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Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight…
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Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and… (2007)

by Gina Kolata

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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
This was an interesting and informative book on the science behind weight and weight loss, with the premise being that weight is determined mainly by genetics, so overweight and obese people may never be able to slim down. Not a very positive outlook for some, but it makes sense to me, since there is such variation in the physical features of human beings that wouldn't it make sense that some of us are naturally bigger than others?

The book looks at various weight loss studies done in the past to back up its argument, and also follows a group of dieters over the course of a weight loss study. Besides discussing science, the book also addresses social and cultural attitudes surrounding weight loss. Kolata does a good job of debunking the cultural myth that overweight people are overweight because they simply eat too much, showing that in some cases overweight people eat the same amount as regular people (or even less). The book also looks at the fixation on loosing weight that is so ubiquitous in society. In terms of scientific solutions to obesity, it doesn't offer much aside from the possibility of the hormone leptin, which takes a major role in regulating appetite and metabolism, though anyone who will be reading this book for weight loss methods will surely be disappointed since there haven't been any successful weight loss studies done using leptin at the time the book was published.

Overall a good, informative read, which made me reconsider many of my beliefs about weight loss and obesity. ( )
  serrulatae | Mar 31, 2013 |
Interesting excerpt here ( )
  BellaMiaow | May 29, 2012 |
Every now and then I come across a book that reminds me of why I read non-fiction. A book that takes one of my many seemingly unshakable worldviews and flips it on its head. Rethinking Thin is one of those books.

I began Rethinking Thin expecting the material would argue against the endless chain of fad diets in favor of good ol' fashioned healthy eating and regular exercise. And the pear photo on the cover also suggests that we shouldn't expect to have movie star figures. The author does advocate these habits, but she also goes further and presents data on obesity that is so... unpopular. So... Darwinian.

For as long as I've had an interest in health and body weight I believed, with rare exceptions, that we are in control of our weight through what we eat and the amount of calories we burn. Energy in, energy out. Simple as that. Fatter people may have a more difficult time becoming healthy but ultimately it came down to personal willpower. Then along comes Rethinking Thin and says this: The evidence isn't 100% conclusive but science has shown for years that people realistically only have control of about 10%-20% of their body weight. The rest is determined by genetics and NOT environment. Stating this is pretty much a moral affront to our way of life. After all, we live in a culture of expected personal responsibility and choice. There are exceptions here, such as the meticulous dieters who maintain strict food schedules (and perpetual semi-starvation) for their whole lives. But for the rest of us, well, we're only human.

I feel like this is something we intuitively know to be true. I mean, how many people do you know who have drastically reduced their body weight AND permanently maintained it? The argument that first convinced me was how, even though my daily caloric intake may vary by the hundreds every day, my body weight remained fairly constant over a period of weeks and months. As the book puts it, our bodies are better at counting calories than we are.

Rethinking Thin also cautions against putting too much stock in the so-called obesity epidemic and argues that deaths related to being overweight might be statistically exaggerated. Are we heavier than 100 years ago? Yes, but we're also taller with better nutrition. Again, the evidence isn't fully conclusive because it's very difficult to separate other physiological causes of death from simply being fat. In my opinion, there are two main reasons why the information from this book isn't more widely known: (1) There's lots of money to be made in the business of convincing people that being fat is their own fault, and (2) the start of a diet is a hopeful time. There's little hope in knowing that some things will probably never change. ( )
1 vote Daniel.Estes | Jan 6, 2012 |
Kolata's book is one of the best I've read on the issue of weight and weight control. She surveys western attitudes on weight over the last few hundred years, demonstrating how body ideals for men and women have gotten tinier and tinier, while showing that even "new" diets (suck as Atkins) were actually proposed decades ago. She personalizes the survey by following obese participants through a 2-year University of Pennsylvania study which compared Atkins to a standard low-calorie diet while bringing the reader up to date on current obesity research. The apparent conclusion? 1) Most people, unless they have a genuine psychological problem, have a range of about 20 - 30 pounds where their weight is inclined to settle. The only way to get out of this range is to permanently change your exercise and eating habits, and even if you do, your metabolism may change slow as a result (the starvation effect). 2) The weight loss industry has too much to gain - pun fully intended - by reinforcing the belief that any amount of weight over and above the standardized weight charts is unhealthy, despite research to the contrary.

Kolata's book is at once liberating and discouraging: it suggests that overweight people are not to "blame" for their condition - genetics is the culprit - but at the same time, it dashes the hope for most people that weight loss can ever be sustained. The book is readable and thought-provoking and definitely worth a read. ( )
  OliviainNJ | Dec 17, 2009 |
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  mulliner | Oct 17, 2009 |
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Three obesity researchers were having breakfast at a medical meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, a few years ago when their talk inevitably turned to the Atkins diet.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0374103984, Hardcover)

In this eye-opening book, New York Times science writer Gina Kolata shows that our society’s obsession with dieting and weight loss is less about keeping trim and staying healthy than about money, power, trends, and impossible ideals.
Rethinking Thin is at once an account of the place of diets in American society and a provocative critique of the weight-loss industry. Kolata’s account of four determined dieters’ progress through a study comparing the Atkins diet to a conventional low-calorie one becomes a broad tale of science and society, of social mores and social sanctions, and of politics and power.

Rethinking Thin asks whether words like willpower are really applicable when it comes to eating and body weight. It dramatizes what it feels like to spend a lifetime struggling with one’s weight and fantasizing about finally, at long last, getting thin. It tells the little-known story of the science of obesity and the history of diets and dieting—scientific and social phenomena that made some people rich and thin and left others fat and miserable. And it offers commonsense answers to questions about weight, eating habits, and obesity—giving us a better understanding of the weight that is right for our bodies.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:35:44 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"In this eye-opening book, New York Times science writer Gina Kolata shows that our society's obsession with dieting and weight loss is less about keeping trim and staying healthy than about money, power, trends, and impossible ideals." "Rethinking Thin is at once a story of the place of diets in American society and a critique of the weight loss industry. Kolata's account of four determined dieters' progress through a study comparing the Atkins diet to a low-calorie one becomes a broad tale of science and society, of social mores and social sanctions, and of politics and power."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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