It's wrong to make the fat feel guilty, to add shame and anxiety to their burden of weight. The sin of gluttony is not to...

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FAT AND THIN: A Natural History of Obesity

It's wrong to make the fat feel guilty, to add shame and anxiety to their burden of weight. The sin of gluttony is not to blame, but the coding of the genes. This is Anne Beller's thesis in this long, erudite treatise on obesity. The ability to lay down fatty tissue as an efficient and readily available source of energy was adaptive at that stage in human evolution which saw hunter-gatherers endure glacial cold and intermittent famine. She points to the roly-poly Eskimo versus the lean and leggy Masai as living examples of constitutional adaptability to climate (although admitting exceptions: Swedes are tall and lanky, too). She also discusses the host of interacting constitutional, hormonal, neurological, and psychological factors affecting the metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. The hypothalamus in the brain is probably the major control center that has gone awry in the obese. It makes them hungry all the time and never lets them know that it's time to stop eating. That, and their external ""cue-dependence"" as revealed in psychologist Stanley Schachter's classic studies of obese versus non-obese subjects. (Passing a bakery is an almost irresistible temptation to the obese, even after a full meal.) Beller's vast cataloguing of the literature is at times tedious and sermony, a bit too ready to accept somatotypical arguments. She does make a point, however, of dismissing the popular stereotype of fat people as easy-going slowpokes or orally arrested neurotics. All this explains why most diets are not effective and may even be dangerous. So, not a prescriptive book (although Belier does suggest that behavior modification approaches to dieting are effective). Instead, words of comfort and wisdom for the heavy heavies, and enlightenment for all who stick with it.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1977