Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon (partially migrated from bookblogger)

This is the ultimate anti-diet book.  I started this book with a cynical eye and was surprised to find it pretty interesting.  The premise is that diets have been shown by research not to work.  Almost every weight loss diet involves restricting one’s intake and this sets off the body’s reaction to restriction which is to reset the “set point” even higher.  This evidently results in one gaining back whatever is lost and then some.  The yoyo dieting that so many Americans practice actually, then, creates more obesity.

The answer, then, according to Bacon, is to give up on dieting and to regain and respect the internal signals that we all have to eat when we’re hungry and stop when we’re full.  She explains further how our brains are less sensitive to the signals triggered by processed foods than those triggered by whole foods and how the food industry cashes in on this difference.  Since we don’t get sated by the processed foods, we crave more and more.  This results in big bucks for the junk food industry and for big numbers on the scales of many Americans.

There is some discussion about the lack of evidence that obesity alone is responsible for certain health  problems, such as diabetes and hypertension.  This is the part where her theories are extremely questionable.  There is an abundance of evidence to connect overweight/obesity with diabetes and hypertension.  There is an abundance of evidence to connect obesity to a whole host of medical problems.  The author really is inconsistent in her research (her references are largely outdated and limited to very few actual studies) and the opinions are extraordinarily biased.

What is good about the later chapters is that the author does not instruct those who are overweight to just give up on being healthy.  She does promote eating healthy, whole foods.  She promotes a more active lifestyle.  And she also promotes being happy with oneself at any weight and trying to bolster weighing one’s own self esteem NOT by the scale.  This part I agree with wholeheartedly.

It’s a pretty radical perspective proposed here and I appreciate the value of self esteem and comfort in one’s body.  But there is incontrovertible evidence that being obese does lead to medical problems.  So it may be that her suggestions about healthful eating and an active lifestyle can lead to a healthy means of losing weight and then to better overall health.

A compromise?



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