Originally posted on 26 Feb 2023

1 minute read

This is the second time I’ve read this book; the first was probably thirteen years ago. I didn’t remember much from it, aside from a vague impression that it was a valuable work that I want to hand to everyone who mentions they’re on a diet.

The science in the book is now at least 16 years old, but still largely (and unfortunately) overlooked. For instance, research consistently shows that weight and body size is genetic; that each body has a built-in “set point”, a relatively small range of weight it will consistently reach and then maintain; that diets do not and cannot work in the longterm, except for the smallest of minority. How very surprising that findings that would up-end a multi-billion dollar weight loss industry might not get much press.

Kolata investigates the history of the science of weight and weight loss, framing the investigation by visits with a group of active research subjects. She charts the progression of the research, as well as of popular cultural trends and how they may influence each other, citing and detailing dozens of studies.

In general, I appreciate this book a lot. It’s not perfect in its coverage of the topic, but its shortcomings make sense for providing focus to the work. After this re-read I stand by my initial judgement: people who continually or repeatedly diet, who are concerned about their weight, or are curious about these things should most definitely read this book.