This book is probably not what you would expect it to be from the title. You're probably expecting it to be a dry academic commentary on societal issues, the highly questionable tactics of the food industry, the global food crisis or the modern day phenomenon of mindless eating Well, this book does touch on them issues, but from within the context of a novel about an office worker, Emma, who can't figure out where her food keeps disappearing to...
Emma is a character I can really relate to. She works in conferencing and her job requires her to set up and oversee a health conference but her working hours, the length of her commute and the sedentary nature of her job, added to the availability of buffets and client lunches means that her waistline is ever expanding.
The book takes you through the various presentations given by the various speakers. There's discussion on evolution (and how our metabolism has yet to evolve to suit modern lifestyles), the food industry's devious marketing tactics and use of fat, sugar and salt to trigger our bliss point, and also why dieting sets us up for failure.
I particularly liked the metaphor used by one of the speakers at Emma's conference; she asked everyone in the room to hold their breath for a period of time, and noted that when the time was up, everyone took a gasp of air in, to make up for the air they didn't take in while they were holding their breath. This is exactly why many diets fail - people restrict their calorie intake for a period of time, and then when they finally permit themselves to eat a little more, they feel compelled to over do it to compensate for the food they've been depriving themselves of.
Another interesting point raised in the book was the controversial topic of promoting plus size in popular media (such as the music video for Meghan Trainor's All About That Bass), and whether this is encouraging body acceptance or encouraging complacency towards obesity - the complete polar opposite to the effect of photoshopped, underweight models found in magazines. I think this topic alone could be turned into a book of its very own!
The novel is set across the time span of one day, starting with Emma checking her morning emails in bed, right through to the conference and finishing with her getting home from work. At the end there is a food diary showing what she ate throughout her day, including her total calorie intake and at which point in the day she exceeded her recommended daily allowances. I think her food diary is very similar to that of the typical office worker and hopefully this book will help readers view their own workday habits in a critical manner.
Reading some of the debates in the book gave me a sense of 'it's me Vs the food industry' - in a strange way, its somewhat relieving to know that it's not entirely the fault of the individual. For me, this makes me determined to try and beat the food industry by cooking meals from scratch rather than cave into the ease of pre-packaged meals and takeaways. I just can't stand the idea of someone profiting from ill health and I find it easier to fight against someone else, than myself.
For this reason, it's been refreshing to read a book that takes this approach, rather than one which places the blame solely on the individual.
You can find Overweight - So Whose Fault Is That? on Amazon.