Rethinking Thin Info

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A New York Times Book Review Editors'
Choice


In this eye-opening report, New York
Times
science writer Gina Kolata shows that our society's obsession
with dieting is less about keeping trim and staying healthy than about
money, power, trends, and impossible ideals. Kolata's account of four
determined dieters in a study comparing the Atkins diet to a low-calorie
one becomes a broad tale of science and society, of social mores and
social sanctions, and of the place of diets in American society.
Brimming with anecdote, scientific data, and common sense, Rethinking
Thin
offers a challenge to the conventional wisdom about diets and
weight loss.


Average Ratings and Reviews
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Reviews for Rethinking Thin:

3

Feb 13, 2009

Abandon hope, all ye dieters who crack the cover of this book. If you have an arminian bone in your body, this book may well depress you. The gist of it is: if you are overweight or obese, you will always be overweight or obese; no matter how hard you struggle, and no matter how successfully you diet over the short term, you will always revert to being fat. Its no use trying. Your weight is predestined. And the rest of the world will probably never accept that and will always think of you as a Abandon hope, all ye dieters who crack the cover of this book. If you have an arminian bone in your body, this book may well depress you. The gist of it is: if you are overweight or obese, you will always be overweight or obese; no matter how hard you struggle, and no matter how successfully you diet over the short term, you will always revert to being fat. It’s no use trying. Your weight is predestined. And the rest of the world will probably never accept that and will always think of you as a lazy slob. Cheery, no?

I give this book three stars because it really was a fascinating history of dieting, of the changing standards of “ideal” weight, and of recent medical discoveries in the field of obesity. I also liked it because it leveled a blow at the "do something" mentality of Americans when it comes to fashionable crises, reminding us that just because chicken little is screaming for a multi-million dollar grant, the sky is not therefore necessarily falling. However, I did find the book too fatalistic and ultimately too simplistic in its biology-only explanation for obesity.

It’s not because I am a naturally thin person that I say this; I have struggled with my weight all my life, and I have been my supposedly “ideal” weight for only one year of my life, when I maintained a strict, 1,300-calorie-a-day diet and did 20 minutes of aerobic exercise daily without alteration. Once I stopped the exercise and diet, of course, I gradually gained it all back. But there WAS a choice involved. I chose to lose the weight, and I chose to stop living like a soldier on rations. My brother and I are both genetically inclined to be overweight, but I am borderline obese and he is not. Why? Because he has consistently exercised for several hours a week every week of every year of his life, and I haven’t. Quite simple, really. But the author speaks as though behavior has nothing AT ALL to do with weight. I certainly don’t assume every obese person I see is a lazy slob, but nor do I, as the author seems to do, assume that every normal-weight person I see is simply a lucky dog who hit the biological jackpot. In fact, most normal weight people I know work hard to maintain a normal weight; they exercise much more often than I do, they eschew sweets much more often than I do, and when they see themselves creeping up out of the “normal” range, they go on a diet until they are back down in the normal range. For these people, consistent, prolonged exercise has become a way of life. Periodically limiting what they eat has become a way of life.

Diets and exercise, the author says, don’t “work” to enable people to lose weight and keep it off. To prove that they don’t “work,” she relates case after case in which a person lost weight and maintained a lower weight on a diet, but then gained it back after he stopped sticking to the diet and started eating more or exercising less. This is a strange definition of “work.” Isn't it somewhat absurd to expect that you only need to diet once, and as soon as you reach a lower weight, you can go back to living as you lived before and yet remain at that weight? It would be rather like a student who studies for a geometry test, manages to pull his grade up from a C to a B+, stops studying, and then is frustrated and disappointed when he doesn’t get a B+ on the Trigonometry test next year. He then concludes, “Studying doesn’t work.” No, studying “works”; you just can’t stop studying after a single test. You have to study your entire academic life if you expect to continue to excel. The studying metaphor has another parallel. Just as some people are naturally smarter than others, some people are naturally thinner than others. For some, just a little effort at study can pull a grade from a B to an A+; for another, a great deal of effort may only manage to pull a D to a C. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean “studying doesn’t work.” And it doesn’t mean the D student has no choice but to be a D student. (It does mean not everyone can be an A student, but, in our society, it isn't just in the realm of weight that we expect no one ever to be left behind. We Americans, after all, are entitled to perfection. There are no natural limitations, only inadequate programs.)

Virtually all diets work to enable a person to lose some weight (or maintain his current weight) FOR AS LONG AS that person actually sticks to the diet. The author never defines what she means by "will power" when she says lack of will power has nothing at all to do with obesity, but what is will power if not sticking to something? The problem, of course, is simply that most people, myself included, do not WANT to diet their entire lives (or, as is more fashionably said, make a "lifestyle change."). And the problem for overweight people, who are, it turns out, simply born hungrier than thinner people, is that sticking to a diet is very, very difficult, much more difficult than it is for a thin or normal weight person. You are, as I know from experience, basically in a constant state of hunger. So your choice is between (A) Always feeling hungry and never really enjoying the social function of food or (B) Being overweight or obese. Given the choice, many people choose B. It’s not a pleasant choice, but just because you don’t much like either option doesn’t mean you don’t have a choice.

Everything in this book is calculated to make the overweight or obese person throw in the towel. Not only is the gospel of doom preached (No obese person is capable of sticking to a diet for life. Not one! And loosing weight and keeping it off for two or three years is meaningless if ever you gain it back!), but the author also insists that, really, being overweight or even obese isn’t unhealthy at all. In fact, it may be healthier than being a normal weight. She cites a study where overweight people had a slightly lower mortality rate than normal weight people. Of course, this is just one study weighted against others that suggest all manner of health complications related to obesity. But those who have criticized this study (for instance, those who have pointed out that the study includes smokers, who are more likely dying early from smoking than from being a normal weight), she reasons, are just practicing “attack science” because they have a vested monetary interest in promoting the idea that obesity is unhealthy. And while I can certainly be persuaded that a few extra pounds won't hurt a person and may provide a buffer for lean times, she never really defines what she mean by "obese" or "overweight" or "very obese," and throughout the book she tends to lump together degrees of heaviness as though they were all the same level of issue (or non-issue), when in fact they are quite different things possibly with different causes and certainly with different associated risks. It's one thing to say to the woman who is 80 pounds overweight that she really needs to lose weight to improve her health and quite another to say it to the woman who is 15 pounds overweight.

I certainly do think it is time for more people to say that our ideas of “ideal weight” are ridiculously unrealistic and that not everyone can be thin. But we don't need to say that obesity is healthy or inevitable. We just need to revise how we define "ideal weight" and encourage people to be more concerned with living healthy lives, eating healthy foods, and exercising regularly than they are with the number they see on a scale. This book would not have been so overwhelmingly bleak if the author had simply taken a different track. If she had not been so fatalistic, but had said instead, “Look, some people are naturally thinner or heavier than others. If you’re overweight, you do have a limited, but not an absolute, range of control over what you weigh. You probably aren't ever going to be thin, but if you eat better and exercise more, you will be healthier and you will weigh less than you weigh at this moment. Don’t worry if you’re not your ideal weight; just try to live a fairly healthy life. Most of all, exercise. After all, physical activity is a better indicator of overall health than body size.” To return to my previous metaphor, you may not be able to ace the test, but that doesn't mean you shouldn’t study hard for it and at least improve your grade. But that’s not really what she says. What she says sounds more like, “Don’t bother trying to do anything. You’re doomed by biology and by a prejudiced society.”

I'm back to this again, but when people say that “diets don’t work” to keep weight off, it is somewhat like people saying “abstinence doesn’t work” to prevent STDs. They don’t really mean “abstinence doesn’t work.” They mean, rather, that “abstinence is hard and we can’t realistically expect people to remain abstinent for life.” Likewise, dieting is hard, only more so. I know that. But, please, can we stop pretending that people are utterly controlled by their biology? That they go through life as biological zombies guided by chemicals and never by choice or personal desire or personal priorities or even their surrounding environment? Can we stop saying that just because something is very hard to do, it doesn't "work"?

Some people do value their physical appearance more than others, just as some people value saving sex for marriage more than others. Take Kolata’s example of the puzzled dieter who doesn’t understand that, while he would never touch food that wasn’t kosher, he can’t manage just to restrict himself to the foods that are on his Atkins diet. How can this be? It never enters his mind, or Kolata’s mind, that perhaps his religion is a more serious priority for him than either his appearance or his health, that he believes in his God more than he believes in the medical opinion of his doctor. The very idea that people have different values, different priorities, and therefore different drives to work more or less for different things nowhere enters Kolata’s picture. In fact, NOTHING but biology enters her picture of why people eat as much or as little as they do—no environmental factor, no psychological factor, nothing but chemicals.

But human beings are not animals (at least not metaphysically speaking) who eat only to survive. They are complex, spiritual beings living in community with one another, motivated by a tangled web of biological, psychological, communal, and religious urges. To take all of this off the table when it comes to something like eating, which is itself very often a communal activity, is to be extremely simplistic. Well, the average rise in American weight can’t possibly have anything to do with environment, because we had McDonald’s 50 years ago. So let’s take environment off the table. It can’t possibly have anything to do with psychology, because overweight people are no more likely to be neurotic than normal-weight people, so let’s conclude that there is NO psychological element WHATSOEVER involved in eating at any time. We must just be more obese, on average, as a people, because we (we Americans, not necessarily we humans) have evolved genetically as a species over the past 50 years. Isn't that rather simplistic logic? (I do wonder why it didn’t occur to her to ask whether fat people simply have more children than skinny people. That would be a very simple biological explanation for the societal rise in obesity over the past 50 years.)

So, in the end, I’m conflicted about this book. I think someone had to say that our ideas of “ideal weight” are too low, and that the obesity industry has a vested interest in maintaining these unrealistic perceptions, and that good health has more to do with how fit you are than how thin you are, and that our country has become too obsessed with obesity as the fashionable cause di rigour. While it’s nice to hear what I’ve always suspected—that being overweight is not as deadly as the histrionics imply, and that most people who are thin are thin because they naturally tend that way—I’m not quite ready to jump on the Calvinistic bandwagon with both feet and say that nothing I do matters or that I wouldn't be better off if I at least lost 15 pounds. I’m borderline obese. This book could either make me throw in the towel in despair, or roll up my sleeves in defiance. Either way, yes, she’s right, I won’t be slim five years from now, because there's no way that I, personally, am going to stick to a 1,200 calorie diet for life or exercise six hours a week. But I might very well be on the low end of overweight, instead of on the low end of obese, and I might very well have more energy and better health, if I don't take the defeatist attitude that nothing I do matters, that I will always be obese because I happen to be right now. Kolata may be right. I may only have “some control” over a certain “range” of weight that is “20-30 pounds” above or below my natural weight. But that still means I can weigh anywhere from 105 to 165 pounds (and, as a matter of fact, I’ve hit both that low end and high end in my adult life). That still means that, depending on how I choose to live and how much effort I choose to expend and how much hunger I choose to endure, I can be slightly underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese! Some people may not have this wide a range if they are starting from a higher biological middle point, but they probably still have a choice between being obese and overweight, or between being morbidly obese and obese. I wish Kolata had not so casually dismissed the importance of that range of limited choice. Her attitude is very negative: “You can only choose B or C, and you want A. Therefore you might as well have no choice.”
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4

Sep 14, 2007

Kolota, a science writer for the NYT, confirms what I always suspected, that fat people aren't fat because they have no willpower or because they are somehow morally inferior to skinny people. They are fat because their weight, like their height, is genetically predetermined. The author follows a research group for two years who are ostensibly comparing an Atkins-type diet to another group with the calorie-counting diet. Both groups get support groups and counseling and the end result is the Kolota, a science writer for the NYT, confirms what I always suspected, that fat people aren't fat because they have no willpower or because they are somehow morally inferior to skinny people. They are fat because their weight, like their height, is genetically predetermined. The author follows a research group for two years who are ostensibly comparing an Atkins-type diet to another group with the calorie-counting diet. Both groups get support groups and counseling and the end result is the same. They all lost weight then put it back on. In another study a group of skinny men (prisoners) volunteered to get fat. They all did, but it was difficult because they had to fight their body's metabolism; the more they ate the more it sped up. Another group of fat men lost weight to the mirror problem, the more weight they lost the slower their metabolism went. When the study was over all men returned to their pre-study weight. She refers to countless other scientific papers that reach the same hypothesis. Our body's have a "set point" which our body will fight to maintain. We can move back and forth within about 20 pounds by over- or under- eating, but it's nigh impossible to maintain anything outside of those parameters.

One of Kolota's other points in the book is the huge prejudice against fat people that is perpetuated in the media, of course, but more surprisingly in the scientific community. The CDC's claim that overweight people die younger simply isn't true. A more rigorous study revealed the opposite. Overweight people live longer. Why, they don't know, but they do.

I came away with many questions that the author doesn't address, but overall I found the book quite provocative in that it challenged by own prejudices and beliefs about weight. ...more
4

Sep 12, 2007

First off, this is not a diet book and offers no advice on how to loose weight. Instead it is an investigation into the science of weight loss, or as Kolata describes:

It is about the nature of the current fixation with obesity, where it came from, and why it persists. It is about personal obsession and social obsession with body weight. And it is, in the end, about obesitya scientific and social phenomenon that has defined our time, made some rich and others miserable, led to the elation of First off, this is not a diet book and offers no advice on how to loose weight. Instead it is an investigation into the science of weight loss, or as Kolata describes:

It is about the nature of the current fixation with obesity, where it came from, and why it persists. It is about personal obsession and social obsession with body weight. And it is, in the end, about obesity—a scientific and social phenomenon that has defined our time, made some rich and others miserable, led to the elation of discover and the despair of dashed hopes when easy answers did not arise. (p.7)

Fairly ambitious, and for the most part Kolata delivers. She begins by describing a study into weight loss at the University of Pennsylvania, and introduces some of the 360 obese subjects recruited to participate. The study will take two years and will compare two different diets to determine if one diet is better than another. The diets to be studied are the Atkins diet vs. the LEARN diet (which is basically a low-calorie diet). The book is divided into 8 chapters, and in between each chapter is an update of the Penn study culminating in the end of the two-year study.

One of Kolata’s most interesting chapters is a history of dieting in America from the early 1800s to the present. She explains that practically every diet on the market today is just an updated version of a diet that has existed since the 19th century; this includes the Atkins diet whose early incarnation was known as “banting.” There was also a 19th century version of the Slim Fast Diet, although back then they left potassium out of the diet drink leading to the death of more than a couple people.

Kolata also devotes a chapter to how the perception of fat has altered over the years. In the late 1800s/early 1900s the performer Lillian Russell was described as the “airy, fairy Lillian, the American Beauty (p.33),” while weighing in at 200 pounds. Societies standards shifted and today the standard of beauty is for much thinner women. But Kolata asks, how realistic are those standards? As an example she uses Jennifer Aniston, who at 5 feet 5 inches and weighing 110 pounds has a body mass index of 18.3, “making her officially underweight and so thin that less than 3.5 percent of American women meet the standard (p.65).”

Kolata’s chapter on the scientific research that has been conducted on obesity is fascinating (even if I had to read a couple paragraphs more than once to fully comprehend what she was describing). Kolata describes research done into leptin’s role in appetite; and how leptin treatment has had success in treating some morbidly obese children whose bodies do not produce leptin.

This is a well researched book, and Kolata discusses many important issues, such as how a persons income affects their diet and thus their weight (one of the few studies into obesity I’ve read that have actually mentioned this); the many various reason why people who loose weight almost always regain some if not all of it; and the impact of discrimination against obese people.

One of the few criticisms I have is that Kolata never defines what she means by the terms “overweight” “obese” and “morbidly obese.” And almost everyone has their own idea about what these words mean. When I hear the term overweight I’m thinking 20-50 pounds over the recommend weight for a certain height; when hearing obese I’m thinking anywhere from 60-150 pounds; and when I hear morbidly obese I think of the people who can’t get out of bed because of excess body fat. Without Kolata explaining what she means by these terms I was forced to wonder if I was accurately understand the information she was relating.

I would recommend this book for anyone who has ever tried to loose weight, has ever thought about loosing weight, or who has ever offered up a comment on someone else’s weight.

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4

Nov 27, 2008

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Over the years, I've heard about studies that indicate that people tend to have set body weights, that weight lost is almost always regained, that genetics and biology play a bigger part in weight gain than eating habits, and that some people are just destined to be fat. Those studies are always buried by the "common knowledge" that obesity is a result of a lack of willpower and self-control, that fat people are simply lazy. I have seen person after person Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Over the years, I've heard about studies that indicate that people tend to have set body weights, that weight lost is almost always regained, that genetics and biology play a bigger part in weight gain than eating habits, and that some people are just destined to be fat. Those studies are always buried by the "common knowledge" that obesity is a result of a lack of willpower and self-control, that fat people are simply lazy. I have seen person after person struggle to diet and lose weight. As soon as they stop dieting, they regain it. Every. Single. Time. What Gina Kolata does in Rethinking Thin The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting is compile the studies that got buried. She gives the details of the research and the conclusions. She makes it all comprehensible to the average person. She also follows participants of a two-year diet study and shows us what they are thinking as they try their umpteenth diets. She's not afraid to call fat fat, but she does so with in a matter-of-fact way while showing compassion for the individuals she's writing about.

Now, if you've ever struggled with your weight, you know what the conclusion is: It is possible to lose weight, but it's practically impossible to keep it off. Kolata provides the scientific explanations for why this happens. My one complaint is that she focuses very much on the obese--mostly those who have been obese since childhood or early adulthood. She mentions those, like me, with creeping weight gain, but never states whether or not the research applies to those who have gained 10-15 pounds per decade through adulthood. The research she cites shows that people tend to have set weights and can gain or lose 10-15%, but will stay within that range of their set weight. That contradicts creeping weight gain and that subject deserves to be looked at in light of this study.

The good news for those of you out there who are thin or normal weight, you are quite unlikely to become obese. The same studies that show fat people regain their weight after dieting show thin people lose weight after going off weight gain regimes. Neither the fatties or the skinnies put any conscious effort into returning to their set weight.

It's all interesting and makes a lot of sense based on observation, but it's depressing too. ...more
5

Mar 23, 2009

So, apparently your body weight, or at least your body weight range, is genetically determined. But this news doesn't get out, because absolutely no one likes the idea that weight is genetic -- not the diet industry, not the health industry, not the media, and least of all dieters themselves. Genetic weight invalidates centuries of diet fads and fat obsessing, puts a whole industry out of business, and robs people who don't like their weight of the hope that their next diet will be the one to So, apparently your body weight, or at least your body weight range, is genetically determined. But this news doesn't get out, because absolutely no one likes the idea that weight is genetic -- not the diet industry, not the health industry, not the media, and least of all dieters themselves. Genetic weight invalidates centuries of diet fads and fat obsessing, puts a whole industry out of business, and robs people who don't like their weight of the hope that their next diet will be the one to change everything.

Not only is the subject of this book intriguing but I admire the way the author put it together. The book has suspense, real life characters to care about, and descriptions of scientific discoveries that have you on the edge of your seat. It has clear and illuminating explanations of the biology of weight gain, and sheds light on why scientists disagree about the data.

I was convinced. Will I stop trying to change what I weigh? No. ...more
4

Apr 06, 2019

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is that it provides a history of dieting that goes back to the 1800s. According to Kolata few of today's revolutionary diets are revolutionary but rather recycled versions of some other previous approach. Interestingly, most didn't work then and they don't work now. Sure, they may provide some temporary weight loss, but generally speaking, the overwhelming majority of people who lose weight on a diet will gain it back.

Kolata skillfully weaves the Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this book is that it provides a history of dieting that goes back to the 1800s. According to Kolata few of today's revolutionary diets are revolutionary but rather recycled versions of some other previous approach. Interestingly, most didn't work then and they don't work now. Sure, they may provide some temporary weight loss, but generally speaking, the overwhelming majority of people who lose weight on a diet will gain it back.

Kolata skillfully weaves the stories of several would be "losers" into the narrative. They are participating in a two-year study that compares the Atkins diet to a more traditional low-fat diet. Their story is sad and familiar. Many have lost weight before, only to regain it back. Most believe that this time will be different. Only it isn't, which leaves Kolata to postulate that maybe, just maybe, weight loss isn't realistic. At one point she even questions if being overweight is indeed as unhealthy as we are being told. She argues that the health risks of all levels of obesity with the exception of the morbidly obese are really aren't associated with poorer health outcomes. In fact, individuals who are in the first and second classification of obesity, actually lived longer in a study she cited.

I think what gets lost in this particular book and others like it is that they talk about overweight as if it were a narrowly defined condition. Yet, there are huge differences between being 10 pounds overweight and being 150 pounds overweight. Kolata also seems to overlook that the failure of the dieting may be more a reflection of the diet and less a reflection of our ability to lose weight and keep it off.

At one point, Kolata, citing Jeffrey Friedman - a molecular biologist who discovered leptin, suggests that maybe the increased incidence of overweight and obesity is a natural progression of our genome. After all, we are getting taller. Why not fatter?

This is the second book I read recently that questions the health risks associated with being overweight. Unfortunately, the study referenced looks at weight as it relates to incidence of death. It is very possible that the behaviors that lead to weight gain and not the weight itself is to blame for things like the rise in diabetes. And while death is certainly a poor health outcome, living with diabetes, even if it doesn't shorten your life, can impact its quality. Kolata seems to ignore this. I get the point that she is trying to make. Our focus on weight and weight alone is misled. It is more likely that it is the behaviors that lead to overweight and obesity and/or weight loss that may be relevant to our health.

All in all, I felt the book was very informative. I enjoyed learning more about the history of dieting. I also found the interviews with the two-year study participants to be eye-opening albeit a little disheartening. ...more
3

Jul 22, 2010

Rethinking Thin is not a diet book, despite the title. Gina Kolata is a science writer for the New York Times, and she set out to study the science and history of dieting.

She follows a group of dieters who were recruited for a research study by three universities. The study aimed to compare the effectiveness of the Atkins diet to a low-fat diet.

Kolata intersperses chapters containing anecdotes of the dieters' experience with reports of previous dieting studies and the history of diets through Rethinking Thin is not a diet book, despite the title. Gina Kolata is a science writer for the New York Times, and she set out to study the science and history of dieting.

She follows a group of dieters who were recruited for a research study by three universities. The study aimed to compare the effectiveness of the Atkins diet to a low-fat diet.

Kolata intersperses chapters containing anecdotes of the dieters' experience with reports of previous dieting studies and the history of diets through the ages.

It turns out that Atkins was not the first person to come up with the notion that a high-protein, low-carb diet results in weight loss: that idea actually began with a French gourmet in the 18th century.

One chapter, titled "Epiphanies and Hucksters" discusses the dieting trends since the 1800s. Another chapter, titled "Oh, to Be as Thin as Jennifer Aniston (or Brad Pitt)" covers the extreme obsession of weight loss in the U.S. today.

Did you know that Jennifer Aniston, who is 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighs 120 pounds, has a body mass index (BMI) of 20? Some Miss America winners have had BMIs as low as 16.9. She then discusses the more relaxed standards for men, who can be critical of women for their weights. They are actually the "fatter" sex, if that is defined by BMI. "Just 36 percent of men over 18 are at a healthy weight, and a mere .09 percent are underweight." In comparison, 49.5 percent of American women aged 18 or older have a "normal" BMI. Furthermore, Brad itt is 6 feet tall and weighs 159 pounds. If he had the same BMI as Aniston, he would weigh only 135 pounds. Revealing, isn't it?

After delving in to multiple research studies (the ones that revealed the difficulty of permanent weight loss rarely reaching the light of day because of the lobbying power of the diet industry), Kolata reaches some difficult conclusions:

-One's weight is largely determined by one's genetic makeup. If your parents or relatives are overweight, you are more likely to be.

-Although environment is important (and having healthy foods available), it's not as critical as your genes.

-It is nearly impossible for people who are extremely overweight to lose the weight permanently, without resorting to surgery.

-People who are overweight and then lose great amounts of weight usually are never sated, no matter how much they eat.

-Our notions of weight and overweight are not always grounded in science. Being overweight does not always mean you are less healthy.
Generally, each person has a destined weight range, and will generally be able to gain or lose 5 to 20 pounds, but probably will not be able to take off more than that permanently.

This could be perceived as a depressing book by people defined as obese. On the other hand, it could give some encouragement because it discusses the sheer futility people feel when trying to diet over and over again, and not reaching long-term success.

One of my dear college friends lost a huge amount of weight when she turned 40 by becoming an amazing running machine. I've never seen anything like that. And she's kept it off for about 5 years now. But she can never let up on the vigilance. That's what Kolata found.
Many of the dieters thought that once they reached their ideal weight, they'd be able to let their guards down. It doesn't work that way. According to Kolata, if you start out overweight and you are able to lose weight through dieting and exercise, it's a HUGE lifelong commitment to keep it off. And multiple studies (rarely covered in the media) have confirmed this.

Very few people are successful, making my friend's success story ever more sweet. I will never be a runner like her. But she's my inspiration! ...more
5

Nov 30, 2009

This is the book all dieters have been waiting for. It follows the trials of the Atkins Diet as compared with a low fat- low cal diet. And the winner is...... none. This book made it clear that all diets work in the short run, but put pounds on in the long run. The few scientific studies that have been done prove that after 2 years, results with any diet are always the same. Weight is lost the first few weeks, then gradually comes back on. The only permanent solution is a change in eating habits This is the book all dieters have been waiting for. It follows the trials of the Atkins Diet as compared with a low fat- low cal diet. And the winner is...... none. This book made it clear that all diets work in the short run, but put pounds on in the long run. The few scientific studies that have been done prove that after 2 years, results with any diet are always the same. Weight is lost the first few weeks, then gradually comes back on. The only permanent solution is a change in eating habits over time. The second point the book makes is that obesity is to a large extent genetic. Some genes have been identified as contributing to being fat. Some exciting research into differing hunger levels between skinny people and obese people. It was always assumed that everyone experiences hunger the same way, but this is far from true. Some people have more hunger hormones (ghrelin and galanin) than others. Other people have less satiety hormones (CCK and PYY) and never seem to feel full even after eating what would be several meals to a normal person. An exciting book that the diet industry will want to minimize, since every diet out there seems to think theirs is the only one that will work. I listened on tape and it was a very good reading. When I checked the book out, I kind of got bogged down in facts. The reader was so good that I could understand it far better than when I read it. ...more
2

Jan 25, 2009

I appreciated the basis in current scientific studies; however, I found that there was a selection bias in which studies she chose to cite. She chooses to buttress her argument that it's all genetic and that there is nothing you can do about your weight by using studies with negative results. While it is true that losing weight and keeping it off is not easy, the National Weight Control Registry has published data on successful weight loss maintainers, and shows that there IS another way.

As I appreciated the basis in current scientific studies; however, I found that there was a selection bias in which studies she chose to cite. She chooses to buttress her argument that it's all genetic and that there is nothing you can do about your weight by using studies with negative results. While it is true that losing weight and keeping it off is not easy, the National Weight Control Registry has published data on successful weight loss maintainers, and shows that there IS another way.

As someone who has lost 105 lbs and kept it off for 16 months now, I want to encourage people that it CAN be done without continual starvation or deprivation, as Kolata implies. I was obese (BMI 38) for 10 years, and now I am thin (BMI 22) and healthy. I do NOT feel that I am starving; I eat when I am hungry, and I simply make better choices about what I eat and exercise regularly. I am SO much happier now than I was as a fat person!

I think the major flaw in her book is that she does not address the lifestyle change necessary to lose and keep off weight. She is right - diets do NOT work, but she omits discussion of other ways to change. ...more
4

Jan 09, 2009

Gina Kolata has turned in another extremely readable book for the layperson, analyzing all the recent and relevant past research on obesity. In the interest of full disclosure, I did skim over a couple of pages that made abundant use of current molecular biology studies.
Yes, most of us are aware that a combination of calorie intake reduction and calorie export (in the form of exertion) should result in a net loss of the old adipose. But recent research indicates that most people are gonna be Gina Kolata has turned in another extremely readable book for the layperson, analyzing all the recent and relevant past research on obesity. In the interest of full disclosure, I did skim over a couple of pages that made abundant use of current molecular biology studies.
Yes, most of us are aware that a combination of calorie intake reduction and calorie export (in the form of exertion) should result in a net loss of the old adipose. But recent research indicates that most people are gonna be the weight they are (as adults) within about 25 pounds. That doesn't even shock me anymore: the "set point" theory.
The most interesting thing I found out was why the first world seems to be getting heavier. Kolata cites height as an example. One hundred years ago we were all about 4 inches shorter, even if our genes allowed for extra height. We just didn't have the proper nutrition to reach that genetic potential. It seems that we are only now reaching our genetic weight potential due to access to cheap, abundant food. Hmmm.
Quick, easy to read (mostly), and highly recommended. ...more
5

Nov 27, 2008

This was written by the science editor for the New York Times, and it tells the history of dieting, including current research. It never occurred to me how much dieting research is going on, and how much of it is so highly political, involving the drug companies, governmental agencies, and the back-stabbing infighting of academics and other scientists, and lots of money. The bottom line, as I read it, is that no diet has ever worked or will ever work. Our genes pretty much define our weight and This was written by the science editor for the New York Times, and it tells the history of dieting, including current research. It never occurred to me how much dieting research is going on, and how much of it is so highly political, involving the drug companies, governmental agencies, and the back-stabbing infighting of academics and other scientists, and lots of money. The bottom line, as I read it, is that no diet has ever worked or will ever work. Our genes pretty much define our weight and it has very little, if anything to do with willpower. Some parts of the book lag because it becomes overly technical, but most of it reads like a medical mystery story. Very enjoyable and informative. ...more
5

Oct 07, 2009

Man, I feel like such a chump. I've been swallowing the line on dieting for years without question, and this book really blows it up. The author reviews the past several decades of research on obesity and dieting and lets us in on the results -- diets don't work and your weight in genetically predetermined. You heard me. All that fat shaming and blathering about lack of personal responsibility that is done by public health folks, diet gurus, and Dr. Phil? Not relevant. The reason the vast Man, I feel like such a chump. I've been swallowing the line on dieting for years without question, and this book really blows it up. The author reviews the past several decades of research on obesity and dieting and lets us in on the results -- diets don't work and your weight in genetically predetermined. You heard me. All that fat shaming and blathering about lack of personal responsibility that is done by public health folks, diet gurus, and Dr. Phil? Not relevant. The reason the vast majority of people can't keep weight off after dieting is that your body is working against you to get you back to whatever weight is your "set point." We have decent control over maybe 10-20 pounds. And you know what else? It's unlikely that being overweight has a significant effect on your health or longevity.

I've just blown your mind, haven't I?

The author, who's a science writer for the New York Times, does a good job of reviewing the research and explaining the different studies. The writing is a little technical at times, where she explains how scientists uncovered various hormones, peptides, and DNA. She also talks about the resistance the media and other researchers have had to certain studies that refuted the conventional wisdom about obesity. She explains this by pointing to the vast amount of money that dieting advocates, obesity researchers, and government entities stand to lose if the "obesity epidemic" is disproved.

Here's the deal: While improving your food choices and getting regular exercise can have a positive impact on your health, they probably won't make you thin. So if we can stop beating ourselves up for being fat, ugly, and unlovable, if we can make peace with our size and use all that time and money we spent on dieting for something else, if we stop letting people tell us we should be ashamed of ourselves...that'd be something, huh? ...more
5

May 01, 2016

In many of the reviews I read people were sad about this book but in my case it cheered me up as it said that its healthier to be over weight! IMO that was very good news. Dieting doesn't work as people tend to just yo-yo as I have known for years.

If you want to read how its better to be slightly overweight then go to about page 203 and read it. Our culture is just obsessed with being too thin and its big business so no wonder they don't want anyone to hear this information. Think of all that In many of the reviews I read people were sad about this book but in my case it cheered me up as it said that its healthier to be over weight! IMO that was very good news. Dieting doesn't work as people tend to just yo-yo as I have known for years.

If you want to read how its better to be slightly overweight then go to about page 203 and read it. Our culture is just obsessed with being too thin and its big business so no wonder they don't want anyone to hear this information. Think of all that soybean and corn diet food they could no longer sell. That stuff is garbage.

These days we are taller, weigh more AND ARE SMARTER per IQ tests. ...more
4

Jul 14, 2009

Gina Kolata gives both a history of dieting in the US from the nineteenth century to today and an overview of past and current obesity research. Both are fascinating and kind of depressing. Fascinating because--how is it that I don't already *know* this stuff about weight loss? I mean, as many magazine articles as I've read about the topic, you'd think I'd know everything. Depressing because it confirms what so very, very many of us know: Weight loss is pretty hard. Keeping it off in the long Gina Kolata gives both a history of dieting in the US from the nineteenth century to today and an overview of past and current obesity research. Both are fascinating and kind of depressing. Fascinating because--how is it that I don't already *know* this stuff about weight loss? I mean, as many magazine articles as I've read about the topic, you'd think I'd know everything. Depressing because it confirms what so very, very many of us know: Weight loss is pretty hard. Keeping it off in the long term is way harder. Kolata cites and explains the research that shows that the difficulty in weight loss and keeping weight off is not because people are greedy and lazy. Did you hear that, naturally thin people?


...more
3

Apr 05, 2008

This was interesting. The author is the science writer for the NY Times and I read one of her other books (Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It.) When I saw this one in my library I picked it up.

It's a factual account of the industry and science of weight loss here in the U.S. I gave it three stars instead of four only because one of the middle sections was so science-intensive that my eyes glazed over. (Sample sentence: "But PYY, the This was interesting. The author is the science writer for the NY Times and I read one of her other books (Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It.) When I saw this one in my library I picked it up.

It's a factual account of the industry and science of weight loss here in the U.S. I gave it three stars instead of four only because one of the middle sections was so science-intensive that my eyes glazed over. (Sample sentence: "But PYY, the anti-leptin, also counteracts AgRP and actually the PYY that is an appetite suppressor is not the complete PYY peptide.")

It's also a bit glum -- it seems that modern science and load of painstaking studies have shown that if you have always been obese, you don't have much hope of loosing weight AND KEEPING IT OFF. But the good news is that if you've always been slim or normal weight, you don't have much chance of suddenly becoming obese either. (Overweight is different.) ...more
4

Feb 07, 2009

What an example of misrepresentation by cover/title! This is not a diet book or a self-help book. I never would have picked it up based on the cover.

In Rethinking Thin, Kolata weaves together the stories of a group participating in a diet comparison study (atkins v. calorie counting) with a history of popular opinion, medical research and treatment of obesity. She elegantly brings it all together at the end. The best chapters reminded me of my favorite medical histories (The Ghost Map, for What an example of misrepresentation by cover/title! This is not a diet book or a self-help book. I never would have picked it up based on the cover.

In Rethinking Thin, Kolata weaves together the stories of a group participating in a diet comparison study (atkins v. calorie counting) with a history of popular opinion, medical research and treatment of obesity. She elegantly brings it all together at the end. The best chapters reminded me of my favorite medical histories (The Ghost Map, for example).

I thought I had heard it all about weight loss, but maybe I've just heard the same things repeated again and again, while other studies are ignored. Near the end of the book, Kolata brings up the idea that maybe humans are just evolving to be larger and heavier. I remember visiting the Jane Austen museum in Bath, England. The clothing they had on display, worn by 18th century women and men, would probably not go around my eight-year-old. (who is thin and tall.) Fascinating and quick read, highly recommended. ...more
4

Sep 03, 2007

As an overweight woman who most of the time still feels good about her looks and her body, this book was an affirmation and was reassuring. The author looks at research projects that have gotten little press because these study go against the notion that overweight/obesity is a character flaw and always unhealthy. The author makes a good case that we have a weight range that we are going to remain unless we do drastic things like starve or force ourselves to eat more than feels right. Overweight As an overweight woman who most of the time still feels good about her looks and her body, this book was an affirmation and was reassuring. The author looks at research projects that have gotten little press because these study go against the notion that overweight/obesity is a character flaw and always unhealthy. The author makes a good case that we have a weight range that we are going to remain unless we do drastic things like starve or force ourselves to eat more than feels right. Overweight people who were hospitalized and their diet controlled lost weight, down to weights that the "charts" said they should be. However, these folks showed clinical signs of starvation. Different bodies require different amounts of food.
The author also debates the notion that fat in itself is unhealthy. This is part of a new trend recognizing that cholestrol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels are better indicators of health. Overweight people who eat healthy foods and exercise can be healthy. ...more
4

Dec 08, 2010

This book is much less angry and lyrical than Paul Campos' The Obesity Myth, but it is just as powerful, partly because it takes the reader by surprise. Even the title, "Rethinking Thin," seems designed to lull the complacent who are going to be confronted with the need to rethink fat. And, it saves its best ammo for the end. Not only is weight loss rarely possible in the way it is advertised, not only are the causes unknown, but the best evidence is that heftier people are healthier than the This book is much less angry and lyrical than Paul Campos' The Obesity Myth, but it is just as powerful, partly because it takes the reader by surprise. Even the title, "Rethinking Thin," seems designed to lull the complacent who are going to be confronted with the need to rethink fat. And, it saves its best ammo for the end. Not only is weight loss rarely possible in the way it is advertised, not only are the causes unknown, but the best evidence is that heftier people are healthier than the skinny. The mortality rates are U shaped with overweight in the middle of the valley and the thin and extreme obese at the higher ends (where a rise indicates greater mortality).

This book is never boring, but if you at all know that you like human interest stories, you can be confident that you will find Kolata's writing fascinating. Also, this is the first book I've found that gives some historical/cultural information about when and how views of fat changed in American life. It is all fascinating.

I didn't give this book five stars because I wasn't happy with some aspects of Kolata's happy ending. I think the people who learned to exercise more, eat more healthy, snack less between meals, and accept the results without trying to become skinny, were inspiring. But in that mix Kolata included people obsessed with calorie counts who instinctively interpreted food as caloric numbers. I don't think that is mentally healthy. (I'd only take off a fraction of a star if that were possible.)

Kolata's book is short, engaging, and disruptive to the superstitious world in which she lives. One of her stories involved a statistician in the 1800s who discovered that bleeding did not help the diseases it was supposed to help. He immediately reported that this proved people weren't being bled soon enough or as much as they needed to be. That is the world we live in today regarding health and fat. All the best evidence is that we are actually hurting ourselves but the thin-regime will never give up the political and economic power they have.

Take it away from them. ...more
3

Feb 12, 2009

I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I was familiar with the premise from having read other sources such as the blog "Junkfood Science." Many of the studies she reviewed I had read of before from such sources. I think the message needs to be heard: that the genetic correlation with weight/body size/shape is higher than that with many other things we think of as "genetic" such as mental illness or cancer. And that most diets don't work, especially in the long term, and that by and large, I'm not sure how I feel about this book. I was familiar with the premise from having read other sources such as the blog "Junkfood Science." Many of the studies she reviewed I had read of before from such sources. I think the message needs to be heard: that the genetic correlation with weight/body size/shape is higher than that with many other things we think of as "genetic" such as mental illness or cancer. And that most diets don't work, especially in the long term, and that by and large, fatness or thinness has nothing to do with your psychological state of mind or "self-discipline" or morals. In the current climate of hysteria about weight and obesity, that message needs to be heard. My issue with this book is how Kolata conveys the message.

The overall tone of the book is extremely glum and dreary and depressing. It doesn't have to be. We could rejoice and say "this is just one more of those things I don't have much control over, like my skin tone or height or ethnic background, and while there are sensible precautions one can take based on those factors (ie as a redhead I need to wear a hat outdoors) it's not an indictment of me as a person and I don't need to feel guilt or shame about it." But that's not the tone of the book. It hasn't moved away entirely from the paradigm of fat as failure, so when the message comes through that if you're fat, there's really not much you can do to change it no matter how you obsess over it, the tone is of despair and not relief.

There's also the issue of Kolata's science writing, which is supposed to be so excellent but left me cold in this particular book. She falls into the familiar trap of vomiting up numbers and rehashing statistics as though writing an abstract, rather than trying to help the reader stay engaged and comprehend the complexities in better detail. This was particularly true in the "Girl with No Leptin" chapter, which I confess I mostly skimmed because it was so dreary and dry to read.

I wish she had written more in this book that is like the final chapter, which systematically exposes and demolishes the current moral panic over obesity in all its shallow hypocrisy. That would have been a more compelling read. And frankly I was most disheartened and dismayed by the sections following individual dieters. All I took away from their stories (and I am not sure if this was the message Kolata meant to send) was that I'd rather die fat and happy with a cheeseburger in one hand and a vat of bacon grease in the other than become the kind of dreary, boring, self-loathing obsessive that these poor folks seemed to be, all in the pursuit of losing 20 pounds they gained right back.

I also wish she had done a little more of a strenuous job debunking the psychopathologizing of the obese. As a fat woman who has never binged nor purged, who does not have a "compulsion" to eat, and who in fact eats rather moderately, but who has been lectured time and time again about "emotional eating," I would have loved to see that hoary old myth totally demolished--as science has shown it to be a hollow misogynist fable. ...more
3

Dec 26, 2009

Fat people have a bad image. So-called normal and thin people assume that fat people are responsible for how they look, that they are lacking in will-power, that theyre lazy, smelly, stupid, and they have made a choice to *be* fat. Being fat seems to give people license to criticize and ridicule one. Gina Kolata delves a little bit deeper into the current diet research looking at what, if any, diets really work for fat people, how genetics play into a persons weight, and whether its really Fat people have a bad image. So-called normal and thin people assume that fat people are responsible for how they look, that they are lacking in will-power, that they’re lazy, smelly, stupid, and they have made a choice to *be* fat. Being fat seems to give people license to criticize and ridicule one. Gina Kolata delves a little bit deeper into the current diet research – looking at what, if any, diets really work for fat people, how genetics play into a person’s weight, and whether it’s really unhealthy to be overweight.

She discovers some surprising things. Fat people often do eat more than their thin counterparts, but they’re also hungrier – especially when they diet (they can’t think of anything but food, whereas naturally thin people rarely think about food). Genetics more than anything else determine what a person’s weight range will be (so environment, psychological factors are not really all that important), and maintaining a weight outside of this range requires nearly constant vigilance. There may be hope, though. Scientists have discovered a number of chemicals produced by the body that may be able to help people be slimmer. These work together to influence appetite and how (and how much) fat is deposited in the body. Finally, Kolata examines studies that indicate that being overweight might actually help one live longer.

This was a well-written inquiry into a topic that’s certainly on the minds of most Americans. We are obsessed with weight and have such unrealistic standards for thinness that our ideals are unreachable by most men and women. After having learned a bit about how our bodies regulate weight, and how much researchers know (and drug companies), I’m really surprised that no one has yet developed a drug (or drugs) to help control obesity. There must be some kind of stumbling block – they can’t produce the same chemicals/hormones easily, or there’d be a huge outcry from the dieting *industry*. People will probably continue to feel inadequate and will continue to diet regardless of these discoveries. It would be nice if everyone could focus more on being healthy and less on unattainable appearances. ...more
5

Nov 03, 2013

Mom: Just finished Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, and I feel like Deja that this is a must read for all of us. Kolata talks about several long-term studies, and one in detail, where the dieters were followed for 2 years. The dieters were divided into 2 groups, one following the Atkins diet, and the other following a low-calorie diet. Both groups had high hopes going in. The low-calorie dieters were a little disappointed that they were not on the Atkins diet, but they still felt that the weight Mom: Just finished Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, and I feel like Deja that this is a must read for all of us. Kolata talks about several long-term studies, and one in detail, where the dieters were followed for 2 years. The dieters were divided into 2 groups, one following the Atkins diet, and the other following a low-calorie diet. Both groups had high hopes going in. The low-calorie dieters were a little disappointed that they were not on the Atkins diet, but they still felt that the weight loss that they were going to achieve would be worth it. They met every week and discussed goals and were counseled on weight control.
At first both groups lost weight. There was kind of a euphoria surrounding the group as they begin to see success, but then many reached a plateau, and some starting gaining weight back. Still they kept at it for the 2 years. A lot of expectations changed for them over that time. They realized that their goal weight was unrealistic. All them felt better off for being in the study. They found the value of exercise and making wise food choices made them feel better, but they know now that they will never be thin. They will probably keep monitoring their weight, but the goals are more based in reality.
Another important point I learned from the book was from a study they conducted where they had normal, healthy men cut their food rations in half. The men became obsessed with food, that’s all they could think about.
“The men, previously so emotionally healthy, suffered bouts of depression, irritability, and mood swings. They lost interest in sex--all they cared about was food.”
“Even when the dieting ended, and the twelve-week re-feeding period was under way, the men had problems. Normal meals were no longer enough. They would eat a huge meal and say they were still hungry.”

Definitely makes you rethink thin.


...more
5

May 25, 2011

In this accessible and well-written book, New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata gives a tour of the history of obesity research. She highlights contributions of major obesity researchers, and discusses the evidence for genetic, evolutionary and infectious causes of obesity. She also discusses the lack of evidence that calorie restriction leads to lasting weight loss. She basically concludes that it may not be possible to lose weight below a certain set-point, which is genetically In this accessible and well-written book, New York Times science reporter Gina Kolata gives a tour of the history of obesity research. She highlights contributions of major obesity researchers, and discusses the evidence for genetic, evolutionary and infectious causes of obesity. She also discusses the lack of evidence that calorie restriction leads to lasting weight loss. She basically concludes that it may not be possible to lose weight below a certain set-point, which is genetically determined for each individual. This book is a great introduction to the often intimidating medical and epidemiological literature on obesity, with references to a lot of major studies for you to follow up on, if you so choose.

Key facts:
1) The fear about health consequences of an “obesity epidemic” in America is not supported by the statistics. The CDC itself was forced to amend its statements (published to great attention in 2004) about the number of people killed by overweight each year (they claimed 400,000 deaths) after another group of CDC statisticians pointed out flaws with their data analysis (the second group arrived at a number closer to 30,000 – fewer deaths than are attributable to underweight!).
2) Twins adopted apart tend to have the same weight later in life. Twin studies show more genetic determinism to weight than to myriad other body conditions.
3) Losing weight is easy, but the body’s response to weight loss is to change into a conservative metabolic mode that will cause regain of the weight lost. Your body apparently fights to regain lost weight even if you were “over-weight” to begin with. Kolata goes into some detail about the studies that have shown this. Fascinating support of NEDA’s “kNOw dieting” policy.
...more
4

Apr 22, 2008

Kolata sets this up wonderfully. The book moves between chapters on 'diets'or the 'science of diets' and chapters following a group of people who are participating in a two-year diet study (Atkins vs low-cal) at Penn. Readily-consumed pop nonfiction.

The history of dieting is interesting -- lots of stuff I didn't know. The pain of being 'overweight' crosses the centuries.

And then the zapper, in one of the last chapters: the studies that show not only that dieting doesn't work but that being Kolata sets this up wonderfully. The book moves between chapters on 'diets'or the 'science of diets' and chapters following a group of people who are participating in a two-year diet study (Atkins vs low-cal) at Penn. Readily-consumed pop nonfiction.

The history of dieting is interesting -- lots of stuff I didn't know. The pain of being 'overweight' crosses the centuries.

And then the zapper, in one of the last chapters: the studies that show not only that dieting doesn't work but that being 'overweight' can often mean being healthier than being the 'right' weight. Kolata tells us that this is hard to accept, shows us how hard it is for others to accept, and yet we STILL have trouble accepting it.

The sections on starvation studies (which also involve forced over-eating) are intriguing, especially when it gets down to the bottom line: people can starve and they can gorge, but when it comes to maintenance, people cannot move more than 20 pounds past their set point. People who eat "too much" find their metabolisms speed up to keep them within 20 pounds of that point; people who eat "too little" find their metabolisms slow down to keep them within 20 pounds of that point. ...more
4

Feb 24, 2009

Lots of history on various diets through out the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries (this whole high protein/low protein/calorie counting dance we've got going on has been popular for a LONG time, and there were quaint idiotic trends, like drinking a cup of vinegar before every meal.) Excellent historical section, with emphasis given that the Gibson Girl and the Flapper "types" were based on DRAWINGS, not on real people. Gives lots of evidence that diets do NOT work (following a group of study Lots of history on various diets through out the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries (this whole high protein/low protein/calorie counting dance we've got going on has been popular for a LONG time, and there were quaint idiotic trends, like drinking a cup of vinegar before every meal.) Excellent historical section, with emphasis given that the Gibson Girl and the Flapper "types" were based on DRAWINGS, not on real people. Gives lots of evidence that diets do NOT work (following a group of study participants over two years) and a good bit (less than some) of emphasis on the 'obesity epidemic' being crap. (I would have liked to see this section expanded; she had interesting statistics about the correlation of better health care leading to a charted increase over decades in both average height and weight, and that was interesting. Plus any other voice calling bullshit on this stuff is good to hear.)
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2

Jan 10, 2012

Slow-moving getting through the history of the research, and the conclusions are less than inspiring, but it's not news to me. Bottom line: good nutrition and exercise will do everyone a lot of good, but apart from heroically-sustained efforts (see justmaintaining.com ) it is pretty much impossible for the heavy to become thin and stay there. I've lost as much as 20% of my top weight and am able to sustain keeping off 15% of it over the last five years, but I keep edging back up. And I need to Slow-moving getting through the history of the research, and the conclusions are less than inspiring, but it's not news to me. Bottom line: good nutrition and exercise will do everyone a lot of good, but apart from heroically-sustained efforts (see justmaintaining.com ) it is pretty much impossible for the heavy to become thin and stay there. I've lost as much as 20% of my top weight and am able to sustain keeping off 15% of it over the last five years, but I keep edging back up. And I need to lose quite a bit more according to our society's current standards. I think Yoni Freedhoff and Arya Sharma (look 'em up) are realistic and helpful in their medical practices, and one of them (I forget which!) says we should look to the healthiest lifestyle we can sustain in the long run, not what we're able to achieve with white knuckles. I'm working my way into agreeing. ...more

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