Tuesday, October 20, 2009

More About Your Fat Ass

Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss--and the Myths and Realities of Dieting by Gina Kolata

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Man, I feel like such a chump. I've been swallowing the line on dieting for years without question, and this book really blows it up. The author reviews the past several decades of research on obesity and dieting and lets us in on the results -- diets don't work and your weight in genetically predetermined. You heard me. All that fat shaming and blathering about lack of personal responsibility that is done by public health folks, diet gurus, and Dr. Phil? Not relevant. The reason the vast majority of people can't keep weight off after dieting is that your body is working against you to get you back to whatever weight is your "set point." We have decent control over maybe 10-20 pounds. And you know what else? It's unlikely that being overweight has a significant effect on your health or longevity.

I've just blown your mind, haven't I?

The author, who's a science writer for the New York Times, does a good job of reviewing the research and explaining the different studies. The writing is a little technical at times, where she explains how scientists uncovered various hormones, peptides, and DNA. She also talks about the resistance the media and other researchers have had to certain studies that refuted the conventional wisdom about obesity. She explains this by pointing to the vast amount of money that dieting advocates, obesity researchers, and government entities stand to lose if the "obesity epidemic" is disproved.

Here's the deal: While improving your food choices and getting regular exercise can have a positive impact on your health, they probably won't make you thin. So if we can stop beating ourselves up for being fat, ugly, and unlovable, if we can make peace with our size and use all that time and money we spent on dieting for something else, if we stop letting people tell us we should be ashamed of ourselves...that'd be something, huh?

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Love Your Fat Ass

Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere: Quit Dieting and Declare a Truce with Your Body by Kate Harding

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book puts forward the life-changing idea that perhaps you ought to accept your fat self and put away the mirage that one day you will be thin and perfect. The authors, who are both fat-acceptance bloggers, go some way to dismantle misinformation about the health risks of fat and the so-called obesity crisis. Their first and major point is that diets don't work. The vast majority of people are unable to lose weight and keep it off for more than five years, so why are we being continually told that it is our first duty as fat human beings to shed the weight? They advocate the idea of "health at every size": don't be fooled into thinking that you can't be healthy as a fat person, don't let your doctor blame everything on your weight, listen to your body when it comes to eating, find an exercise that you actually like to do, and don't assume you are unattractive or unlovable because of your weight. To accept their ideas would be a major shift in outlook, but incredibly life affirming.

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The Differences

Stones from the River Stones from the River by Ursula Hegi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A moving account of Germany before, during, and after WWII, told from the point of view of the residents of a town near Dusseldorf. The main character is a woman with dwarfism named Trudi. The story touches on the nature of physical difference and belonging and looks at how German civilians dealt with the realities of Nazis and the war. It's a beautiful book -- delicately told -- compassionate and touching.

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For the Ladies

Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This was an amazing look at five marriages from a feminist perspective:

-Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle
-Effie Gray and John Ruskin
-Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill
-Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens
-George Eliot and Geoge Henry Lewes

The author gives a brief account of each courtship and marriage and views much of what has been said previously about the couples through a sort of corrective feminist lens. Many of these people knew each other and we get to compare how they've conducted themselves--in very different ways--in essentially the same time and place in history. Very readable.

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