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Summary and book reviews of Fat Land by Greg Critser

Fat Land

How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World

by Greg Critser

Fat Land
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2003, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2004, 256 pages

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Book Summary

Critser's portrait of Fat America including forays into the diabetes ward of a major children's hospital make Fat Land a chilling but eloquent portrait of the cost in human lives - many of them very young lives - of America's obesity epidemic.

What in American society has changed so dramatically that nearly 60 percent of us are now overweight, plunging the nation into what the surgeon general calls an "epidemic of obesity"? Greg Critser engages every aspect of American life - class, politics, culture, and economics - to show how we have made ourselves the second fattest people on the planet (after South Sea Islanders). Fat Land highlights the groundbreaking research that implicates cheap fats and sugars as the alarming new metabolic factor making our calories stick and shows how and why children are too often the chief metabolic victims of such foods. No one else writing on fat America takes as hard a line as Critser on the institutionalized lies we've been telling ourselves about how much we can eat and how little we can exercise. His expose of the Los Angeles schools' opening of the nutritional floodgates in the lunchroom and his examination of the political and cultural forces that have set the bar on American fitness low and then lower, are both discerning reporting and impassioned wake-up calls. Disarmingly funny, Fat Land leaves no diet book - including Dr. Atkins's - unturned. Fashions, both leisure and street, and American-style religion are subject to Critser's gimlet eye as well. Memorably, Fat Land takes on baby-boomer parenting shibboleths - that young children won't eat past the point of being full and that the dinner table isn't the place to talk about food rules - and gives advice many families will use to lose. Critser's brilliantly drawn futuristic portrait of a Fat America just around the corner and his all too contemporary foray into the diabetes ward of a major children's hospital make Fat Land a chilling but brilliantly rendered portrait of the cost in human lives - many of them very young lives - of America's obesity epidemic.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

  1. Up Up Up! (Or, Where the Calories Came From)
  2. Supersize Me (Who Got the Calories into our Bellies)
  3. World Without Boundaries (Who Let the Calories In)
  4. Why the Calories Stayed on Our Bodies
  5. What Fat Is, What Fat Isn’t
  6. What the Extra Calories Do to You
  7. What Can Be Done

Appendix: Fat Land Facts

Notes

Index

Introduction

Obesity is the dominant unmet global health issue, with Western countries topping the list.
— World Health Organization

Set the soul of thy son aright, and all the rest will be added hereafter!
— Saint John Chrysostom

This book is not a memoir, but it is undeniably grounded in a singular personal experience. My experience was not, for those hoping for something juicy, a moment of childhood drama. Nor was it anything that led to any form of spiritual or true psychological revelation. Compared to the harrowing tribulations that so much of the world’s ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
New York Times Book Review

Highly readable

Boston Globe

This book is an in-depth, well-researched, and thoughtful exploration of the 'fat boom' in America.

Kirkus Reviews

Why worry about bioterrorism? We’re poisoning ourselves with calories, says freelance journalist and former fatty Crister. You are probably overweight; more than 60% of American adults are. Fat is pandemic....Crister discusses the politics of this growing public health problem and has some suggestions to fix it. In sum, it takes behavior modification and willpower. Savvy and scary.

Publishers Weekly

Critser vividly describes the physical suffering that comes from being fat. He shows how the poor become the fattest, victimized above all by the lack of awareness. Critser's book is a good first step in rectifying that. In vivid prose conveying the urgency of the situation, with just the right amount of detail for general readers, Critser tells a story that they won't be able to shake when they pass the soda pop aisle in the supermarket.

Library Journal

Critser urges Americans to tackle obesity head on, concluding with descriptions of initiatives that worked when communities launched a cooperative effort to change their eating habits and avoid the path to lifelong obesity. An important work that belongs in all nutrition and public health collections.

Reader Reviews
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Leilani

The book is informative, but not all of America is obese. What about those thousands of teenage girls who suffer from eating disorders? I myself developed an eating disorder because of these constant claims of America becoming too fat. What about ...   Read More

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