Fat Politics: The Real Story behind America’s Obesity Epidemic (2005) by J Eric Oliver is a good study about how being ‘overweight’ is a problem that has been overstated.
The book does not state that people don’t have health problems related to weight. Oliver is instead saying that for most people the health problem is that people eat too much calorie rich food and are not active enough. Oliver believes that the emphasis on weight is attacking a symptom, not a cause, of the food and activity related problems we face.
Oliver suggests that the problem of weight has been overstated by public health officials, researchers and drug companies in part because of self-interest and also because such people are always looking for problems and will find and overstate them even when the problems are not as severe as people maintain.
People themselves see their own weight as a problem. Oliver points out that the big target market for much of the diet industry is actually people who almost certainly have no serious health problems. In particular women who are only slightly overweight are the target. Oliver points out that this is because for women weight is critical to the way they see themselves and the way society sees them. Oliver points out that weight discrimination is perhaps the only commonly acceptable prejudice and that it’s mainly directed at women.
Oliver looks at how food consumption has changed and how much less active people have become. The interesting point that snacks are the main culprit is made. Oliver states that people are effectively consuming an extra meal in snacks. Apparently the amount of food consumed at mealtimes has remained fairly steady but the consumption of sugary soda and high energy snacks has been critical.
The book is really interesting, the claims made clearly have some basis. The point that weight is symptomatic rather than an evil in itself is a bit subtle to have made the book a hit with a simple statement however the ideas in the book and the data presented are well worth looking at and thinking about.