I read “Fatland” by Greg Critser a few weeks ago.
A lot of the information is not new, especially if you have read “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” or “Fast Food Nation.” Americans are getting more and more obese. Trans fats are bad. Kids are drinking more soda and less milk. Sedentary lifestyles and obesity lead to a whole host of diseases. People with lower incomes are far more likely to be obese and lack access to healthy food and facilities. However, Critser presents this information in a comprehensive, compelling manner, and he backs up his arguments with reliable research (as reliable as research can be in the fields of health and nutrition – that was a really valuable lesson from this book: nutritional research is difficult to conduct using pure science, and results tend to be disproved over time).
A few new lifestyle concepts were driven home by this book:
Fatland set me straight about exercise. The guidelines we have been accepting (20 minutes at least 3 times per week, walking is just as good as any other activities) are b.s. Many of these notions are based on lowered expectations because experts felt that people would be completely turned off of exercise if the bar was set too high. Critser argues that physical activities need to occur daily, be sustained in nature, and cause you to break a sweat.
The biggest bombshell for me was high fructose corn syrup. I knew it probably wasn’t great for me, but how much worse could it be than refined sugar? Lots. The human body doesn’t break down fructose as it travels to the liver, so it hits the liver full-force. This can lead to the production of fatty acids that cause liver disease. Experts are arguing that high fructose corn syrup is directly linked to the huge increase we have seen in Type 2 Diabetes. And, most importantly, it provides no nutritional value for the calories it brings to the party. It’s just there to elevate blood sugars and make things sickly sweet.
My husband jokes that every time I read a book or watch a documentary, we have to cut another product or company out of our lives. He has a good point. The casualty of Fatland was a heartbreaking (though, ironically, it is probably a heart-SAVING) one: Coca-cola. And, really, all sodas and most juices. No more for the kids, and the grown-ups are down to one per week. I am surprised to report that two weeks after making this change, I was already over it. I think that knowing what it was doing to me made the Coke taste a little two sweet and deadly . . .
“Fatland” was a quick read, and it was a pretty good one. It’s worth checking out from the library just for the cover art – that baby looks delicious!