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Paperback Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World Book

ISBN: 0618380604

ISBN13: 9780618380602

Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World

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Book Overview

In this astonishing expose, journalist Greg Critser looks beyond the sensational headlines to reveal why nearly 60 percent of Americans are now overweight. Critser's sharp-eyed reportage and sharp-tongued analysis make for a disarmingly funny and truly alarming book. Critser investigates the many factors of American life -- from supersize to Super Mario, from high-fructose corn syrup to the high cost of physical education in schools -- that have converged...

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

Why It's Normal to Be Fat

Critser is no victim-based advocate calling for lawsuits against fast-food corporations in this incisive, analytical manifesto, which successfully penetrates the underlying causes of America's obesity epidemic. He explains that the obesity rate, which was always stable at around 25%, shot up to 60-65% in the 1980s and he provides a coherent narrative, packed with well-documented statistics, to show the major forces of that obesity spike. He shows that Earl Butz, Secretary of Agriculture for Nixon, was a key player in making the environment conducive to our being fat. In the 1970's, under Butz's charge, farmers grew more corn to make a cheaper form of sugar, High Frutose Corn Syrup, which metabolizes in far more dangerous ways than regular sucrose. Secondly, he made a deal with Malaysia, allowing them to export palm oil, also called "hog's lard," to America. Palm oil turns out to be a form of trans fat which, with a shelf life of infinity, clogs our arteries. The other enviromental condition that led us down a path of obesity was the Super-Size-Me Philosophy spawned in the fast-food industry. Shrewd business men who wanted greater profits preyed on our psychology and created a new way to make us fat: 1. Disguise our piggishness by making huge bags of fries rather than shaming us into buying two bags. 2. Combine low-profit (hamburgers) with high-profit (soda and fries) foods to create a "value meal." 3. Emphasize price and value over taste and presentation, which they found to their giddiness, made us eat MORE. 4. Banish the shame of gluttony. Create a culture where it's cool to overeat in the same way that it's cool to drive a big SUV and be a huge, conspicuous consumer. What makes Critser's analysis so refreshing is that even though he points at the environmental hurdles we must face if want to be fit and trim, he always encourages us to educate ourselves and to take responsibility for what we put into our mouths. Reading his book is the first step in that education.

A provocative, well-researched analysis of U.S. obesity!!

FATLAND is one of the most fascinating books I have read in a long time. I give Critser big-time credit for a massive amount of research behind his book, plus having the courage to put forth some provocative (and perhaps unpalatable) arguments.Critser looks at the American obesity epidemic from a sociological and political point of view. Make no mistake: this is not your typical diet book! While Critser does consider diet and exercise, he also looks at larger scale socio-political issues and how they affect individual diet and exercise. Probably the most important larger scale issue he examines is the trend towards less per capita funding for public education and how that (a) has resulted in a decrease in physical education plus (b) has opened the door for fast food companies to make marketing deals with school districts.By now, most of us have heard the statistics on the growing rates of overweightness and obesity in this country; but what is not generally reported in the media is that this trend is much stronger in lower socioeconomic groups. Unlike other reviewers, I do not agree Critser means to suggest that the association of obesity with poverty implies a conspiracy. I think he does mean to give a wake up call to affluent Americans who can more easily buy their way into good health care and good health clubs.To be sure, Critser does no more than to suggest relationships or associations among phenomena. As copiously researched as this book is, I do not see the book as intending to prove cause-and-effect. I do not fault Critser for this; his book is a provocative starting point in the debate.I find myself shocked by some of the negative reviews of the book here. Perhaps some readers were expecting a more individual-focused, less sociological look at diet and exercise. Perhaps some readers were put off by the implicit call to social or political activism. I can only respond that I found the book remarkably informative and thought-provoking. Although I recommend this book to everyone, in particular I suggest that parents read this book because of the amount of information about children's health and diet.A final note: This book is not at all redundant with "Fast Food Nation"! Yes, there is some overlap as regards food composition and marketing into schools. FATLAND differs in its primary focus on health and epidemiology. Both books are very worthy reads.

Is Gluttony Still a Sin?

Here Greg Critser lays out the appalling and well-known statistics on obesity in America. In recent years the numbers of overweight people have ballooned alarmingly, along with all of the associated health problems. These horrific increases are not natural and also cannot be explained easily. Critser, formerly overweight himself, makes many keen observations in this book about the several different causes of the American fat epidemic. There are economic causes, such as the increased use of cheaper but more fattening artificial sweeteners in food manufacturing, or the relentless push of the fast food and snack industries to increase market share. Cultural influences include the current politically correct acceptance of the overweight (actually a mortal fear of hurting someone's feelings), the popularity of baggy fashions, and even the media fascination with J. Lo's.... There are even some religious influences - see the title of this review. Critser's greatest achievement here is his bold stance on the class issues behind the obesity epidemic. Poor people (of any race) are far more prone to being overweight, as healthy foods and exercise programs are too expensive, and many poor people can't even get simple exercise outdoors due to fears of crime. The politically correct aversion to discussing class issues in any way breeds a real sense of denial about these problems. Critser studies all these troublesome trends in very enjoyable and often brutally honest ways, holding no punches as he describes the dire consequences for American society. Beware that some of Critser's scientific coverage gets bogged down in statistical overload, while popular culture is his obvious weak point - like his disastrous take on hip-hop fashions in Chapter 3. But Critser definitely points out the issues that America should stop ignoring, and has some very good potential solutions to the epidemic. Critser also succeeded in encouraging me to stop lying around reading this book and to go out and exercise. Good thing this book is short and to the point.

Skinny volume throughly investigates why Americans are fat

Back in the 1970s and before, about 25% of the American population was overweight. But in the late 80s, the rate of overweight spiked upwards, and is now around 60 percent. Also, the rate of obesity in children has doubled in 30 years, with about 25% of Americans under age 19 overweight or obese. Why? What has happened between the 1970s and today to cause this dangerous and dramatic increase in overweight and obesity? Journalist Greg Critser does a thorough job of answering this question in just 176 pages (the appendix begins on page 177). In addition, he presents the above statistics and more, discusses the hazards of obesity, the politics behind overly lax weight and exercise recommendations to the American public, and discusses why the low income people are more obese as a group than high income people. There?s the obvious answer as to why Americans have a huge weight problem: We eat more and exercise less. But Critser digs much deeper than this. Why do we eat more? For one thing, fast food restaurant meals and movies theater snacks are supersized. And Critser quotes research studies that people tend to clean their plates, regardless of how big the plate is. So why are meals supersized? Critser describes the history of supersizing, (the brainchild of David Wallerstein of the McDonald?s corporation), with the skill of a master story teller. Each of Critser?s discussion topics, such as childhood obesity and lack of exercise, is treated with considerable depth. Critser ends on a positive note, presenting some solutions that have worked on a small scale in areas of California, and are worth trying in other parts of the U.S.As someone who has taught nutrition and weight management to college students, I was impressed with the thorough job Critser did of researching and explaining these issues. He summarizes studies in the peer-reviewed weight loss literature, quotes from the popular media, interviews some of the top weight loss researchers in the U.S. and others who shed light on the obesity problem such as California school officials. Far removed from the dry prose of the scientific literature, Critser presents his material in an entertaining and occasionally sardonic style. My problems with ?Fatland? are minor: My biggest problem is there are no footnotes in the body of the book, making it difficult to cross reference the studies presented in the 37-pages notes section at the end. Also, the organization of the book can be a bit awkward: each chapter begins with an anecdote, some longwinded, and it can take several pages to ease the anecdote into the chapter topic so that the reader knows why the anecdote is presented in the first place. Also the chapter ?What the Extra Calories Do to You?, would make logical sense for chapter 1, but instead is chapter 6 of 7 chapters. Overall, this is an excellent, well-researched, and entertaining read. I highly recommend ?Fatland? for anyone wishing to gain a deeper understanding of why A
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