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The Hundred Year Diet: America's Voracious Appetite for Losing Weight Hardcover – May 11, 2010

4.0 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Susan Yager has given us a delightful breeze through a century of American dietary prescriptions, from Dr. Kellogg to Michael Pollan. What to do? We still haven't figured out how to keep our food appetites to reasonable limits.” ―Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of What to Eat.

“By dissecting the aesthetic, moral and commercial basis of our obsessions with eating, The Hundred Year Diet illuminates the path to a healthier, and saner, food future.” ―Brian Halweil, author of Eat Here and publisher of Edible Manhattan, Edible Brooklyn and Edible East End

“Worries over overeating, as Susan Yager interestingly reminds us in "The Hundred Year Diet," preoccupied the public long before Americans en masse became so massive...Ms. Yager's bite-sized chapters are easy and pleasant to digest as she takes us through America's fat-fighting history, from its now comical-seeming beginnings through the wild pendulum swings of the late 20th century (when carbohydrates and fats alternated as public enemy No. 1) to the promise of the fat-substitute Olestra (with its regrettable intestinal consequences) and today's gastric bypass surgery for the severely obese.” ―Meghan Cox Gurdon, The Wall Street Journal

“A fascinating read.” ―Abigail Zuger, M.D., The New York Times

“Far-reaching, well-researched survey of America's fascination with diets.” ―Peggy Brown, Newsday

About the Author

Susan Yager is an adjunct instructor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and has written for a variety of publications on the topics of food and sexual health. She lives in New York City and the East End of Long Island with her husband and two cats.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (May 11, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605290114
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605290119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #485,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By D. Matlack VINE VOICE on March 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First of all, I will tell everyone that this is NOT a diet book: NO menus, NO fitness routines, NO chants for self-improvement. This is in fact a History book. The History of the last 100 years of America's quest for fitness and the holy grail of diets.

That being said I will admit that this is the last book I expected to be un-put-downable. Honestly, Susan Yager writes very matter of fact, but the topic is so touchy on both a psychological and emotional basis that quite often it reads like a thriller. Yager narrows down her topic by limiting it to the 20th century and the U.S. but clearly had she explored this from an international perspective she would still be writing.

We all know from our own personal experience with our bodies and an often contentious relationship with what we eat how we feel at any given time of the day. What was shocking for me, was my awareness of this expanding past myself and immediate family/friends to our Nation as a whole. I also found myself mortified by our rather passive search and acceptance of experimental Diet and fitness programs. From Kellogg & Graham to Atkins & South Beach as well as the eternally pervasive veganism, despite our very serious urge to be thin and healthy, we are willing to put ourselves in some very frightening regimens. Often ingesting substances that are toxic or create a toxic situation within our bodies.

What I found remarkable was the 100 year debate/struggle between actual science and the psuedo-science theory between actual practicing physicians! Quite often my jaw was on the floor while reading this. I highlighted passages so that I would remember them exactly when sharing data with others.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The book is interesting, humorous, and informative; the only problem came in the last quarter of the book when the author took to expounding on the benefits of natural, unprocessed, free-range movement in eating beyond the point of being informative. But the first 3/4's of the book were great and discussed all the famous diet crazes of the last hundred years, the people who made them famous or infamous [take your pick], and even discussed some of their ulterior motives as to what made them do it. The author did a great job of quoting without seeming like a drunk name-dropper at a cocktail party on the East or West coasts where such affairs are still held occasionally. She intersperses a myriad of facts throughout, which keeps your interest keen as "In 1944, a Gallup poll indicated that 80% of American housewives didn't understand the difference between a vitamin and a calorie." She discusses the actress Fannie Hurst, one of first really famous actress of the early to mid 20th century who developed anorexia or came close to it, and her dislike of dieting because of it and the flapper craze of the 1920's. There were more interesting tidbits, like Dr Atkins, died of coronary artery disease and not the reported fall on a NYC sidewalk due to icy conditions. He was 6' tall and weighed 258 pounds at the time of his death, and not the 195 pounds originally reported. His widow refused to have him autopsied, but another person got hold of the death certificate and made it public. Also Nathan Pritkin of the the famous Pritkin diet fame requested that he be autopsied on death [he died of cancer] and his autopsy showed his body to be in excellent health excepting the cancer. It appears that both Atkins and Pritkin followed their own diets and the results were telling.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My initial impression of Susan Yager's book was that it was thin on content. (Interesting how even our adjectives have weight connotations) The information is presented in small doses with large captions headlining each section and footnotes following. By the end of the book I realized I had learned a great deal about the history of America's weight obsession. Yager carefully lays out her case that America's obsession with dieting and obesity far predate any actual epidemic of obesity in our country. Despite screaming headlines proclaiming our imminent peril, the American public stayed at a fairly constant weight until the last 20 to 30 years. While we are now in a true obesity crisis, that crisis was prefaced by generations of fad dieting that may have helped lead to the genuine problem facing us today.

There is nothing new in the dieting world. Whether it is Atkins, Pritikin, South Beach, Slimfast, Weight Watchers, the Grapefruit Diet or Dr. Oz, Yeager lays out the history of each dieting movement while explaining how we rush to embrace each repackaged presentation of old and unappealing ideas. Often our most certain diet 'knowledge' is based in no scientific grounding at all. The basic rule of eat fresh food in moderation cannot equal the allure of science providing us magical solutions. Our current situation, chemical laden factory produced food lacking in taste and nutrition may be a direct result of our fascination with fad dieting. Like the person with the tombstone reading "I told you I was sick" America can now say "we told you we were fat." We've forgotten not only what food should fill our plate, but also how that food should naturally taste.
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