdotes are entertaining, such as the description of a 1911 experiment where a researcher inflated a condom in his belly, attached to a tube that went through his esophagus and out his mouth, to measure stomach contractions during hunger. Others may make you shudder, such as the story of 515-pound J.W., who lost weight in a hospital on a 600- to 800-calorie liquid diet 25 times, always rebounding afterwards to his previous weight.
Pool favors the leptin gene as a major clue to the mystery of obesity and treats it with more scientific detail than any other topic. Leptin, Pool explains, "regulates appetite and metabolism to keep the body at a stable, preferred weight." The brains of people with a mutation that results in deficient leptin production perceive their bodies as perpetually starving--even though they may be 50 or 100 pounds overweight.
Fat isn't a quick read and it won't tell you how to lose weight. It will appeal primarily to sociologists and those interested in the science of obesity. If that's you, you'll find this book to be a treasure trove of information. --Joan Price
From Publishers Weekly
In a well-paced narrative, science writer Pool (Beyond Engineering; Eve's Rib) traces the history of obesity in Western society and the ups and downs of medical science's ability to determine what causes some people to gain a considerable amount of weight and why it is so difficult to lose--and keep off--those extra pounds. For the longest time, both doctors and ordinary people have believed that losing and maintaining a lower weight were matters of personal responsibility--a very American perspective, the author avers. Certainly, if people change their eating habits and lifestyle, and are motivated, they can lose weight, but this formula of mind over matter is not universally successful. Moreover, despite recent breakthroughs in medical research, more and more Americans continue to become obese. The solution, argues the author, is that American doctors and nonprofessionals must change their beliefs about obesity: we must regard it not as an individual problem to be solved through willpower, but as a disease and, more specifically, a social disease "caused by a sick environment"--the fast-food and snacking environment--"to which some of us are more susceptible than others." Our bodies, which have changed little since our hunter-gatherer days, have not adapted well to our advanced, convenient, more sedentary Western lifestyle. Pool's aim here is to alert people to what he calls a rising epidemic. His arguments are cogent and convincing, but the reader may be disappointed to learn that Pool doesn't offer any suggestions to how we may be able to promote such widespread change. (Jan.)Forecast: A recent series of articles on obesity in the New York Times indicates the hunger (so to speak) that exists for information on weight loss; still, this book is mostly for the minority of readers who are looking not just for advice on how to lose weight but for a broader reflection on the problem.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Fat is not a guide to weight loss for individuals. The research is very discouraging for anyone currently obese -- most studies show that weight can be lost, but no one knows how to help people keep it off. However, Pool discusses some of the research that investigates why people cannot keep off weight they lose, including studies demonstrating that those who lose wait not only have slightly slower metabolisms, but they also burn fewer calories through fidgeting, etc.
Pool also discusses obesity from a public health perspective. Given that losing weight and keeping it off is so difficult once one becomes obese, he argues that some effort should be paid to keeping the population from becoming obese in the first place. In this discussion, he looks at studies examining when and how various populations became obese. Such studies -- like that of the obesity difference between Pima groups in the US and Mexico -- provide clues for how the current environment could be modified to prevent some obesity.
There is more that we do not know about obesity than we do know. Despite this, obesity is a rapidly increasing problem in the United States. From 1991 to 1998, the U.S. population that is obese (more than 30 percent overweight) grew from 12 percent to 18 percent. Studies suggest that this trend, as alarming as it is, hides the severity of the problem, because many people understate their weight in surveys.
Weight is affected by environment, genes, and behavior. Little is known about how the three interact with each other. The author argues that the current growth in obesity mainly relates to an environment that is getting less and less healthy rather than some sudden negative change in genetic make-up or intentional behavior. He also does not suggest any specific solutions.
Many people do not understand that the process of losing weight often causes the body to burn fewer calories. So you have to feel like you are literally starving to death to lose weight past a certain point. That point is your "set point" and we each have a different one. For many overweight people, that set point is well above the weight that the physicians encourage. So many overweight people aren't "indulging" themselves more than thinner people, they just have a different body chemistry. So remove those value judgments when you see overweight people. Give them a hug instead.
The other flaw in thinking about weight is that that being overweight is the cause of many diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Recent research suggests that the connections are not always linear. Being overweight is sometimes a symptom of some other problem, rather than the cause of the disease.
The main weakness of this book is that it does not include the work described in Sugarbusters! and Live Right for Your Type that suggest a role for the mix of foods you eat as affecting your weight level. Mix of foods is referenced, but mostly in the context of behavioral treatments for overweight that emphasize creating aversions for certain foods.
Hearing about how scientists have worked on this problem makes me feel pretty discouraged. My suggestion is that only obese scientists work on overcoming obesity. At least they will have a bodily experience as a reference point. In picture after picture in this book, the pioneers of obesity research are displayed as extremely trim individuals.
After you read this book, I suggest you think about the problems of discrimination that obese people face. How can those barriers be lowered? How can the emotional pain of being obese be reduced? I suspect that the harm in these two areas is even greater than the health harm associated with obesity. That's the real epidemic!
Live comfortably with your body!