Daily Archives: May 27, 2009

Fatland – Review

Fatland: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Crister

Age: Adult

Fatland: how Americans Became The Fattest People In The World by Greg Crister is a very tellling and mesmerizing look at the state of the nation. There are two things about Fatland that I thought made it an incredibly enlightening and entertaining, albeit very depressing, read. 1. The author’s writing style. Critser has a very dry wit, but he manages to inject bits of humor inbetween boughts of depressing paragraphs about obesity. He starts off by explaining his reason for writing this book

This book is not a memoir, but it is undeniably grounded in a singular personal experience. Here it is: Some guy called me fatso. Specifically, he screamed: “Watch it, fatso!”

The second element of the book that I liked is Critser’s organization of the book. Each chapter feeds into the next in a very fluid and natural order. The chapter titles are funny, but very direct.

Up Up Up! (Or Where The Calories Came From)
Supersize Me (Who Got the Calories Into Our Bellies)
World Without Boundaries (Who Let the Calories In)
Why Calories Stayed on Our Bodies
What Fat Is, what Fat Isn’t
What the Extra Calories Do To You, and
What Can Be Done.

When all is said and done, Critser gives an exquisite history of how calories and poor judgments have played a role in the rising obesity rates of not only adults but also of children in the United States. The scary part? No one wants to take accountability and blame. Everyone pushes the obesity issue aside for fear of traumatizing the overweight via forms of discrimination. While this is a valid concern, obesity is a national epidemic. Critser played a very neutral role, placing the blame on everyone and no one (which I think is the biggest part of the problem). In times of recession and hard economic times, consumers demand more for their dollar. They want more for less (I dare someone to tell me they don’t think that when they go out to eat, or out shopping). This natural tendency for greed led fast food companies to provide this much demanded service. More food for less. Happy Meals so that parents don’t have to share their meal with their children. Eliminate the 6 to 8oz cups of soda, and supply 44oz cups instead. Vote against propositions that fund after school activities and PE for kids, and use that money something seemingly more important. Slash the budget on education system, so that schools are forced to rely on Pepsi sponsorship of materials and funds and therefore post advertisements. Bring in Pizza Hut to sell products on campus because the cafeteria can no longer support or feed the increasing number of students shoved into classrooms and schools.

Reading this book, I found myself pacing around the living. Why? Everytime Critser discussed the amount of time Americans sit in front of the TV, I replaced it with “read a book”. How often have I squandered away four hours of my life sitting on the couch reading, rather than being active? Sure, I’m exercising my mind, but my physical health comes into question at that point.

Critser also brings up the points that health and physical fitness is more prevalent for the rich, because they can afford to exercise for 4 hours a day (how do you think celebrities are so fit?) The poor and minorities do not have these same resources and most often, do not have the money to buy the healthier product. At my library, we’ve been implementing Healthy Habits into our story times, trying to make fruits and vegetables fun for kids and instill in them and their parents nutritional values. But we can only do so much in the 1 hour a week we see them. Its up to parents and schools to take a larger stand, put away hurt feelings and really think about the health issues children will grow into. Obese children are more likely to suffer from diabetes, cancer, heart disease, hip displacement, arthritic pain, blindness, premature death, etc. The list is never ending.

Critser does not end on a positive note. Although some schools are implementing fantastic changes and really taking this issue seriously, the majority of the schools just don’t have the time, energy or funds to really pursue a different course.

This book is also from the Rory Gilmore Reading List and a part of my Dewey Decimal Challenge (362.1936 Critser).

Fatland: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World
by Greg Critser
Penguin, 2003
ISBN 0141015403
187 pages


Find this book at your local library