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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

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  368 Ratings  ·  65 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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Sep 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Aaron Haspel
Aug 09, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Lisa Greer
Jan 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Paul Gordon
Aug 19, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
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.
Nov 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Douglas Wilson
Mar 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-studies
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
May 14, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sociology, health
This book was pretty dry, but it raises the interesting question - is obesity really that unhealthy? My thoughts are now here.
Aug 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Interesting and strangely liberating.
Aug 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: soc-psych-health
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
May 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sep 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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
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
Nov 26, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 26, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Aug 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Megan Perney
Mar 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Campos severely underestimates the harmful nature of America's nutrition and dietary habits, while also admitting he felt better after losing weight himself. The only thing we agree on is that there is a "skinny culture" perpetuated by wealthy elites. In the end he makes no suggestions on how to fix American's mindset.
Fathom Panthere Iaguar
Jun 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: fat-rights
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
Nov 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-of-2010
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.
Mar 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Really do wish everyone would read this.
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, nonfiction
delves into why being obese isn't the end all be all that we believe it to be
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book with really necessary information, though it will be hard to accept.

In part III I started to question the book as it began talking about Monica Lewinsky, but it turned out that being called upon to provide commentary on the legal issues is how a lawyer started to become aware of fat issues, and it all fit.

The important thing is not just what we have wrong, but the way we have it wrong. What we misunderstand about fat and health makes us more destructive toward health for people of all
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am so thankful that Paul Campos has attempted to debunk many of the myths surrounding obesity and health. He does a great work of demonstrating how obesity research is flawed and yet policy is made on that flawed research. He also elaborates on how the diet industry has been involved in much of the obesity research to its own advantage.
I went to a seminar on nutrition over 20 years ago during which it was explained that the insurance industry-based nutrition tables were arbitrarily determined
Kimberly Fields
Does fat really contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer? Have the nation's foremost "experts" in obesity been misrepresenting the the effect of excess weight on invididuals' health?
In The Obesity Myth, Campos puts the "war on fat" on trial, and shows that being overweight is not as dangerous as the American public has been led to believe.

I picked this book up because I feel strongly about how hyper-focused on fat today's society is. Unfortunately I had to turn it back in to the library
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: self
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Beth M.
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, 2012, health, nonfiction
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
Sep 10, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I admit I was skeptical to begin reading this book. I was afraid it would be an emotionally charged excuse for gluttony and laziness, full of victimhood messages (it's not your fault you're fat - it's all the fault of hybridized wheat....). However, I found the book to be a rational look at how our culture deals with size as well as the cooking of the books (so to speak) regarding the "science" of the studies and "facts". I do not agree completely with everything the author says. However, I thin ...more
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