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The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health
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The Obesity Myth: Why America's Obsession with Weight is Hazardous to Your Health

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4.06 of 5 stars 4.06  ·  rating details  ·  294 ratings  ·  54 reviews
Is your weight hazardous to your health? According to public-health authorities, 65 percent of us are overweight. Every day, we are bombarded with dire warnings about America’'s “obesity epidemic.” Close to half of the adult population is dieting, obsessed with achieving an arbitrary “ideal weight.” Yet studies show that a moderately active larger person is likely to be fa ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published May 3rd 2004 by Gotham (first published May 1st 2004)
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Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere by Kate HardingWhat's Behind Your Belly Button? A Psychological Perspective ... by Martha Char LoveHealth at Every Size by Linda BaconThe Fat Studies Reader by Marilyn WannIntuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole
DIET is a 4 letter word.
7th out of 34 books — 38 voters
The Obesity Myth by Paul CamposHealth at Every Size by Linda BaconLessons from the Fat-o-sphere by Kate HardingFat by Ragen ChastainWake Up, I'm Fat! by Camryn Manheim
Fat Studies Books
1st out of 6 books — 2 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 875)
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Lisa Greer
Great book. Illuminates how doctors and others in America have made obesity the problem rather than a symptom of other problems. This one is worth a read no matter what your weight.
Aaron Haspel
In summary:

1. One's weight, unless it is enormous, is not a serious *independent* health risk. Being fat does correlate with other real risks, like being sedentary and yo-yo dieting; but once those are factored out little or nothing remains. In fact people with a 25 to 30 Body Mass Index have *lower* mortality, ceteris paribus, than people in the supposedly ideal range of 18.5 to 25. In any case, BMI is absurdly rigid, and a terrible proxy for health.

2. No one knows how to make people lose weigh
...more
Elizabeth
Let's be clear: I didn't give this book 5 stars because of the writing. Campos has written a book that swings unevenly between being dry, overly academic, repetitive, and downright bitchy. Also, while his assertion that America's war on fat has little to do with health and everything to do with class relations and cultural anxiety is spot on, it's far from original.

So why DID I give this book 5 stars? Because in its first few chapters, Mr. Campos -- an attorney with the ability to deftly pick ap
...more
Paul Gordon
Aug 19, 2007 Paul Gordon rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: america
This book is wonderful simply because it offers a sane perspective on fat and health in the United States. The author basically dispels most of the myths around fat, arguing that fat is rarely if ever a determinate of health. Instead, he suggests that health is determined by exercise and healthy eating, no matter what someone's size. This may seem a simple enough theory, but in our current hysterical media it is positively revolutionary.

At times his writing style is a bit over the top. Also, he
...more
erin
Aug 31, 2007 erin rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who thinks fat does not equal unhealthy
in my continuous process to become a better fat ally/more fat positive person and to indulge my public health side, i decided to read this book. skip the chapter on monica lewinsky, but aside from that this book is incredible. it really takes the time to examine population-based studies that demonstrate that fat doesn't equal unhealthy.
Julia
YES. Just YES.

I've been really grateful for the experience to work in eating disorder (of all sorts) treatment, and it's raised my awareness about the absolute necessity of fat activism a significant amount. Here's the thing: feeling bad about your body, for whatever reason, has never helped anyone be healthier. Research is great--I am, after all, a social scientist--but it is less great when politics and hysteria play integral roles in how research is conducted, interpreted, and disseminated to
...more
Douglas Wilson
This was a good book. There are places where he falls into the lesser zeitgeist mentality, but his central argument is solid. Obesity science is under-girded with some unsupported assumptions, and is contradicted with a host of unthinkable thoughts.
Skylar Burris
This book was pretty dry, but it raises the interesting question - is obesity really that unhealthy? My thoughts are now here.
Stacy
Interesting and strangely liberating.
jtabz
This book attacks the faulty foundations of the diet industry--and the medical establishment that erroneously supports them--with the relentless tenacity of a rabid dog. And I mean that in the best way possible.

Campos effectively argues that:
1) the vast majority of medical research done correlating weight and mortality provides negligible (if any) evidence of a connection between overweight/obesity and early death except in the most extreme circumstances;
2) most ill health associated with overwe
...more
Vida
Campos attacks public health guidelines and argues that being fat is not unhealthy (being active is more important than being thin). The science may be more complicated than that, but his examination of America's bizarre obsession with weight, as we all get bigger even as our role models get thinner and thinner, is really an eye-opener. If you've ever been on a diet (all 100% of you), read this book.
Bill
A very enlightening look at the culture of weight loss.

The Pros: Campos is great in the beginning of the book, when he points out the methodological flaws in famous obesity studies. I've never read those studies before, so for me, it was great to see them and their flaws (such as removing all smokers, who just happened to be overwhelmingly thin). The author explains the statistical tricks that the weight loss industry uses to make obesity seem more dangerous than it really is. I also enjoyed th
...more
Weavre
Aug 24, 2008 Weavre rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Weavre by: new book display @ Albright Mem. Library
This book made a lot of interesting observations, some of which are now supported by further research. (For example, cholesterol and triglyceride levels make more difference in risk of "obesity-related" problems like heart attack risk, than does the amount of fat itself.)

I particularly liked that it challenged popular assumptions in clear, comprehensible ways. For example, obese people have health risks beyond those of nonobese people. It's easy to assume that, therefore, all obese people shoul
...more
Carina
This is a very valuable book. My first instinct is to say that everyone should read this book, with some caveats. The thing is that this is the only book I've read so far that does the important and huge work of saying, quite simply, that the emperor has no clothes. Obesity is a myth. There are probably other books out there, and some of them might do better in certain areas, but until I've read them I will continue to recommend The Obesity Myth as a must-read.

Paul Campos touches on several impo
...more
Meredith
I was a bit hesitant with this one because it's from 2005 and in science research that's really old.

While I don't think this was the most astute journalistic book on this subject written (Gina Kolata's book seems to be better thought through and supported) it is worth a read just to watch him break down the statistics on the studies used to show that being fat is dangerous to your health.

I also appreciated his statement that the revision of the BMI guidelines in the 90s made a lot of people "ov
...more
Jeff Raymond
popped up on my radar in part due to a series of articles by Megan McArdle of The Atlantic on health care and public health in general. To very simply paraphrase the overall concepts of the two pieces and the book, obesity is largely a societal construct based on old and bad science, our health results aren't actually worse as we become "fatter," nor are we really able to figure out how to keep weight off. The Obesity Myth attacks this concept the most, noting that the data we have (the book was ...more
Heidi
Dec 06, 2007 Heidi rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: non-fiction, read2007
The western world and the United States especially is insanely preoccupied with dieting. Normal weights of normal people are considered overweight. People believe being "overweight" will cause them to die young. Some doctors still believe this. People undergo life-threatening surgeries that induce starvation diets so that they will lose weight. The multi-billion dollar dieting industry continues to sell its message even while more people catch on that diets don't work.

Like Eric Oliver with Fat
...more
Fathom Panthere Iaguar
A worthy book in theory, but The Obesity Myth was rather dismal in its execution. While Campos included some studies, both to refute and to use to support the idea that fatness is not inherently unhealthy, he cited few of them. This unfortunately had the effect of leaving the reader very much in the dark if they wanted to see the studies for themselves; furthermore, it does put the pall of doubt on your book if you will not display the studies to see.

Another fairly minor, but annoying thing I no
...more
Steve
Interesting - the evidence suggests, say this author, that it is exercise and good diet that are the determinents of good health, rather than reaching an ideal weight. Worse of all to health is extreme dieting and weight change.

Good material on the pressure to conform to a certain weight, shape (Hollywood determined) and BMI etc, and its impact on women, happiness and health.
Christy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Woowott
Meh, decent but perhaps not the most objective one could hope for. I appreciate the many points he makes about the diet industry, but he does get repetitive. And he is a bit aggressive in his comparisons and examples at times. He also doesn't realize that vegans and vegetarians can have at least as much fun as meat-eaters, but that's standard thinking.

On the whole though, generally a worthwhile book for an introduction to the actual research on weight being done in the last 20-30 or so years. Ye
...more
Skyler
Really do wish everyone would read this.
Baco
The first part of this book is really, really important: Campos' discussion of the flawed and misleading scientific research concerning obesity is logical and well-researched. It really made me question a lot of current assumptions about health, nutrition, and fat. He goes on to make some really important points about fat hate in our culture, but derails himself more than once with these sudden, jarring, vitriolic rants about rich thin people. He makes the point that being fat doesn't make you u ...more
Beth Melillo
Basic Premise/highlights: BMI charts are a hoax, but if you have to use them, a healthy BMI would be between 19-30 rather than 18.5-25. Exercise is by far the most important thing you can do for your health (much better than attempts to lost weight, particularly weight loss that exceeds 5% of your current weight). Yo-yo dieting is the worst. Briefly touches on "set-point" theory and the cultural problems with viewing fat as a disease.

Overall a good read - at times the author is long-winded (his
...more
Hope
Interesting book. Campos ranges through science and culture in this look at obesity. In the first section, he argues that the scientific data on weight and health is flawed and overly driven by the weight loss/pharmaceutical industry, leading to alarmist claims about obesity "epidemics" and dubious drug funding. Campos credits these forces with creating more health problems (via fenphen, yo-yo dieting, etc.) than they solve. His subsequent sections are more culturally-focused--from Hollywood thi ...more
Julie
In some ways I think this should actually be called "the overweight myth" rather than the obesity myth. I have not yet seen well-documented scientific research that says that obesity, esp. 100+ lbs above average weight, is just as healthy as "normal" BMI levels. I'd love to see that research done. I would also love to see research on joint pain and size, because this does affect quality of life. This is one of many books that uses good science in some ways but is lacking in others. Overall a goo ...more
Noah
Campos, a law professor, uses the medical literature to make the case that anti-obesity sentiment is a largely aesthetic and classist position without medical basis. The summary would go: if you eat reasonably well and get exercise, whether or not you end up thin or obese is irrelevant to your health (in fact, all else being equal moderate obesity appears to have some health benefit over being in the "ideal" weight range), and the focus on weight in and of itself is a moral panic that has very t ...more
Jennifer Mackintosh
This book raises some very interesting questions about our assumptions about health and weight. Campos's indignation and fury come through loud and clear. He goes into detail about statistical manipulation in weight loss studies and points out the inconsistency of having the diet industry regulated by those who are turning a profit from it.

While I'm not sure that I agree with everything Campos claims, the most important thing is to start asking the questions.

I think this should be a must-read f
...more
Bracha
This book was great. It challenges the way we look at obesity and health, while being easy and enjoyable to read. The author brought up contemporary examples of celebrities (well it was written in 2004, so obviously they were dated) that demonstrated to what extent anti-obesity research has impacted society.
Christine Slocum
A few really good ideas are in this book. Unfortunately, they are sometimes buried in many murky chapters of un-engaging writing. I kept thinking that this book could have been better. Maybe it was the organization of the various chapters, which sometimes read as disjointed essays, it seemed to veer away from the thesis. I feel like this book would have been better with about half as many chapters with more solid thematic organization. Not sure I'd recommend it. It will probably resonate well wi ...more
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