Warner’s argument is that obesity is not an epidemic, but is endemic. It is not a new Aids, but a situation inherent in a modern civilisation composed of ordinary human beings living in a new world of calorie abundance... Good for him. But he ends up, alas, with an altogether hurried and skimpy vision of an alternative “holistic” approach to building healthy living into our towns and cities. If you’re going to persuade me that Amsterdam may have the policies needed to bust this one, you’ll have to spend more than three pages of a 350-page book on it.
Despite ignoring the elephant in the room, Warner is often on target in revealing the bad science and illogical thinking that underlie specific food fads and overly simplistic approaches to complex, multi-causal problems, such as what is making so many of us fat. He shows some compassion in rejecting fat-shaming and social hostility towards our larger friends and neighbours. He likes using rude words to up his street cred – I couldn’t be bothered to do a ‘fuck’ count – but despite the continuation of the Angry Chef persona, Warner writes well and explains complex ideas clearly.
The strangeness of the book emerges when you start to examine what he is actually saying about the causes of modern obesity and, more widely, of diet-related illness such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease... If you think that the question of what children eat is “trivial”, this is the book on obesity for you. It will chime with many people’s wish not to be lectured at by people who claim to know better, and goes to great lengths to absolve the food industry and its relentless marketing of processed food from playing any role in modern diet problems.