Fat Land by Greg Critser

1036763Nonfiction — print. Houghton Mifflin, 2003. 232 pgs. Library copy.

I had my own health wake-up call back in May so I was intrigued by the title of this book after spotting it on the library shelves. Most Americans know that we are facing an epidemic of obesity that shows no sign of stop with nearly 60 percent of us overweight, but no one can really pinpoint why.

Healthy food and vegetarian activists claim the  extra pounds come from our meat dense diets and sugary, processed snack foods. The agricultural and food industry say their products are fine in moderation, and fitness gurus say we have become too sedentary for people who used to hunt and gather for food. I’ve also heard quite a few people claim that the liberalization of the workforce has removed women from the home, a place they used to spend hours in working on cooking a wholesome feel.

Steering clear of the other health and environmental consequences of concentrated animal feeding operations and massive fertilizer usage, Mitchell goes on to explain how these factors and more have contributed to our expanding waist lines. He traces the chain of events all the way back to the Earl Butz, the favorite whipping boy of health advocates and those who want to reform the system of agricultural production. I appreciated his chapter on the way society’s views on fatness have changed over the last thirty years, and think that chapter in particular will help a friend of mine lay the foundation for honors thesis on body image.

This book is merely a primer into the issues so while it’s a good introduction, it was not nearly as comprehensive as I needed it to be for my own thesis. Understandable considering the book is a mere 176 pages of text and, thankfully, I wasn’t subjected to continuous “fast food/big ag is evil”. Of course, there is a downside to that fact — there is very little incentive or pressure to change your ways. Sometimes people need to be yelled at.

Structurally, it would have been nice for the graphs to be included in the text rather than as a appendix in the back. And I think Critser’s argument would have been clearer had the chapters been more tightly connected. Overall, an interesting but not riveting read.

The Honors Project:

I read this book for The Honors Project, my own personal challenge to read more books about economics, food, and/or geography in preparation for writing my honors thesis. My goal for this project is to learn as much as I can about these topics so I can formulate better questions and, in turn, produce a better honors thesis. You can find out more information by checking out my introductory post, project post, or spreadsheet of titles.

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