Book Review (Part I): “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight” by Linda Bacon

When we set out to read Linda Bacon’s book, “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight,” we thought we already had a good idea of what the Health at Every Size movement was. But this book has proven itself as a rich resource in the field of healthcare. It presents relevant scientific evidence, challenges common beliefs about health and weight loss, and suggests alternate ways of thinking. This is a book that we would recommend to everyone.

Since the book is divided into two main sections, we’ve decided to review them one at a time. This week we’ll talk about “Part One: Deconstructing Weight”and next week we’ll cover “Part Two: Health at Every Size”.

The first six chapters of the book are like one big literature review. In these chapters, the author summarizes a wide array of up-to-date scientific research regarding weight and health and she derives conclusions from this evidence. All of part one is extremely thorough, detailed, and yet still easy to read. Every point is backed up with references to credible journal articles and studies. Though some of the information is high-level and complex, Bacon lays it out in a very approachable way that is easy for the everyday reader to understand. And don’t get scared away by all of our mentions of “journal articles” and “scientific literature” – we assure you this book is neither dry nor dense! In fact, there are even interactive quizzes and activities interspersed throughout the book to help keep you engaged with the content.

So, what is the book all about?

Right from the get-go, Bacon makes her message clear: your weight is not your fault. She points to biology and genetics to explain variations in weight between individuals. She discusses how humans have changed over history – our lifestyles are vastly different than hunter-gatherer societies of the past, yet our genetics remain the same. Bacon demonstrates how this discrepancy contributes to our weight today.

There is a chapter devoted to explaining how the food we eat has changed due to the increase in food processing, and what this means for our health. Bacon also explains various factors besides diet and exercise that contribute to a person’s weight. She exposes the futility of common weight loss practices, and even digs into the politics behind food and weight.

In “Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight”, Bacon is not afraid to make bold claims. These claims will peak your curiosity and inspire you to dig into the evidence for yourself. Linda Bacon challenges her readers to filter the information they receive both explicitly and inexplicitly and learn to critically analyze scientific literature. In this way and in many other ways, this book is a valuable learning tool.

One of the most shocking sections of the book was a section on bariatric surgery. Drawing from both research and personal testimonials, Bacon shines a light on the often ignored risks of bariatric surgery as well as the long-term effects. She gives this hard-hitting statement: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if bariatric medicine shifted its focus to helping people get or stay healthy rather than thin?” Just let that sit with you for a minute.

Another part of the book that stands out is the sixth chapter, titled “We’re Victims of Fat Politics”. This chapter is chock-full of information that is crucial to reducing fear and judgement of fat, and to embracing size diversity. This information can (and should!) change both our personal and societal viewpoints.

Even after just reading the first six chapters, we felt that the information in this book should be read by everyone – whether you’ve been told you need to lose weight, believe that a thinner body is a better body, or think that people who are heavier are less healthy than those who weigh less. One specific group of people that would benefit from reading this book is healthcare professionals and the university students that will one day fill their shoes. Not only can the information found in this book help these individuals in correcting their own personal assumptions and judgements, but it can also help them to better serve their patients by promoting positive lifestyle changes for the sake of health, not weight loss, and operate from a non-weight-centric perspective.


References:

  1. Bacon, L. (2008). Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books.

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