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Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World

"Savvy and scary." — Kirkus Reviews

"A medical wake-up call for the nation, Greg Critser's Fat Land is the definitive journalistic work on America's obesity epidemic. Critser combines powerful science writing with incisive and compassionate social reportage. — Francine Kaufman, M.D., president, American Diabetes Association

About the Book

The American way of life created by the boomer generation has become a major cause of illness, lost joy, and death, according to nutrition and health writer Greg Critser in his important and timely book Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World (Houghton Mifflin, January 14, 2003). Critser's mission is to reveal what in American society has changed so dramatically that nearly 60 percent of us are overweight. Can we fix what the surgeon general calls a national epidemic of obesity? The statistics speak for themselves and should be enough to frighten many of us into action.

• 60 percent of Americans are overweight (fat enough to experience directly related health problems).

• About 20 percent of us are obese (so fat that our lives will be cut short).

• More than 5 million Americans are morbidly obese — so obese that they qualify for gastroplasty, a radical surgical technique that keeps the stomach from digesting food. The American Bariatric Society performs these procedures and reports that there are months-long waiting lists and that its surgeons can't keep up.

• 25 percent of all Americans under age nineteen are overweight or obese.

• Obesity disproportionately plagues the poor. Among Mexican American women from twenty to seventy-four years of age, the obesity rate is about 13 percent higher for those living below the poverty line.

• Diabetes occurs at a rate of 16 to 26 percent in both Hispanic and black Americans aged forty-five to seventy-four, compared to 12 percent of non-Hispanic whites the same age.

Statistics aside, most of America, including the medical community, is in denial about obesity and its cost in human lives — many of them very young lives. The percentage of overweight six- to eleven-year-olds has nearly doubled in two decades, and for adolescents the percentage has tripled. Pediatricians are treating conditions rarely before diagnosed in young people. Is this because of fewer physical education programs, increased computer use, greater consumption of fast food, school lunches loaded with fat, the ever-powerful corn lobby pushing its high-fructose corn syrup on manufacturers, who ignore the research explaining the dangers of how HFCS metabolizes? There is no one answer, and there is no one solution.

Fat Land is a wake-up call for Americans to do something about this epidemic. Greg Critser takes a hard-line approach to reach people and tell them to stop lying to themselves, to take responsibility, to vote wisely.

Despite the seriousness of Fat Land's subject matter, Critser writes with humor and speaks from personal experience, making this book an entertaining, informative work as well as a frightening account of the obesity crisis. You'll not only learn about the dark underside of cheap fats and sugars and how they metabolize, but discover that J Lo's butt isn't too big, "baggy" jeans really aren't so baggy, and why, in the world of fast food, bigness is addictive because it is about power.

Greg Critser's sharp-eyed reportage and disarming wit make Fat Land amusing, meaningful, and truly alarming.

About the Author

Greg Critser is a freelance writer specializing in nutrition, health, and medical issues. His articles on these subjects appear regularly in USA Today and in the Sunday opinion section of the Los Angeles Times. His essays and features have also appeared as cover stories in Harper's Magazine, Worth, Washington Monthly, and the Washington Post Magazine. Critser's writing on obesity earned a James Beard nomination for best feature writing in 1999. Fat Land is his first book.

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