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Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight--and What We Can Do about It by Harriet Brown

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Chapter 2

The Amazing! Seventeen-Day! Flat-Belly! Grain-Brain! Biggest Loser! Raw Food! Diet

              “What some call health, if purchased by perpetual anxiety about diet, isn’t much better than tedious disease.”

—Alexander Pope, eighteenth-century English poet

Every year in January—the height of our annual weight-loss frenzy—fifty million Americans go on a diet. That’s roughly one-sixth of the entire population restricting what we eat, creating a negative energy balance (deliberately burning more fuel than we take in) with the express goal of losing weight. Many of those dieters give up after about two weeks,1 but try again and again over the course of the year, which means, estimating conservatively, that the average forty-five-year-old ...

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