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It's not obesity, but the panic over obesity, that's the real health problem, argues this scintillating contrarian study of the evergreen subject of American gluttony and sloth. Political scientist Oliver condemns what he feels is a self-interested "public health establishment"-obesity researchers seeking federal funding, pharmaceutical and weight-loss companies peddling diet drugs and regimens, bariatric surgeons and other health-care providers angling for insurance reimbursement-for spuriously characterizing fatness as a disease. He debunks the dubious science and alarmist PR that fuels their campaign, taking on arbitrary Body-Mass Index standards that slot even Michael Jordan in the overweight category, state-by-state maps of obesity rates that make fatness look like a contagion spreading over the countryside, and flimsy research studies that vastly exaggerate the danger and costs of weight gain. Oliver also examines American attitudes towards obesity, probing the abhorrence of fatness implicit in the Protestant ethic and, less plausibly, tying our contemporary feminine ideal of the emaciated supermodel to a confluence of sociobiology and the economics of the urban sexual marketplace. Arguing that fatness is perfectly compatible with fitness, he contends that scapegoating obesity drives Americans to experiment with dangerous crash diets, appetite suppressants and weight-loss surgeries, while distracting us from underlying harmful changes in the American lifestyle-mainly our incessant snacking on junk food and shunning of exercise and physical activity, of which weight gain is perhaps merely a "benign symptom." Oliver provides a lucid, engaging critique of obesity research and a shrewd analysis of the socioeconomic and cultural forces behind it. The result is a compelling challenge to the conventional wisdom about our bulging waistlines. Photos.
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"An extended polemic against the causal association of overweight and ill health. Ascrib[ing] to weight loss what might be better attributed to the life-style changes that produce weight loss is, Oliver claims, 'like saying whiter teeth produced by the elimination of smoking reduces the incidence of lung cancer.'"--The New Yorker
"Fat Politics skewers the conventional wisdom on obesity. Beautifully written and exhaustively researched, it is impossible to read this book without having your view of fat forever changed. I absolutely loved this book." --Steven D. Levitt, Professor of Economics, University of Chicago; author of Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
"It's not obesity, but the panic over obesity, that's the real health problem, argues this scintillating contrarian study of the evergreen subject of American gluttony and sloth.... Oliver provides a lucid, engaging critique of obesity research and a shrewd analysis of the socioeconomic and cultural forces behind it. The result is a compelling challenge to the conventional wisdom about our bulging waistlines."--Publishers Weekly
"Fat Politics is one of those rare books that manages to turn all your conventional ideas and easy assumptions on their heads, while somehow maintaining a probing, reasonable, and entertaining tone. Anyone who holds strong opinions--professional or personal--about American's obesity epidemic is going to have to grapple with this book." --Stephen Johnson, author of Everything Bad is Good For You: How Today's Popular Culture is Actually Making Us Smarter
"Eric Oliver's book debunks almost every conventional theory that causally relates obesity to diseases and early death. It will infuriate countless obesity researchers, weight-loss doctors, and the food, diet, and pharmaceutical industries. Whether or not you agree with all of his critiques, one thing is indisputable: the entire field badly needs a good shakeup." --Jerome P. Kassirer, M.D., Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, New England Journal of Medicine, and author of On The Take: How Medicine's Complicity with Big Business Can Endanger Your Health
"A damning indictment of a culture awash in the paradox of too much choice, the shame of too much consumption, and the fear of a moral vacuum.... In one well-argued, boldly titled chapter after another, Oliver advances his view that we have made fatness 'a scapegoat for all our ills' and explores how we harm ourselves by doing so."--Daphne Merkin, Elle Magazine
"In Fat Politics, Eric Oliver examines America's ongoing search for weapons of body mass destruction and reveals that the emperors of the current fat hysteria aren't wearing any clothes. This is an essential book for understanding the leading moral panic of our time. Fat Politics provides a particularly compelling analysis of the economic factors that have helped produce the current panic over fat. Fat Politics is the latest illustration of what happens when an academic whose work is not actually funded by the weight-loss industry takes a look at the evidence regarding the relationship between weight and health."--Paul Campos, Professor of Law, University of Colorado, and author of The Obesity Myth