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Initial reaction to the book

So I am happy to report that the book is starting to get a fair amount of attention (although certainly not all positive). Much of it is based off an article that was published that I think does a fair job introducing some of the concepts described in the book. You can see the article here

If you want to see what some are saying about what they think to be my take on this issue, you can see it here.

After his coverage of the Las Vegas porn convention, you can see what the Stranger’s Dan Savage’s readers had to say about me and the book here

I also received an email from a 400 lb man who thanked me for writing the book. He is a member of the Girth and Mirth, a Southern California group for large people and their admirers. He wanted to thank me for pointing out that there are people who choose to be obese for a variety of reasons.

Given all the bashing I’ve received from the bloggers, it was nice to get some positive feedback. The problem is that I’m convinced that neither he nor the vast majority of bloggers have read enough of the book to understand what my position really is.

The point of the book is not to say whether or not being fat is good or bad. I merely am pointing out that changes in the economy are what is driving the rise in obesity rates. However, I disagree with anyone who says that being obese (note - not overweight but obese) does not increase risks for disease and disability. There is just too much evidence suggesting it does. But losing weight and keeping it off comes with it’s own costs, so people make choices and some people are choosing to weigh more than they would in decades past as a result of the changing economy. As I point out in the book, we could choose to live like the Amish and eschew technology (and fashion) but that is a large sacrifice to make to be thin. And for many, including myself, it’s not worth it.

For those who disagree with me and argue that obesity is purely genetic, I point to the rapidly rising rates of obesity over the past few decades. Genes just don’t mutate that quickly. This is not to say that everyone can be skinny, nor that there are not many people who are genetically predisposed to be overweight or obese, but the reality is that these people are the minority of overweight or obese people. If they were not, we would not have so many more of them today than 40 years ago.

Because of the adverse health risks, I think we are doing our kids a disservice by letting them fatten up before they are capable of making good choices (and I think choosing not to diet and exercise may be a good choice for some). This is no different than the age limits on smoking and drinking or mandatory schooling. Until kids are mature enough to make good choices, parents and goverment need to step in. What falls to the parents and when government should step in is a subject best left for another day.

9 Responses to “Initial reaction to the book”

  1. Diet » Initial reaction to the book Says:

    […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by The Fattening of America […]

  2. Diet And Exercise » Initial reaction to the book Says:

    […] Here’s another interesting post I read today by The Fattening of America […]

  3. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    So…what school of economics are you actually from? It’s obviously not Austrian/monetarist. Von Mises and Friedman are right out, it appears by your statements that government should step in and do what the private sector “won’t.” So…is it socialist? (Well, I mean it obviously leans that way, but I’m wondering how much.) Because it ain’t sounding Chicagoan or Keynesian either, and I’m running out of economic schools of thought here.

    By the way, government doing what the private sector *does* not do makes my skin crawl more than the sight of a fat kid does to you.

  4. finkelstein Says:

    University of Washington to be exact. But I lean towards the Chicago school on most issues, I just did not get in there. I doubt you’ll be surprised.

  5. AnnieMcPhee Says:

    Thanks. I wasn’t aware that U of W had its own unique school of economic theory. But yeah, a Chicagoan leaning makes some sense as well. I’m 99% Austrian, but that’s for another day

    I’m kind of surprised by the poll results on your main page. Of course that’s only 200 people last I looked. Are you surprised at it as well?

  6. Obesity Says:

    I searched for \’Obesity America\’ at google and found this your post (\’Initial reaction to the book\’) in search results. Not very relevant result, but still interesting to read.

  7. finkelstein Says:

    Hard to say given the nature of the sample who is likely taking the survey. Bunch of Chicagoans…

  8. Daniel Says:

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Initial reaction to the book, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  9. Obesity Says:

    I searched for \’Obesity And What Parents Are Doing To Help\’ at google and found this your post (\’Initial reaction to the book\’) in search results. Not very relevant result, but still interesting to read.

The Fattening of America
How the Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What to Do About It
by Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman

Copyright © 2008 Eric A. Finkelstein & Laurie Zuckerman