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5.0 out of 5 stars We've all got to change
Reading this book really opened my eyes. I've been trying my whole life to exercise and eat right, but I never had the right motivation. This book is well researched, interesting, and for some, scary. It should be required reading. I began eating better and exercising after I read this book, hopefully I will be able to "keep it up" long after it's collecting...
Published on June 20 2004

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less Filling
A worthwhile topic, disappointingly rendered, especially if you've read "Fast Food Nation".
Critser goes into useful levels of detail on tantalizingly few topics. Too many of his other points are supported only anecdotally, or worse, because-he-said-so.
He does make at least a few points excellently: the blistering critique of our feel-good...
Published on July 9 2004 by Cheryl M. Hammond


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less Filling, July 9 2004
By 
Cheryl M. Hammond (Seattle, Washington, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
A worthwhile topic, disappointingly rendered, especially if you've read "Fast Food Nation".
Critser goes into useful levels of detail on tantalizingly few topics. Too many of his other points are supported only anecdotally, or worse, because-he-said-so.
He does make at least a few points excellently: the blistering critique of our feel-good fat-positive self-esteem etiquette nonsense, that prevents us from warning our friends and ourselves when we are literally gorging ourselves to death, was right on the mark and needed saying. I attended a women's college during a high-level eating disorder scare, and found it surprising and eye-opening to learn that the rates of anorexia and bulimia are far lower than our self-help culture has suggested. Certainly it is useful for everyone to place anorexia and bulimia in proper perspective alongside the skyrocketing rates of obesity, and ask ourselves what we've gained for conceding one in the name of fighting the others. (He does not detail, but in later years it has also become part of the thinking on eating disorders that they are primarily mental illnesses related to control and trauma, not food. We should stop treating them as being about food, and start treating obesity, which is about food!) And, the chapter on the "branding" of food and drink in our schools should be a wake-up call for parents and school boards nationwide.
Unfortunately, too many other topics represent missed opportunities or simply misfires. Sure, his high fructose corn syrup theory is supported by some initial dietary research, but so were all the other fad diets he himself decries. The opening chapter on America's food subsidies and ag policies is frustratingly thin and primarily devoted to an amusing character study of Mr. Butz instead of a weighty analysis of which foods we make available to ourselves and at what prices. It's been said that subsidies of specific unhealthy food types contribute to the disproportionate rates of obesity among the poor (because the cheapest foods are the worst for you, while lean meats and fresh produce are unaffordable for many working Americans), but you won't find that discussion here. There's no mention at all of the shift in the nature of employment for Americans... thanks to labor-saving and even safety devices, even minimum-wage work is increasingly sedentary (standing in one place all day as a cashier or Wal-Mart greeter is not physical activity), and at home, the villainous TV and video games get all the blame, with no discussion of everyday labor-saving devices and their effect on American sloth. I don't recall much information about Americans' rejection of public transit and our propensity to fight one another tooth and nail for a parking space five feet closer to the mall doors.
If we fail to recognize that modernity has changed the nature of our physical lives across the board, all of Critser's exhortations about PE will surely fail. He hints at it, but never really nails it... for most Americans, exercise has become artificial rather than an integral part of everyday life. And PE, no matter how skillfully taught, is artificial, in a structured form unavailable to adults. The affluent can afford to purchase their exercise in comparably tidy packages (clubs, leagues, etc.), but where does that leave the rest of us when we grow up?
And so, saddest of all, Critser's one and only proffered "solution" is: more PE in (public) schools. What a political football that is! Should our desperately cash-strapped schools (stripped of their fast food and soda sponsorship contracts, no less) pull money and time out of already underfunded and inadequate academic programs? Should we spend yet more of our resources teaching our kids how to have a sanctioned lifestyle instead of teaching them how to read and do math? Especially low-income kids, who need a real education more than anyone! Do our schools have to be everything to every child simply because they're the one and only opportunity in an American's entire lifetime where we have a captive audience? Can we serve Americans better all the way through adulthood if we teach literacy, history, statistics and general critical thinking instead of dodgeball?
"Fat Land" is a tasty appetizer. I hope the main course on this subject is yet to come.
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5.0 out of 5 stars We've all got to change, June 20 2004
By A Customer
Reading this book really opened my eyes. I've been trying my whole life to exercise and eat right, but I never had the right motivation. This book is well researched, interesting, and for some, scary. It should be required reading. I began eating better and exercising after I read this book, hopefully I will be able to "keep it up" long after it's collecting dust on the bookshelf. People who want to criticize this book need to get up and go outside and go jogging. There is an epidemic in America, and it is primarily the poor who suffer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable, sober-minded book--and I am a fatty, May 19 2004
By A Customer
I was prepared to hate this writer, given the vitriol on this site. But once I read the book, I realized he was right: it's one thing for fact acceptance people like myself to want NOT to be discriminated against, it's quite another to deny a legitimate medical and public health problem in order to score sophomoric debating points--as if it is going to help the fat by denying clearly established medical issues. Mr C--not everyone in the fat acceptance movement is in denial. Many of us thank you for telling it straight--WE can take it.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Pseudo-science with a grain of truth, May 12 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Hardcover)
Welcome, Savage Love readers, to the battlegrounds concerning this overpraised book.
Mr. Critser has one good, solid point in Fat Land: American society has largely decided that it is bad form to shame someone for obesity. This much I'll give him, especially when there are stores like Torrid, selling skimpy clothing that would look too revealing on girls with svelte builds.
But when he gets into his bizarre political diatribes about high-fructose corn syrup, palm oil and the Nixon administration, Critser loses me. He's just plain wrong about corn syrup's being a somehow magically diabolical chemical that forces your body to pack on extra fat. That's junk straight out of the fad diet playbook, and any nutritionist knows it. Feed rats 500 calories of pure corn syrup, lard or whey protein, and they're going to gain the same amount of weight. These discussions are so ignorant that it bores me even to entertain them.
Look, the American obesity problem is easy to figure out:
1. Animals biologically crave the basics: sugar, starch, protein and fat, in as concentrated a form as possible. That's pretty much what you get in a hamburger and a soda. Pure starch (the bun), pure protein and fat (the patty), and pure sugar (the drink). No shock there that this meal is popular. It's hard-wired into us to desire our food in such an efficient delivery system. And it's only been in the past 50 years or so that it's been feasible to get meals like this cheaply.
2. The poor are fatter than the rich because the rich are generally there because of their superior impulse control. Does it surprise anyone that a person who's smart enough to figure out how compound interest works is also probably smart enough not to stuff his guts with chili-cheese burritos and Whoppers every day?
3. Critser's point: People don't point and laugh at gigantic people openly. And when someone does taunt an obese person, the taunter is generally chastised sternly. Mr. Critser loves the French, but he has apparently not spent much time in a European or South American culture. There is an enormous amount of sexism implicit in shaming the fat. It is quite common to see Euro/Latin men, especially older ones, who would qualify as obese. Women are not allowed to get fat, however, as sexual attractiveness is FAR AND AWAY more important a barometer of that woman's worth in a European/Latin country than it is here. I have fat female friends who live in Europe and are verbally attacked every single day they venture out on the streets in Lyon, Bern or even Rome.
I know we just LOVE to blame a whitey conspiracy for everything negative that happens to poor minority citizens, but you literally cannot get more deranged than to try to blame their food choices on The Man. The poor eat like pigs for the same reason they burn through their cash like children: They generally have little impulse control, and our public schools teach sensitivity to "diversity" rather than real-life skills.
Try again, Mr. C.
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3.0 out of 5 stars BRING BACK ANOREXIA!, May 1 2004
By A Customer
I was actually going to buy this book until I read the author's personal account of the events which led him to write it. Gee this is the first time I've heard the usual bizarrely inconsistent white liberal middle class guilt applied over easily lost weight!(?!! was this guy actually over weight?! Heroin has been proven easier to beat than food addictions like sugar. There is nothing easy about it-tragic that he is too self-defeating/effacing to celebrate such a feat!) Like most self-absorbed and self-obsessed/self-loathing white liberals, his own impossible and contradictory values lead him to blame the outcome such values often create/set up: This relentless media obsession over weight and fitness to a degree that is just not possible for most has led to this revolving and hopeless diabesity epidemic in the first place. More to the point and "culturally relative," fat is in the eye of the beholder. IT is upper class white culture that conflates emaciated thinnes (to the point where "attractive" women resemble adolescent boys) with beauty. (Why else would someone possessing the body of a Modern Marilyn Monroe, such as Kate Winslet, be compared to the elephant woman?) It is also those same irresponsible/"priviliged" sloths in power that he criticizes that obsess on the news nightly now about America's obesity epidemic-even speaking hopefully about the possible trend of insurance co.s discriminating against the obese and teachers "constructively" shaming fat children. Upper class white liberals like him are the original fat fattists who have driven two eating disorders which are really opposite sides of the same coin: Anorexia/Bulimia in the 80s and early '90s [the concern for which he actually laments in his account!] and now like the yo-yo dieting these prison camp diets set off: binge eating/obesity. This schizofrenia has produced so much food obsession that psychiatrists have coined a new term for the present preocupation with food: orthorexia disorder. While he anxiously laments the lower class blacks and hispanics who must be the helpless victims of super sizing w/out the benefit of Jenny Craig, he easily ignores the fact that non-whites with high obesity rates find upper middle class fat phobia unsexy, bizarre and unrelatable-the low fat high carb craze failing to corrupt their traditional diets.
Which brings me to overlook the final outrageous exclusion of his personal acct. Few people eat fast food for their health! This is where his attitudes toward the big fat underclasses are so condescending and wistfully missionary. I know people are getting stupid-but did anyone not realize supersize fast food was unhealthy. The idea that some benighted souls knew not that smoking was carcinogenic was hard enough to swallow. My point is, these are individuals who would be part of that unrepentent fat populace regardless (okay maybe there would be a difference between it being obese and morbidly obese-let's not split hairs.) This is comparable to the same percentage that was stable until the new pyramid following (posted at any gymn you might visited-taught to grade schoolers in my day) low fat, high carb, size obsessed fitness craze. (ON another point, produce and proteins such as soy curd, legumes and tuna are cheaper than fast food fatty junk-so choices and effort figure in-not just class.) THE OBESITY EPIDEMIC AS WE KNOW IT TODAY WOULD NOT HAVE COME ABOUT IF IT WERE NOT COMPOUNDED BY the antithetical diet results of THOSE HEALTHY EATING HIGH CARBING EARTH SUSTAINING GRAIN LOVING YUPPIES. PEOPLE WHO GOT FAT RELIGIOUSLY TRYING TO CUT IT OUT-TAKING STARVATION DIETS TO A POINT OF MORAL HOPE AND REDEMPTION! He overlooks the increasingly common overweight insulin resistant semi vegetarian-those who sucked down jamba juices desperate to get those recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, as we only now discover the truly disastrous results of subsisting on something that was only meant for fuel or storage (fat)- that something being CARBS instead of building blocks like protein or god forbid meat even meat with fat on it!-and no not the crap you find at McDonalds.
Look, if you condescend to and are fed up with American Excess this much and think this country so unjust b/c of your misplaced codependent sense of responsibility, just gleefully watch it eat and shoot itself to death. (...)
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4.0 out of 5 stars Supersized Read, Feb. 11 2004
By 
Jason A. Tselentis (Charlotte, North Carolina U.S.A.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Hardcover)
I felt guilty sitting on the couch reading this book. So I upped my cardiovascular workouts and began weight training. Then I questioned the food I put into my mouth. Will this book change your life like it did for me? Probably not, but it will empower you to question what goes into your tummy. Critser collects a wide range of facts, anecdotes, and myths about sugars, sodas, and fast food. In the end, you'll wonder if it's all really bad for you or if you've just been making bad choices.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Crucial, and dense with detail, Jan. 28 2004
This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Hardcover)
Okay, pardon the pun in the "dense in detail". However, this is a comprehensive, extensively researched and documented study of American obesity, and plowing through the numerous facts and statistics does take some commitment.
Critser starts off on an entertaining, and somewhat light tone which will engage the reader and secure his commitment when the arcane physiological and chemical terminology and statistics are somewhat overwhelming. After the author has made his point he does have a tendency to beat it into the ground with additional detail that brings to mind the expression "too much information". However, it's all very important in light of the ongoing tragedy of prevalent American obesity.
Critser provides a very interesting history of recent food additives, which is extremely helpful in enabling you to be discriminating in what you eat -- specifically food additives such as palm oil and high fructose corn syrup about which our friends in journals such as the "Nutrition Action Newsletter" and "Prevention" have been warning us for years. This is hardly hysteria on the part of "health food diet Nazis"; the points Critser makes are intuitively obvious, and when understood simply common sense.
The author also makes a much harder case for exercise, particularly strenous exercise, which is a hard sell in an increasingly sedentary culture. While his points are valid, from a feasibility perspective those prompting a movement from inertia to moderate exercise are more likely to find converts.
Critser's observations on the cost to all citizens, in terms of increased health premiums, besides the more pervasive but subtle losses in worker productivity due to obesity related illnesses are poignant and frightening. However, he also makes a valid point that major processed food industries have an immediate interest in obscuring and outright challenging such facts. It is hard to contest the point that there are more Americans who are affected with obesity than who smoke cigarettes, which is a valid if terrifying observation.
This is an important work -- unfortunately, I suspect its impact will be limited as most people will prefer to keep their heads buried in the sand (or trough).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, quick read., Jan. 11 2004
By 
Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock (San Francisco, CA United States) - See all my reviews
"Fat Land" is a fascinating and quick read, very much in the same spirit as "Fast Food Nation." Instead of exposing one particular industry, like "Fast", this book seeks to answer why the U.S. has had such a rapid increase in obesity and weight-related health problems in the last 30 years. The author reveals a lot of primary causes, from thoughtless profiteers in the food industry to the denial of the populace, who have heard what they wanted to hear, and ignored their rapidly expanding waist bands.
Just a few of the culprits: (1)an increase in the use of high fructose corn syrup, a cheap sweetener which helped profits but increased caloric intake; (2)the super sizing phenomenon in fast food and convenience food; (3) an overly sedentary culture (4) misinformation in the diet industry, which sold a lot of gimmick diet books and products (5)the media telling people what they wanted to hear, including that moderate exercise was as good as vigorous exercise and (6) corporations buying their way into poorly funded schools, serving teenagers a staple of junk food.
Crister deals with each of these points in depth, but also gets into various sociological factors that play a part in obesity, including poorly funded schools, indigent cultures, and ignorant doctors (many of whom are never educated about nutrition and aren't giving sound or realistic advice about weight loss.)
Although the book is thorough on the topics it covers, Critser ignores some of the more conventional theories. He doesn't touch nearly enough on genetic factors, which do play a role in weight gain, and seems to be giving a free pass to those who eat badly but don't show it. There are many with high metabolisms who are eating just as badly as the obese, and they too will have some of the health problems (like cancer and heart disease) that the book talks about.
Some of the book is painful to read, because the cold facts about obesity-related illness and early death are grim realities. They are essential to know, though, and this book spells it out in a well written, compelling way. The book is well researched and balanced, and one of the better books I've read on the topic of nutrition.
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5.0 out of 5 stars THIS BOOK WILL MAKE YOU LOSE WEIGHT, Dec 17 2003
By 
robert p cordova (Sydney, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Hardcover)
I can't believe that horrible review bashing the author of this book. This is the most amazing and revealing book I have ever read. It is a thorough analysis of the events leading to today's fat trends and I can almost guarantee that after reading it, you will change your habits. I did!
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very easy read, packed with hard facts, Nov. 20 2003
By 
John Tangney "jdtangney.com" (Berkeley, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Hardcover)
All those assertions and conclusions! Are any of them substantiated? Yes! Mr. Critser goes to great lengths to quote his sources in the ample appendices. And what about his penchant for calling it like it is? And the ease with which he lambastes the likes of Butz, Coca Cola, McDonalds, and the corrupt local, state and federal government? I say that's telling it like it is.
Mr Critser has the background in writing for the likes of the LA Times and USA Today which allows him to spell out the facts in very easily digestible chunks. That background works in his favor to drive home point after point in what could quite easily have become a very, very dry work. Think of it as the journalistic equivalent of a metabolic shunt. ;->
I read the whole thing in two sittings, cover to cover. He covers extremely important material in a compelling and accesible way. I highly recommend the book to every American, especially those with kids.
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Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World
Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser (Hardcover - Jan. 14 2003)
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