A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic — and How We Can End It

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9781568589671: A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic — and How We Can End It
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Obesity is the public health crisis of the twenty-first century. Over 150 million Americans are overweight or obese, and across the globe an estimated 1.5 billion are affected. In A Big Fat Crisis, Dr. Deborah A. Cohen has created a major new work that will transform the conversation surrounding the modern weight crisis. Based on her own extensive research, as well as the latest insights from behavioral economics and cognitive science, Cohen reveals what drives the obesity epidemic and how we, as a nation, can overcome it.

Cohen argues that the massive increase in obesity is the product of two forces. One is the immutable aspect of human nature, namely the fundamental limits of self-control and the unconscious ways we are hard-wired to eat. And second is the completely transformed modern food environment, including lower prices, larger portion sizes, and the outsized influence of food advertising. We live in a food swamp, where food is cheap, ubiquitous, and insidiously marketed. This, rather than the much-discussed food deserts,” is the source of the epidemic.

The conventional wisdom is that overeating is the expression of individual weakness and a lack of self-control. But that would mean that people in this country had more willpower thirty years ago, when the rate of obesity was half of what it is today! The truth is that our capacity for self-control has not shrunk; instead, the changing conditions of our modern world have pushed our limits to such an extent that more and more of us are simply no longer up to the challenge.

Ending this public health crisis will require solutions that transcend the advice found in diet books. Simply urging people to eat less sugar, salt, and fat has not worked. A Big Fat Crisis offers concrete recommendations and sweeping policy changes including implementing smart and effective regulations and constructing a more balanced food environment that represent nothing less than a blueprint for defeating the obesity epidemic once and for all.

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About the Author:

Deborah A. Cohen, MD, is a senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation. Cohen received her BA at Yale University, MPH in epidemiology from the UCLA School of Public Health, and her MD from the School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. She has served on several advisory panels for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Brazil. She lives in Santa Monica, California.

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*Starred Review* Cohen, an epidemiologist and medical doctor at the RAND Corporation, makes a convincing case that obesity involves far more than a failure of willpower. Were people really more disciplined 30 years ago, when only one in six U.S. adults was obese, instead of the one in three today? Unlikely, she says. “Physiologically, our capacity for self-control has not shrunk over the past several decades.” She blames both the way humans are wired to overeat when presented with the opportunity and the transformed food environment, which makes large portions of cheap, high-calorie foods too easily available. Little nibbles add up: The average individual weight gain of 22 pounds over the past 30 years in the U.S. can be explained by our eating just seven extra calories per day. Cohen proposes standardizing portion sizes and running counter-advertising against unhealthy food products. Her other ideas include following the model of state limits on the number of places that can sell alcohol: why not do the same with doughnut shops and ice cream parlors? And why not restrict all-you-can-eat buffets, and use warning labels, like those for cigarettes and alcohol? Though some ideas seem far-fetched, Cohen certainly presents a fresh, thought-provoking take on how to fight the obesity epidemic. --Karen Springen

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9781568584720: A Big Fat Crisis: The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic—and How We Can End It

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