Books Written for Popular Audience Critiquing “Obesity Epidemic”
October 29, 2020 4:47 PM   Subscribe

I’m looking for a book: (1) written for the mainstream (not academic), (2) critiquing the obesity epidemic as a concept, and (3) that ties this critique to examining larger social issues such as neoliberalism and capitalism. Think “Dopesick” or “Dreamland” but for obesity as a health crisis.
posted by CMcG to Education (17 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: PS: I am finding a lot of “we thought it was fat but it’s SUGAR” types of books about the so called causes of the obesity epidemic and this NOT what I am interested in. I want a book about why we CARE so much about obesity/fatness, why we’ve decided it’s a public health crisis, who benefits from that designation, and who is harmed by that designation. Essays on this are good too but I need them to be bigger picture than first person accounts of fat hatred. For example, I love Shrill, but it does not fit my purposes.
posted by CMcG at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2020 [7 favorites]

The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos has the first two, not sure about the third.
posted by momus_window at 4:55 PM on October 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Will you accept a podcast? The newly launched Maintenance Phase, based on its first three episodes, is focusing on this. One of the hosts is "Your Fat Friend."
posted by BlahLaLa at 5:02 PM on October 29, 2020 [8 favorites]

I actually came to recommend Maintenance Phase as well. It's really informative and the hosts are great.
posted by PussKillian at 5:23 PM on October 29, 2020

Virgie Tovar's You Have the Right to Remain Fat
posted by needs more cowbell at 5:47 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Your Fat Friend has a book coming out soon, too! Coming out November 17th!
posted by mollymayhem at 5:51 PM on October 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata does a lot of what you're after, though at this point it's nearly a decade and a half old, and I haven't read it since it was released--I don't remember enough to vouch for for how it holds up.
posted by pullayup at 5:54 PM on October 29, 2020

Doesn't tick all your boxes, but Salt, Sugar, Fat is a highly readable expose of how the food industry contributed to the rise in obesity by developing and marketing unhealthy but delicious food.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 6:33 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Not a book, but Scientific American magazine ran an interesting article about the obesity epidemic: "Obesity: An Overblown Epidemic?". Note: This was back in 2005.
posted by alex1965 at 6:59 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

Maybe Anti-Diet by Christy Harrison? It’s more anti-diet culture than a critique of the “obesity epidemic” but she addresses a lot of how diet culture and “the o word” were created by the weight cycling industry.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:58 PM on October 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: It’s an article, not a book, but if you haven’t read Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong do so immediately.
posted by Violet Hour at 8:33 PM on October 29, 2020 [6 favorites]

Rethinking Thin does hold up. I listened to it last year and was amazed at how current it still is.
posted by lapis at 9:29 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

‘Fat Science’ by endocrinologist Dr Robyn Toomath addresses some of the topics you’re interested in. There’s an extract here Fat Science. Plus a radio interview.
posted by The Patron Saint of Spices at 9:58 PM on October 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

(The guy who wrote the article Violet Hour linked to above is the 2nd host of Maintenance Phase.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:54 AM on October 30, 2020 [4 favorites]

Robyn Toomath's book is a good candidate for your list. Ignore the subtitle and/or how it was pitched to media, it's not a screed. It does, though, cover the difficult territory that is the sometimes messy and cruel collision between body positivity messaging and public health movements (while checking your boxes on mainstream, critique, and social issues). I wasn't involved in Dr. Toomath's book but, full disclosure, until 2008 I was a molecular epidemiology researcher working in the intersection of some very specific cancers and childhood weight/nutrition/fitness/genetics and my work is cited in it. Sometimes the language used in this field comes off as resentful in the mainstream, which can be tricky for us all to get around. In my background, I vividly remember how people felt the word "epidemic" had been weaponized, when in the field it rather bluntly signals a widespread trend above a baseline. Any book or discussion about a subject like this needs to start off with a measured treatise on language or it's just gonna burn the discussion to the ground. Dr. Toomath does a pretty good job of that.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 12:34 PM on October 30, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks all! Special shout out to the folks who recommended a podcast or article. How did you know I am in the final month of a semester and writing a term paper and cannot possibly cram a book into it? But I am going to try with Rethinking Thin.
posted by CMcG at 7:48 PM on October 31, 2020

Ah - I would definitely point also to Food Psych, Christy Harrison of Anti-Diet’s podcast. She typically has on a different HAES dietician, medical professional, or social activist each week. She covers a range of topics ranging from the white supremacy of a smaller ideal body to “the wellness diet” (aka restriction as clean eating).
posted by itsamermaid at 8:42 PM on October 31, 2020 [1 favorite]

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