Sandi's Reviews > Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting

Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata
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Aug 10, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, 2009, library-books-read
Read in August, 2009

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Over the years, I've heard about studies that indicate that people tend to have set body weights, that weight lost is almost always regained, that genetics and biology play a bigger part in weight gain than eating habits, and that some people are just destined to be fat. Those studies are always buried by the "common knowledge" that obesity is a result of a lack of willpower and self-control, that fat people are simply lazy. I have seen person after person struggle to diet and lose weight. As soon as they stop dieting, they regain it. Every. Single. Time. What Gina Kolata does in Rethinking Thin The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting is compile the studies that got buried. She gives the details of the research and the conclusions. She makes it all comprehensible to the average person. She also follows participants of a two-year diet study and shows us what they are thinking as they try their umpteenth diets. She's not afraid to call fat fat, but she does so with in a matter-of-fact way while showing compassion for the individuals she's writing about.

Now, if you've ever struggled with your weight, you know what the conclusion is: It is possible to lose weight, but it's practically impossible to keep it off. Kolata provides the scientific explanations for why this happens. My one complaint is that she focuses very much on the obese--mostly those who have been obese since childhood or early adulthood. She mentions those, like me, with creeping weight gain, but never states whether or not the research applies to those who have gained 10-15 pounds per decade through adulthood. The research she cites shows that people tend to have set weights and can gain or lose 10-15%, but will stay within that range of their set weight. That contradicts creeping weight gain and that subject deserves to be looked at in light of this study.

The good news for those of you out there who are thin or normal weight, you are quite unlikely to become obese. The same studies that show fat people regain their weight after dieting show thin people lose weight after going off weight gain regimes. Neither the fatties or the skinnies put any conscious effort into returning to their set weight.

It's all interesting and makes a lot of sense based on observation, but it's depressing too.
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08/09/2009 page 145
53.31% 3 comments

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Mary JL (new)

Mary JL Yes, Sandi: In one way it is depressing. However, I do agree that there is a strong genetic component to weight.

I have read research, for example, if you are adopted and your natural parents are heavy, you have an 89% of being overweight, even if your adoptive family is thin. That does seem to imply heredity as at least a larger factor than environment.


It would be nice, however, if these conclusions were more well known. I it really tiring to me to see fat people uniformly characterized as weakling with no willpower.


message 2: by Petra X (new)

Petra X Very depressing. 12 years ago I lost 75lb and I really saw just how much looks matter - I got an awful lot more positive attention from men and my girl friends changed from those interested in me to those interested in my perceived pulling power. Kind of depressing too.

I put 56lb of it back on and I've got a few more girl friends now but men asking me out is restricted to taxi drivers wanting a bit of the other on the beach!


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