“Rethinking Thin – The New Science of Weight Loss – and the Myths and Realities of Dieting” by Gina Kolata

This dry, technical book provides a much-needed survey of scientific results about weight-loss dieting, most of which don’t make it to mainstream media nor public consciousness. Vignettes about the participants in a 2 year dieting study add a veneer of characterization and plot.

Scientifically shown in controlled and reviewed studies:

  • Every body has a preferred weight, within about a 20 pound range.
  • Bodies already at their preferred weight react radically differently to extra calories than bodies below their preferred weight. This is a strong reason for the rebound effect after a weight-loss diet. It is also a refutation of “a calorie is a calorie is a calorie” which is often used to judge people’s food choices and body sizes.
  • Most people find it physically impossible to lose more than 10% of their body weight and keep it off. This is not the result of a character flaw, nor “not trying hard enough.”
  • On average, people who are moderately “overweight” by current standards are healthier and live longer than people who are at or under currently recommended weights. These studies were intensely challenged by many people invested in the obesity “epidemic.”
  • Both increasing height and increasing weight are correlated with more prosperous societies. Perhaps plentiful food allows people to reach the high end of their genetic range for height and weight.

Any book where I start skimming rather than reading doesn’t get posted to this blog. This book narrowly escaped that fate. I did skim a couple of chapters about the history of weight-loss dieting, but the careful scientific reporting drew me back in.

I highly recommend reading this book if you need support to accept your body as it is rather than battling yourself with weight-loss diets.

Available at Powell’s Books.

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