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A Big Fat Crisis

The Hidden Forces Behind the Obesity Epidemic - and How We Can End It
Cohen, Deborah (Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
A Big Fat Crisis
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"Dr. Cohen has created a work of nonfiction that will transform the national conversation surrounding the weight crisis in this country and throughout the world. Based on her own research at the RAND corporation, as well as the latest insights from behavioral economics, psychology, cognitive science, and the social sciences, A Big Fat Crisis reveals the surprising forces behind the obesity epidemic and how we, as a nation, can overcome it. Her conclusions contradict conventional wisdom and widely held expert opinion, and go against our own intuitive beliefs about the way we eat. They represent, in short, a paradigm-shift in how we approach the problem of obesity--and the solution. A Big Fat Crisis offers concrete solutions, arguing that the most important and modifiable steps in the chain of events that leads to obesity are at the point of purchase and the point of consumption. Like cholera and typhoid in the 19th century, obesity is a public health crisis. Ending it requires solutions that transcend individual behavior. Change begins with a fresh perspective and a clearer vision of what we need to do."--Publisher information. " In the hot days of the summer of 1972, the New York City Health Department investigated an unusually high incidence of deaths among toddlers who fell out of tenement windows. Initially mothers and caregivers were blamed for not being alert, not properly supervising children, or simply neglecting naturally curious toddlers and adventurous young children who leaned out of apartment windows, or crawled onto fire escape stairwells to try and cool off. After an investigation, the health department launched a campaign, "Children Can't Fly" and offered free window guards to families in tenement buildings. The next summer, there were no falls from buildings that had the new window guards. The story of "Children Can't Fly" is an apt analogy for the problem and the solution to the obesity epidemic. Children are born curious and may wander to an open window even if (or because) we tell them to stay away. All of us were born with the capacity and inclination to eat more than we need. In a world where there is too much food, we currently have no constraints that limit our natural tendencies to automatically eat what is readily available. Dr. Cohen has created a major new work of nonfiction that will transform the national conversation surrounding the weight crisis in this country and throughout the world. Based on her own research at the RAND corporation, as well as the latest insights from behavioral economics, psychology, cognitive science, and the social sciences, A Big Fat Crisis reveals the surprising forces behind the obesity epidemic and how we, as a nation, can overcome it. Her conclusions contradict conventional wisdom and widely held expert opinion, and go against our own intuitive beliefs about the way we eat. They represent, in short, a paradigm-shift in how we approach the problem of obesity-and the solution. A Big Fat Crisis argues that the obesity epidemic is the product of two forces: (1) Immutable aspects of human nature, namely the fundamental limits of self-control, the lazy decision-making of the brain's non-cognitive system, and the automatic and unconscious way that we are hard-wired to eat; and (2) A completely transformed food environment: all of the food-related elements of our surroundings, including food stores and restaurants, prices, portion sizes, the types of food available to us, and food marketing and advertising. A Big Fat Crisis offers concrete solutions, arguing that the most important and modifiable steps in the chain of events that leads to obesity are at the point of purchase and the point of consumption. Like cholera and typhoid in the 19th century, obesity is a public health crisis. Ending it requires solutions that transcend individual behavior. Change begins with a fresh perspective and a clearer vision of what we need to do. We can tackle the obesity epidemic. We just can't do it alone"--
Authors: Cohen, Deborah (Deborah Ann)
Title: A big fat crisis
the hidden forces behind the obesity epidemic - and how we can end it
Publisher: New York :, Nation Books,, [2014]
Characteristics: 262 pages :,illustrations ;,25 cm
Content Type: text
Media Type: unmediated
Carrier Type: volume
Contents: Human nature and food : It's not your fault ; The limits of self-control ; The overwhelmed brain ; Eating is automatic
The food environment : Abundant and cheap ; A food desert? Try a swamp ; Marketing obesity
An alternate vision : A plea for change: we are all in this together ; A safer food environment ; The supermarket of the future ; Fit and fat: what about physical activity? ; In the meantime: what individuals can do ; Conclusion
Healthier meal guidelines for adults and children.
Summary: "Dr. Cohen has created a work of nonfiction that will transform the national conversation surrounding the weight crisis in this country and throughout the world. Based on her own research at the RAND corporation, as well as the latest insights from behavioral economics, psychology, cognitive science, and the social sciences, A Big Fat Crisis reveals the surprising forces behind the obesity epidemic and how we, as a nation, can overcome it. Her conclusions contradict conventional wisdom and widely held expert opinion, and go against our own intuitive beliefs about the way we eat. They represent, in short, a paradigm-shift in how we approach the problem of obesity--and the solution. A Big Fat Crisis offers concrete solutions, arguing that the most important and modifiable steps in the chain of events that leads to obesity are at the point of purchase and the point of consumption. Like cholera and typhoid in the 19th century, obesity is a public health crisis. Ending it requires solutions that transcend individual behavior. Change begins with a fresh perspective and a clearer vision of what we need to do."--Publisher information.
" In the hot days of the summer of 1972, the New York City Health Department investigated an unusually high incidence of deaths among toddlers who fell out of tenement windows. Initially mothers and caregivers were blamed for not being alert, not properly supervising children, or simply neglecting naturally curious toddlers and adventurous young children who leaned out of apartment windows, or crawled onto fire escape stairwells to try and cool off. After an investigation, the health department launched a campaign, "Children Can't Fly" and offered free window guards to families in tenement buildings. The next summer, there were no falls from buildings that had the new window guards. The story of "Children Can't Fly" is an apt analogy for the problem and the solution to the obesity epidemic. Children are born curious and may wander to an open window even if (or because) we tell them to stay away. All of us were born with the capacity and inclination to eat more than we need. In a world where there is too much food, we currently have no constraints that limit our natural tendencies to automatically eat what is readily available. Dr. Cohen has created a major new work of nonfiction that will transform the national conversation surrounding the weight crisis in this country and throughout the world. Based on her own research at the RAND corporation, as well as the latest insights from behavioral economics, psychology, cognitive science, and the social sciences, A Big Fat Crisis reveals the surprising forces behind the obesity epidemic and how we, as a nation, can overcome it. Her conclusions contradict conventional wisdom and widely held expert opinion, and go against our own intuitive beliefs about the way we eat. They represent, in short, a paradigm-shift in how we approach the problem of obesity-and the solution. A Big Fat Crisis argues that the obesity epidemic is the product of two forces: (1) Immutable aspects of human nature, namely the fundamental limits of self-control, the lazy decision-making of the brain's non-cognitive system, and the automatic and unconscious way that we are hard-wired to eat; and (2) A completely transformed food environment: all of the food-related elements of our surroundings, including food stores and restaurants, prices, portion sizes, the types of food available to us, and food marketing and advertising. A Big Fat Crisis offers concrete solutions, arguing that the most important and modifiable steps in the chain of events that leads to obesity are at the point of purchase and the point of consumption. Like cholera and typhoid in the 19th century, obesity is a public health crisis. Ending it requires solutions that transcend individual behavior. Change begins with a fresh perspective and a clearer vision of what we need to do. We can tackle the obesity epidemic. We just can't do it alone"--
Local Note: 15 30 53 61 78 97 109 112 118 122 133 148 152 172 173 193 198 210 211 216 226 243 244 245 250 262 268 276
ISBN: 1568589670
9781568589671
Statement of Responsibility: Deborah A. Cohen, MD, MPH
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (pages 225-247) and index.
Subject Headings: Public health United States Planning. Overweight persons Social aspects United States. Obesity United States Prevention. Obesity Government policy United States. Obesity United States.
Topical Term: Public health
Overweight persons
Obesity
Obesity
Obesity
LCCN: 2013024389
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Apr 25, 2014
  • ksoles rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Around one in two hardware stores sells food. This telling statistic sums up the thesis of "A Big Fat Crisis": Thanks to an aggressive food industry, nowhere are we free from the temptation to make poor dietary decisions. Deborah A. Cohen, a medical doctor and senior scientist at the RAND Corp., takes the blame for obesity away from those carrying extra pounds and smacks it on their environment. Just as cancer results from exposure to a carcinogenic environment, she argues, “obesity is primarily the result of exposure to an obesogenic environment.” She presents a credible diagnosis though her proposed cure in the form of expansive government regulation requires a big stretch of realism.

The first section of the book describes a litany of cognitive vulnerabilities. Cohen describes our susceptibility to subtle behavioural triggers that tell us to indulge. And because of an evolutionary landscape of scarce sustenance, we overeat when the opportunity presents itself. On average, Americans weigh 20 pounds more today than 30 years ago. Did everyone simply become more irresponsible? Unlikely.

The environment in which we make our food choices HAS changed in recent decades. In the second section of her book, Cohen highlights three big fattening factors: the reduced price of food, the increased availability of food, and the increased intrusiveness of food advertising. These first two sections cover a lot of already-covered ground but the book's third section presents radical, ground-breaking and, to some, upsetting policy recommendations.

Cohen’s first policy proposal involves the standardization of portion sizes; she thinks restaurants should serve food in single-portion units just as bars serve alcohol in units. Second, she argues that the government should limit “impulse marketing” by banning food from stores that aren’t dedicated to food, restricting combo meals at restaurants and keeping drive-thru windows closed outside meal times. Third, she advocates for counter-advertising that would make the downsides of fattening food more salient.

Dramatically but poignantly, Cohen compares the current obesity crisis to 1800s London, when people tossed filth out the window and left rotting carcasses in the streets, leading to widespread disease. England finally enforced sanitation standards, which required reengineering centuries-old towns to build sewers. Cohen maintains that only the same drastic reengineering will reverse the obesity epidemic. “People are suffering,” she writes, “and thus need protection.”

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