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The Fattening of America: How The Economy Makes Us Fat, If It Matters, and What To Do About It


Praise for The Fattening Of America

"Eric Finkelstein and Laurie Zuckerman show that our entire society profits from making people fat and then either keeping them fat or making them thin again. When you understand how these powerful forces work, you can do a better job of resisting them—and staying healthy."
—Jack Challem, bestselling author of The Food-Mood Solution and Stop Prediabetes Now

"Everyone who eats food in America must read this book. It is a comprehensive guide to how we've become the fattest nation on the planet and how the food industry, in cahoots with the government, makes us one of the least healthy nations."
—Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH, CCN, author of The Hamptons Diet

"The authors have done an excellent job talking to mainstream America about obesity. It brings together all of the latest research and packages it in a way that is engaging for the average person. I very much enjoyed the book and would recommend it for anyone interested in obesity. Well done."
—James O. Hill, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, and author of The Step Diet: Count Steps, Not Calories to Lose Weight and Keep It Off Forever

"The Fattening of America is an important book for everyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the underlying causes behind the obesity epidemic and options for addressing it."
—Barry Popkin, Carla Smith Chamblee Distinguished Professor of Global Nutrition at the University of North Carolina

Eric A. Finkelstein, PhD, MHA, is a nationally acclaimed expert on the subject of economics and obesity. He is a health economist with the research organization RTI International in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and teaches health economics at Duke University. His work focuses on the economic causes and consequences of health-related behaviors, with a primary emphasis on obesity. Finkelstein has published over thirty peer-reviewed articles on the economics of obesity and related behaviors. His research has been featured on the front page of USA Today and has been covered in the Economist, the New York Times, Forbes, the Washington Post, and many other newspaper, radio, and television outlets.

Laurie Zuckerman left her corporate PR job in 1999 to make writing her full-time career. She contributes columns and feature articles to a number of business journals and lifestyle magazines, and writes for businesses ranging from Fortune 500s to startups, with a focus on health care, high tech, and business.

Introduction: Answering the Age-Old Question: Why Is Uncle Al So Fat?

Chapter 1 Craze or Crisis?

So Why Now?

My Soccer Team Eats Oranges.

So How about Adults? Are We Gaining, Too?

A Growing Waistline Can Be Bad for Your Health.

But Are We the Only Ones Gaining Weight?

The Longer You Stay, the Bigger You Get.

Chapter 2 I’ll Take a Deep-Fried Coca-Cola.

First Things First.

Cheap Food Gets Cheaper.

The Rise of French-Fried Potatoes.

Please Pass the High-Fructose Corn Syrup.

A Full Pound of Sausage, Bacon, and Ham: Have a Meaty Morning.

Too Much of a Good Thing.

Kids Are Also Drinking the Kool-Aid.

When Is Enough Enough?

Chapter 3 Why We’re Moving Less (Hint: It’s Not Just the La-Z-Boy).

But I Don’t Have Time!

Not Quite the Jetsons, But . . . .

Just Be a Marathon Runner.

We’re Not Farmers Anymore.

Sprawling Out.

Our Kids Are Also Slowing Down.

Wrapping It Up.

Chapter 4 So Where Else Can We Lay the Blame?

Blame Mom and Dad.

Then Just Blame Mom (You Know You Will Anyway).

Blame the Meds.

Blame the Cigs (One More Theory Goes Up in Smoke).

Blame the All-Nighter.

Blame the Air Conditioner (Not Cool).

Blame Pollution (It’s a Dirty Business).

Blame That Nasty “Fat Bug”.

It’s the Economy, Stupid.

Chapter 5 Beware: Moral Hazard.

Just Bill My Health Insurance.

Is Obesity as Bad as It Used to Be?

Just Take a Pill or Get a Procedure.

Chapter 6 So We’re Fat—Who Cares?

Is Uncle Al Overweight?

C’mon Now, We’re Only Utility Maximizing.

Now, Let’s Tear This Argument Apart (and Put It Back Together).

So Should Dad (and the Government) Care that Uncle Al Is Obese?

Just Follow the Money.

Chapter 7 The Role of Government.

Market Failures.


Market Power.

Public Goods.

Obesity and National Defense.

Imperfect (Asymmetric) Information.

Is There a Role for Government?

Chapter 8 Weighing the Public Policy Issues (for Adults).



Compelling Public Need.

Revisiting Past Policy.

The Road Ahead.

Summing Up.

Chapter 9 Weighing the Public Policy Issues (for Kids).

First, a Step Back.

Child Abuse?

School-Based Regulations.

Your Mouth Will Really Groove.

In Closing.

Chapter 10 The Employer’s Dilemma.

Why Don’t Businesses Invest More in the Health of Their Workforce?

The Dirty Secret about Employee Wellness Programs.

So What’s an Employer to Do?

Could These Programs Get Me in Legal Hot Water?

Chapter 11 The ObesEconomy.

Just How Big Is the Weight-Loss Industry?

Just Take a Pill.

Bigger and Better.

Invest in New Technology.

In the Name of Progress.

Chapter 12 How to Lose Weight Like an Economist.

Economic Weight-Loss Techniques.

A Few More Secrets to Success.



About the Authors.