Sarah Boseley. 2014. The Shape We're In; How Junk Food and Diets Are Shortening Our Lives. London: Guardian Books. $11.99. pp. 320. Paperback. ISBN‐10: 1783350385.

AuthorBonnie Stabile
Published date01 September 2015
Date01 September 2015
Book Review
Sarah Boseley. 2014. The Shape We’re In; How Junk Food and Diets Are Shortening Our
Lives. London: Guardian Books. $11.99. pp. 320. Paperback. ISBN-10: 1783350385.
Just like the food products and packaging it decries, The Shape We’re In; How
Junk Food and Diets Are Shortening Our Lives has an eye-catching cover featuring
iced donuts with colorful sprinkles. But the message Sarah Boseley, health editor
of the Guardian, is selling will be harder for the public and policymakers to
swallow. “Laissez-faire has had its day,” Boseley argues. National and global
actors must face the obesity crisis head on. This means acknowledging its causes
and imposing solutions to combat its attendant spread of chronic disease,
diminished quality of life, and strained health-care budgets. The book is a call to
action in the face of powerful opposition, primarily by those who prof‌it from
aggressive marketing and expanding sales of food products that collectively
contribute to undermining public health on global scale.
The Shape We’re In joins a robust literature sounding a similarly urgent call.
Notable in this genre are Marion Nestle’s Food Politics: How the Food Industry
Inf‌luences Nutrition and Health, and Robert Lustig’s Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth
About Sugar, both of which are referenced by Boseley. Nestle’s book, foundational
to understanding current food system outcomes and activism, is exhaustive and
extensively referenced. (Nestle is Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public
Health, at New York University.) Lustig, a medical doctor specializing in
pediatric endocrinology, considers both the toxicity of the food system and its
physiological impacts. Boseley, by contrast, brings a journalist’s accessible voice
to this public health examination and advocacy, weaving personal stories
throughout the text that make all the facts more easily digestible.
The f‌irst chapter of The Shape We’re In grabs the reader with a compelling, if
somewhat sensational, story of a Welsh teen who was so obese that rescue
workers summoned to her home in May 2012 had to demolish an exterior wall to
extricate her. She had become so large that she could no longer f‌it into any of her
clothes or stand, and her organs were failing. The intent of relating this tale,
Boseley tells us, is to underscore that this attention-getting story actually does not
typify the problem of obesity. In fact, it might desensitize us, as we deduce that
World Medical & Health Policy, Vol. 7, No. 3, 2015
1948-4682 #2015 Policy Studies Organization
Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc., 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA, and 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford, OX4 2DQ.

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