First, I really admire this author. I read his earlier work with Jan Wright - The Obesity Epidemic: Science, Morality and Ideology - and it was wonderfully researched and argued. I would consider it an essential text for anyone working in health care or doing health policy who needs a critical analysis of the obesity epidemic (and that's nearly everyone, it seems.) It is not a fat acceptance book or even a Health at Every Size book - it is a critical analysis of the rhetoric and science surrounding the issue of body weight, and it is a very fair one.
This book continues that theme, critically analyzing not only the discourse of the "obesity epidemic" itself, but also the words, ideologies, and actions of people who are in the other camp, including fat acceptance and Health at Every Size advocates. This, though painful at times, is totally necessary and warranted.
However, a couple of notes - first, this book could use better line-editing, but that is a minor complaint. My larger issues come with Gard's seeming inability to parse how prejudice often works in real life. He criticizes fat acceptance advocates for claiming that obesity researchers are "mean spirited" and "hateful" against fat people, defending researchers on the basis that they are well-intentioned.
I actually have no doubt that obesity researchers are well-intentioned, but that doesn't mean that they haven't also accepted and internalized oppressive stereotypes and attitudes about fat people, leading to actions with sometimes horrific consequences. I think most prejudice, for example misogyny, is acted out socially by people who mean well and who genuinely think of themselves as good, unprejudiced people. That is how prejudice survives, because if people were able to recognize it in themselves and see it for what it is - a damaging belief that often leads to unethical, even if well-intended actions - they would do the personal work necessary to challenge it.
Telling me that because obesity researchers are well-intentioned, I should stop criticizing them using the language and constructs of social justice (which often includes descriptions of hatred and oppression) comes off as very short-sighted and even arrogant. He also picks some of the weaker moments of HAES advocacy to criticize - statements and theories I was not even aware existed, despite having been involved in HAES for over a decade - and leaves out some significant figures, like Linda Bacon, who doesn't seem to be mentioned in the book at all, despite her important research contributions to HAES and her harsh criticisms of obesity science and bariatric medicine.
That said, I haven't finished the book entirely and will update this review when I have. I just wanted to put these thoughts down before I forget them.
I have now finished the book. I think Gard's criticisms are often fair and always thought-provoking, and I appreciate their value. I do quibble with his approach as outlined in the points above, but I think the larger issue that he is calling readers to - to think and speak more carefully, to take a more nuanced view instead of retreating to one's own ideologies and moral judgments, is a hugely important one. I feel challenged and inspired to do that through his arguments.
He also leaves one tantalizing question which he feels has gone unanswered in the furor over obesity, and which obesity skeptics (and I count myself an amateur one of those) have failed to answer: why has the panic over a supposed epidemic of obesity occurred at a time in history when health and lifespans are generally better than ever before? And, additionally, why have people gained weight (even if the weight gain was not as exponential or catastrophic as popularly assumed) in the first place? What better explanations do skeptics have to offer for these questions? It makes me want to think about them more.
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|Title||The End of the Obesity Epidemic|
|File size||6.1 Mb|
|eBook format||Paperback, (torrent)|
|Book rating||3.33 (3 votes)
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