Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World Hardcover – Jan 14 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
You reap what you sow. According to Critser, a leading journalist on health and obesity, America about 30 years ago went crazy sowing corn. Determined to satisfy an American public that "wanted what it wanted when it wanted it," agriculture secretary Earl Butz determined to lower American food prices by ending restrictions on trade and growing. The superabundance of cheap corn that resulted inspired Japanese scientists to invent a cheap sweetener called "high fructose corn syrup." This sweetener made food look and taste so great that it soon found its way into everything from bread to soda pop. Researchers ignored the way the stuff seemed to trigger fat storage. In his illuminating first book (which began life as a cover story for Harper's Magazine), Critser details what happened as this river of corn syrup (and cheap, lardlike palm oil) met with a fast-food marketing strategy that prized sales-via supersized "value" meals-over quality or conscience. The surgeon general has declared obesity an epidemic. About 61% of Americans are now overweight-20% of us are obese. Type 2 (i.e., fat-related) diabetes is exploding, even among children. Critser vividly describes the physical suffering that comes from being fat. He shows how the poor become the fattest, victimized above all by the lack of awareness. Critser's book is a good first step in rectifying that. In vivid prose conveying the urgency of the situation, with just the right amount of detail for general readers, Critser tells a story that they won't be able to shake when they pass the soda pop aisle in the supermarket. This book should attract a wide readership.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Childhood obesity, diabetes, and related illnesses are becoming major health problems in America. Nutrition journalist Critser presents a critical analysis of the many social and economic factors that make Americans, contrary to the book's subtitle, the second-fattest people in the world (the South Sea Islanders are fatter). He blames parents' reluctance to monitor their children's eating habits; the marketing tactics of fast-food companies, which influence us to overeat; the preponderance of fad diets; the phasing out of physical education programs in schools; and the sale of fast foods at schools to save money on dining facilities. Lower-income families have higher rates of obesity regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender, which the author attributes to lack of information about diet and exercise and the wide diversity of cultural beliefs about weight, body size, and self-esteem. Critser urges Americans to tackle obesity head on, concluding with descriptions of initiatives that worked when communities launched a cooperative effort to change their eating habits and avoid the path to lifelong obesity. An important work that belongs in all nutrition and public health collections. [See also Robert Pool's excellent Fat: Fighting the Obesity Epidemic and Eric Schlosser's scathing Fast Food Nation.-Ed.]-Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New Yor.
--Irwin Weintraub, Brooklyn Coll. Lib., New York
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
The first part of the book deals with HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and palm oil --- food processes/byproducts developed in the 70s that led to Americans receiving more calories in their foods that more easily turned to fat inside the body than other substances theretofore consumed by us. This I found interesting. However, during this discussion the author demonized one Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture under Nixon. I was a mere child during Nixon's years, so I know nothing of Earl Butz and therefore can't say one way or the other if he was the demon incarnate that the author makes him out to be or not. Throughout the book, the author blames Butz for all of the evil fat-making foods on the market today. This seems implausible to me that one single man could be responsible for so much. I think it's more likely that these new processes of HFCS and palm oil was an *industry* trend that would have taken hold regardless of who happened to be Secretary of Agriculture.
Another annoyance is the author's strained efforts to make it seem like there's a conspiracy going on to fatten up the poor and non-white minorities in this country. One such ludicrous example he gave was of the opening of a Krispy Kreme franchise in a Latino area of Southern California. The author tries very hard, and unconvincingly, to use the fact that cars were lined up around the block for KK's opening as proof that the poor are targeted for fatty foods. Is the author completely unaware that *every* KK opening is accompanied by lines of cars around the block, even in upper-class white-bread neighborhoods?!Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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. Read morePublished on June 19 2004
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... Read morePublished on May 19 2004
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... Read more
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. Read morePublished on May 1 2004
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. Read morePublished on Feb. 10 2004 by Jason A. Tselentis
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... Read morePublished on Jan. 28 2004 by Michael K. McKeon
"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... Read morePublished on Jan. 11 2004 by Alex Nichols, author of Shadow Rock
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. Read morePublished on Dec 16 2003 by robert p cordova
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. Read morePublished on Nov. 20 2003 by John Tangney
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