24 April 2011

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

In this fascinating and (dare I say unputdownable?) book, Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss, New York Times science writer Gina Kolata analyzes the history of popular diets and body-image standards in the United States. She concludes that, while the medical and diet industries are unlikely to cure The Death Fatz, a better understanding of why we're fat can teach us how to find and maintain our natural (versus a socially constructed unlikely “ideal”) weight.

Kolata frames the story of weight-loss in America with a two-year clinical weight-loss study she sat in on at the University of Pennsylvania comparing the low-fat, low-calorie LEARN (Lifestyle, Exercise, Attitudes, Relationships, Nutrition) diet with the low-carb Atkins diet. At the study's end in 2006, Kolata reports, the participants demonstrated a standard pattern of weight-loss -- initial success, followed by setbacks, with most participants ending up about as fat as when the program began.

And that is a point that is made over and over again in Rethinking Thin -- despite what the medical and diet industries may claim, most dieters will not lose a significant of weight and/or keep it off for a long time. While diet and exercise are frequently cited as the solution to The Death Fatz, studies discussed in Rethinking Thin show they aren't always effective and that fat people who attain their "ideal" weight frequently can’t maintain it. Not won’t, but can’t.

Rethinking Thin: The New Science of Weight Loss -- and the Myths and Realities of Dieting written by Gina Kolata & read by Ellen Archer (Tantor Audio, 2007)

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