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The Obesity Myth

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I've been reading a lot lately! In fact, I probably spend at least an hour a day reading now. So, I’ve been going to the library a lot and I found this book called The Obesity Myth.

I'm only about a quarter into it, but it's basically about how as a society Americans are being told that there is this obesity "epidemic." He's saying that while there are a lot of overweight and obese Americans (well, duh) that it is in no way an "epidemic."

He delves into scientific study after scientific study where obesity researchers come to the conclusion that fat people should get skinny because that'd be healthier for them, when that's not what their studies are showing them. While it is better to be active and healthy, he says that we shouldn't automatically look to the overweight person and tell them that they are unhealthy and that the way to become healthy is to lose weight. Changing their lifestyle? Yes, but not necessarily shedding massive amounts of pounds.

He focuses on the fact that we should be encouraging EVERYONE to eat better and become more active. Not assuming that the person of "normal" weight is healthier than an "overweight" person. When the actual number on the scale does not, in and of itself, determine how healthy one is.

In fact, studies have found that moderately active, overweight people are healthier than sedentary thin people. But obesity researchers don't like that conclusion. Especially since they are partnered with numerous diet and pharmaceutical companies. They want "obesity" to be this big, bad disease that needs to be cured. They want to sell their diet pills; they want people to keep buying the next new "diet fad."

What worries the author (sorry I don't have the book in front of me, I can't remember his name) is that people are constantly being told that losing weight is the only way they can become healthier. Which leads most people (not us, here on Spark!) to use unhealthy diet measures just to change the number on the scale. Then they’ve “beat” the disease. The number of the scale is down and their doctor can give them a nice pat on the back. That is, until the constant deprivation leads them to "cheat" and binge. This "weight cycling" as he calls it, is detrimental to our health. In fact, studies have shown that remaining overweight is HEALTHIER than yo-yo dieting.

When I first began to read this I thought, well that can't be right, but it makes perfect sense if you think about it. Going on a cycle of eating too little, eating too much, eating too little, eating too much, is not the way to live your life! If my only options were to yo-yo diet or to be overweight, I'd very much like to remain overweight please!

Right now I’m in a section about fat culture. I don’t know about other countries, but I know that in America, “average” people look at overweight people as though they have some sort of disease. How people think to themselves “geez, just eat less.” As though it were something as simple as that.

I’ll probably write a blog once I’ve finished the book to determine what I think about the whole thing. What I do know is that he is right in saying that we should be focusing on being active and eating right. Not necessarily trying to make a certain number show up on the scale, or to fit into a certain pant size.

Here are Sparkpeople we are learning every day how to become healthier people. Which leaves me with almost a sense of accomplishment that I know how to do something in a healthy way that can last a lifetime. No yo-yo dieting for me!
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  • LISALU910
    Hi Amber...first of all I loved looking at your pictures. You have such a great smile and healthy glow. You're doing great getting in shape!

    The book you are reading is interesting. I have often wondered about that myself. For example, by the BMI charts I am "obese" (which is a godawful, ugly word). But this "obese", middle aged, mother of four ran for an hour yesterday - a little over five miles. That isn't such an amazing feat in and of itself, but I know for a fact that my thin best friend can't do it. Neither can my size 4, 22 year old DIL! I'm not saying I'm necessarily in better shape than they are - they aren't unhealthy or anything - but it is just because I run regularly that I am able to do it. Yet all my doctor sees is a number on a scale which correlates with "obese". Also, maybe its just me but I am SICK AND TIRED of hearing how "thin" Europeans are. There may be some good reasons for that, which is that they walk and ride bikes a lot more than we do. But on the other hand, I have been to Europe and I can tell you that almost EVERYBODY smokes. Smoking can keep you "thin" if that's all that matters. We all know thin, stringy people whose weight is exactly right sucking down a pack a day! Maybe our "obesity epidemic" somehow correlates with the fact that we have a lot fewer smokers than we did back in the 50's when everyone smoked but everyone was thin!
    3637 days ago
    I went to the store yesterday and ONE orange cost over a $1.
    The same price as all the junk food on the fast food dollar menu.
    NO wonder Americans are fat! It is cheaper and easier to eat bad food, compared with healthy food. Makes no sense that processed high calorie food is LESS expensive than food right off the tree! That is what is making Americans fat!

    By the way, you look absolutely FANTASTIC!
    3641 days ago
    I read a book called "Fat Land" this past summer for a skool paper I did on how we got to be this way. And it goes heavily into the business of how people got heavy. And how going cheap saved our country during the Nixion era but hurt our waist lines. One of the topics is sugar vs. HFCS (high fructose corn syrup). This product alone helped farmers dig themselves out of a money pit, corn sales went through the roof soon as companies stopped using sugar and switched to HFCS. It takes a drop of this stuff to equal what they call the 'good mouth feel' to the 3 cups of sugar needed to get the same effect.
    It was and still is about business and the bottom dollar. Pepsi and Coke were able to keep the same level of sugary goodness in their products for less money, what business man would not go for that? But the side effects of good business is bad news for us and our stomaches.
    Did you know that HFCS does not start digesting until it hits the pancrease (sp). This means that this concentrated version of sugar hits this organ in the same level sweetness as it did as you swallowed it. Ouch! I have tried with all my might to avoid HFCS, it isnt easy but I avoid it like the plauge. I will take sugar any day over a sweetner that might the main cause of diabeties in the United States!
    3642 days ago
  • DNJEN471
    See that is what I love about sparkpeople. It is not a diet, it is not a fad... it is a lifestyle change. It is changing your outlook on the way you live your life. It is not temporary... It is permanent and it works! It really works! When I track my calories, water and exercise- I lose. It is as simple as that! Very interesting. I would like to read the book, so if you get the chance send me the name and the author.
    3642 days ago
    i completely agree with this.. in HS i was 140lbs at 5'9" healthy weight for my height

    i could barely run a mile in 12mins when my obese friend could do it in 10.. i cut cals extremely but ate crap foods with my salads and she eat healthy just more of it..

    even now people look at me even at my heaviest and said i wasnt heavy (carry weight well) but im the fittest ive ever been
    3642 days ago
    I read this some time ago and it made me go through a range of emotions. I think I felt every color of the emotion rainbow. I do agree that being thin does not necessarily make you healthy, just as being overweight does not necessarily make you unhealthy. I can't wait to read your review when you finish the book.
    3642 days ago
    this is really interesting. i agree with you and the author (whoever they are!!) my mom just got involved with a doc who is encourageing the "no whites" diet. ugh. it's so frustrating!!! i wish i could get her more computer savvy to get her on SP!!! good luck to you!
    3642 days ago
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