Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic

Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic

Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic

Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America's Obesity Epidemic


Our government is telling us that obesity is a major health crisis, that sixty percent of Americans are "overweight," and that one in four is obese. But how true are these claims?
InFat Politics, Eric Oliver unearths the real story behind America's "obesity epidemic." Oliver shows how a handful of doctors, government bureaucrats, and health researchers, with financial backing from the drug and weight-loss industry, have campaigned to misclassify more than sixty million Americans as "overweight," to inflate the health risks of being fat, and to promote the idea that obesity is a killer disease. In reviewing the scientific evidence, Oliver shows there is little proof either that obesity causes so many diseases and deaths or that losing weight makes people any healthier. Our concern with obesity is fueled more by social prejudice, bureaucratic politics, and industry profit than by scientific fact.
Such misinformation, Oliver argues, is the true problem with obesity in America. By telling us we need to be thin, the proponents of the "obesity epidemic" are pushing millions of Americans towards dangerous surgeries, crash diets, and harmful diet drugs. Oliver goes on to examine the surprising reasons why we hate fatness and why we are gaining weight, and also the real threats to our health that are being displaced by our fat obsession.
Fat Politicsnot only topples our most basic assumptions about obesity and health, it highlights frightening dangers caused by making our weight a scapegoat for our real problems.


Over the past two decades, a plague has been sighted in our midst. It is said to afflict one in four Americans and kill as many as 400,000 of us every year. It is purported to cause heart disease, cancer, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and numerous other ailments. It is estimated to cost us 100 billion dollars annually in healthcare expenses and, according to some, threatens to overwhelm our medical infrastructure. Surgeon General Richard Carmona says it's a greater threat than terrorism and former heath and human services secretary Tommy Thompson has named it a public health “crisis.” Congress and numerous state governments are allocating billions of dollars in search of a cure while the media and health organizations regularly sound the alarms.

The “disease” I'm referring to is obesity and in the United States it has become, by most accounts, a full-scale epidemic. This certainly seems to be borne out by the statistics: in 1980, only about a third of Americans were considered overweight and only 13 percent were classified as obese, rates not much greater than in 1960. But in the past twentyfive years these numbers have skyrocketed. Today, more than 60 percent of Americans are considered overweight and one in four is obese—a two-fold increase in less than three decades. Even more alarming is the rise in juvenile obesity; today, 15 percent of American children are considered obese, more than twice as many as in 1980. As a result of their weight, today's teenagers will be, according to some projections, the first generation in modern American history to live a shorter life span than their parents.

America, it seems, has a big, fat problem.

Or at least this is what I thought when I started writing this book. Like many people, I, too, believed that America's growing weight was . . .

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