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Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic Paperback – Sep 15 2006

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (Sept. 15 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313208
  • Product Dimensions: 1.6 x 15.4 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 204 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #427,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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By Amy M Sheffield on Jan. 20 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read a lot of books on nutrition and diet. This book is fabulous in the sense that the author is well educated and knowledgable enough to talk about issues from many different stand points. There are many topics surrounding the issue of obesity that are often not discussed in other books on the same topic. He gave me a whole new perspective. Overall, and excellent read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 22 reviews
58 of 61 people found the following review helpful
It's not the fat, it's the politics April 6 2006
By P. Lozar - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is a book that should be read by everyone with a "weight problem." Oliver does a terrific job of showing how the so-called obesity epidemic has little to do with genuine health concerns. Instead, not surprisingly, it's all about money: drug manufacturers who finance "obesity institutes" that hype the dangers of overweight to sell diet drugs; diet and exercise companies with a vested interest in convincing people that their excess pounds are hazardous to their health; bariatric surgeons who want your insurance money; researchers who find that focusing on the dangers of obesity greatly improves their chances of getting grant money and publishing their findings.

Oliver isn't saying that it's OK to weigh 400 lbs; instead, he points out that (except in the most extreme cases) the dangers of overweight and the benefits of losing weight are greatly exaggerated -- in fact, trying to lose weight can be more harmful to one's health than staying fat, and very thin people are often far less healthy than fat people. Numerous studies (which he cites in detail) have disproved the conventional wisdom, but these are routinely ignored or misinterpreted. He also points out that the main reason that the incidence of obesity has increased in America is not that Americans have gained a lot of weight, but rather that the threshold for classifying someone as "obese" has been lowered (duh!).

Oliver's most noteworthy point, I think, is this: excess weight is not the problem, it's a symptom. The real culprits in "weight-linked" diseases aren't the pounds themselves, but the behaviors and conditions associated with them. Fat people who exercise are healthier than thin people who don't; following a healthy diet is beneficial even if it doesn't lead to weight loss; and many conditions (such as insulin resistance) are likelier to be the cause of excess weight, rather than the other way around.

From my own experience, I can confirm Oliver's contention that doctors' obsession with weight loss as a cure-all often diverts them from dealing with the real problem. High blood pressure runs in my family, and afflicts both fat and thin people; but the same doctors who prescribed medication for my thin relatives told me that ALL I had to do was lose weight and my blood pressure would go down. After 30 years (!), during which my weight was all over the map while my blood pressure steadily climbed, I finally found a doctor who listened to reason, and I've kept my blood pressure under control ever since with medication. (Footnote: A few years later, I lost 40 lbs -- and my blood pressure didn't budge.)

Being a political scientist and a statistician, Oliver also offers his conclusions about the social implications of fat, which I found interesting but not always convincing (his argument for why thinness is valued in white women seemed rather circular to me). The chief value of the book, I think, is that he's done an excellent job of amassing the medical and statistical data, and showing that many of our assumptions about obesity are based on myth rather than fact.
41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
Opened my eyes Nov. 28 2005
By A Fan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed this book and unlike the guy below, I'm not selling a diet plan. In fact, the only people I can see not liking this book are people trying to sell weight loss products. For the rest of us, Oliver's book is a very readable and really fascinating explanation for how weight gain has come to be called an "obesity epidemic" (and how they are different).

The book systematically goes through the evidence (but in a highly readable way) about how the idea of obesity came to be defined and how the idea that obesity was a disease became popularized (largely from a small group of weight loss doctors, diet hucksters, and bureaucrats).

Not only does he reveal the people who have been behind the scenes and promoting the idea that America's weight gain is an epidemic disease, he goes beyond this and describes why we hate fat people, why white women are expected to be thin, and most interesting why Americans are gaining weight and what this weight gain means.

Some interesting things that I learned from this book were 1) ceteris paribus, white women are twice as likely to be told be their doctor that they are overweight; 2) taxing junk food is only likely to make people eat worse; 3) the main reason why Americans gaining weight is not from super-size meals but from snacking; 4) the biggest source of the obesity epidemic is a powerpoint presentation; 5) the origins of the idea of obesity came from an astronomer.

I was not surprised to see that Steve Levitt, author of Freakonomics, said he "loved" this book on the back cover. Its the same kind of interesting and counterintuitive logic.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
A Fascinating Read Jan. 15 2006
By Dr. R. Bogle - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Pretty much everyone presumes that being fat is bad. It is one of those basic presumptions that is safe from debate, like the presumption that smoking is bad (which it is). But in this provocative and fascinating book, Professor Eric Oliver closely examines the facts behind our presumptions about weight and turns up a many inconsistencies. Oliver lays out the chronology of how modest weight gain on the average American coincided with an increasingly shrill alarm about an unfolding "obesity epidemic" and he explores a number of connections between Big Pharma and the NIH that raise questions about the fundamental elements of our national obsession about weight. He debunks a series of well established myths and puts forth a novel theory in the media hysteria over weight: That being overweight is not necessarily bad.

But most enjoyable aspect of the book is how readable it is. This is no slog through dry statistics about our weight and health. Nor is it a finger wagging polemic whose substance is obvious from the first pages. "Fat Politics" is a lively, even gripping read as Oliver takes us on a tour through the cultural history of weight and the relationship between modern capitalism and weight gain. Readers of "Freakonomics" or "The Tipping Point" will find here a similar irreverence for conventional wisdom and compelling set of contrary arguments. Even if you don't agree with every one, "Fat Politics" will leave you with a new way of thinking about the debate and a heightened skepticism about the received wisdom on the topic.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Fat Politics July 17 2006
By Joyce M. Koppenheffer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be very informative and at last see that someone beside me feels that fat is being blamed on everything. Being a middle aged woman, though, I can attest to what the extra pounds have done to my knees, hips and ankles. I have spent my entire life, though, trying to not make myself a victim, but with discrimination being what it is, rude people being who they are, and being the butt of stares and comments, even though I have spent my entire life fighting fat, it is hard not to be the victim, here. I hope that a few doctors and a lot of men read this book. I hate being fat and fear dying early, but this book made me start to reason out that maybe I was not meant to be a thin person. I have had an echo gram, exercise stress test, and I pay regular visits to my Dr. The tests show I am in the lower third of the population to die of heart related illness. I try and take better care of my health, knowing that I am fat, and I think I am more conscientous than many thin people.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Place padding on the wall before reading this! March 20 2006
By DonKay Hote - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
If you want to learn the real truth about weight, and what your doctor keeps telling you, this is the place to go. But beware, you may become so angry that you want to pound your head against the wall. People have tried suing McDonald's, but the ones who should be sued are the weight loss industry, the drugs makers, the doctors who push surgery, the Jenny Craigs, and so on. And yes, the media, which keeps pounding on how unhealthful being overweight is, how ugly ... but seldom mentions how deadly anorexia can be, and how many youngsters are pushed into anorexia or bulimea by the media's drumbeat of thin-thin-thin.

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