Of Epidemic Proportions, Expanded Edition 2019 (January 2, 2019)
Of Epidemic Proportions: The Art and Science of Obesity, Expanded Edition, 2019, is a compilation of 100 scholarly blogs, an epilogue, and a comprehensive index, on the daunting science of obesity and weight control. Originally written over the past eight years for the psychologytoday.com website, these blogs are lavishly illustrated with hundreds of spectacular art images from some of the world’s leading artists.
INTRODUCTION, by the Author
Of Epidemic Proportions: The Art and Science of Obesity, initially released in March 2018, had been a collection of 93 scholarly blogs on the daunting science of weight control that I had written over the past seven and one-half years for the website of psychologytoday.com. This first edition, of limited release and not for public sale, received considerable acclaim from those special friends and colleagues to whom I had sent my book. Many people had expressed a wish to purchase additional copies.
In response, I have decided to release this expanded version, now with 100 blog entries, an epilogue, and a comprehensive index, and make it available for wider distribution by offering it for sale on Amazon.com. Still by no means all-inclusive and undoubtedly idiosyncratic, this personal compilation focuses on many aspects of obesity that have intrigued me since I wrote, as senior author, The Gravity of Weight: A Clinical Guide to Weight Loss and Maintenance (2010, American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.) I remain humbled, though, by the complexities and limitations of obesity research and gratefully acknowledge those exceptional investigators among you who emphasize the importance of scientific rigor, transparency, and reproducibility in this field and strive to rectify this challenging situation. It is to you that I dedicate my expanded version.
Though I have changed, and in numerous instances, supplemented many of the original art images that accompany each blog, I have still chosen to keep the essays, with a few exceptions, as initially published and maintain the order of their original date of publication. Of course, this means that some of the information, particularly from the earlier blogs, may need updating by the reader.
Sylvia R. Karasu, MD
Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Weill Cornell Medicine
New York City
Sylvia R. Karasu, M.D., is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and a member of the Institutional Review Board of the prestigious Rockefeller University. She has a private psychiatric practice in Manhattan and is the senior author of both The Gravity of Weight: A Clinical Guide to Weight Loss and Maintenance (2010) and The Art of Marriage Maintenance (2005.) She is a cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and has her M.D. degree from Einstein College of Medicine. She completed her Adult Psychiatric Residency and Fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medicine and is Board Certified in Adult as well as in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She is also a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, a Graduate of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute, an elected member of the Vidonian Club, and an elected Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine. Dr. Karasu is on the Editorial Board and a contributor to Hektoen International, an online medical humanities journal, and she has been writing scholarly blogs on obesity for the psychologytoday.com website for the past eight years. Her blogs have now been compiled into one volume, Of Epidemic Proportions, Expanded Edition 2019, with hundreds of accompanying art images from some of the world’s greatest artists.
- Sorting Through the Information Explosion about Weight
- Havoc with Circadian Rhythms: “Light Pollution” and Weight
- “Did You Ever See a Fat Squirrel?”
- The “Holiday Creep:” Seasonal Weight Gain
- The Body’s Damage Control: That’s the Way the Cookies Crumble
- ‘Tis Better to Have Lost and Regained Than Never to Lose at All
- Sticker Shock: Can We Make Temptation Less Tempting?
- From Snake Pit to Snake Oil: Diet Regimens
- Strictly from Hunger: The ABCs of Insuicient Food
- A Glass Half-Full, A Glass Half-Empty: How Much Water to Drink?
- Frayed, Frazzled, at the End of Your Rope: Stress & Weight
- Calling a Spade a Spade: Should A Physician’s Weight Matter?
- We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident: The Obese Candidate
- A Time for Every Purpose: The Science of Chronopharmacology
- Measure for Measure: A Madness in the Method for Weight Control
- The Unbearable Heaviness of Being: Considering Bariatric Surgery
- Liposuction: The Most Unkindest Cut of All?
- What Exactly is Cellulite? “Cottage Cheese” Thighs
- Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Science & the Marshmallow Test
- String Theory: Attach Incentives to Assist in Weight Control
- Special Delivery: What Can Brown (Fat) Do for You?
- A Bitter Pill to Swallow: Grapefruit Juice and Medication
- Supersizing and the Tyranny of the Soda Police?
- Fatal Flaws: Determining Who Is Overweight and Who Is Obese
- Double-crossing the Double Helix: Weight & Genes
- A Towering Babel: Structural Frameworks for Weight
- Weight: A Flu Shot in the Arm, A Shot in the Dark
- Strengthening Ties that Bind: Weight Control
- Weight Control: The Biological Brain, The Psychological Mind
- Searching for Magic Bullets: Weight-Control Medications
- Top Ten Reasons Why We May All Be Getting Fatter
- The Obesity Paradox: Is There an Ideal Weight for Health?
- Are We Sugar-coating Sugar Substitutes?
- Gut Reaction: Can G.I. Bacteria Cause Weight Gain or Weight Loss?
- The Hare and the Tortoise: Aesop’s Fable and Weight Loss
- The Medicalization of Weight: Are We “Disease Mongering?”
- Heavy: Uneasy Lies the Fat that Wears a Crown
- Human Bondage: America’s Not So Magniicent Food Obsession
- Great or Not Such Great Expectations: Weight Loss Goals
- ‘When the Bough Breaks’: Excessive Weight Before Pregnancy
- It’s Not Exactly Better Living through Chemistry
- College Weight Gain: Debunking the Myth of the ‘Freshman 15’
- When the “Proof of the Pudding” Is Not in the Eating
- The Myth of “Nutritional Precision:” What Do We Really Know?
- Healthy Obesity: An Oxymoron?
- “What Hath Night to Do with Sleep?” Night Eating Syndrome
- The Puzzling Condition of Pre-diabetes
- Fat Shaming and Stigmatization: How Far Is too Far?
- “What Potions Have I Drunk?” Concerns about Diet Supplements
- Down the Rabbit Hole: When Medication Leads to Weight Gain
- From the Frying Pan into the Fire? Saturated Fat and Health
- A Bone of Contention: Osteoporosis and Weight
- Holding a Mirror Up to “White Hat Bias” in Research
- When Healthy Eating Turns Unhealthy: Orthorexia Nervosa
- Why Out of Sight Really Is Out of Mind
- Of Epidemic Proportions: The Primary Colors of Obesity
- “Suicient Unto the Day:” The Complexities of Satiety
- Food Cravings: Those “Torments of Expectation”
- Smoking and Weight: Those “Burnt-out Ends of Smoky Days”
- Cancer Risk and Weight: Our Body and “Pathologies of Space”
- The Self “Loathsome Gluttony” of Binge-eating Disorder
- The Melancholy of Anatomy: Excessive Weight and Depression
- A Point of Reference: Weight and the Concept of Set Point
- The Quicksand of Self-deception: The Nocebo Effect
- Some Philosophical Musings on Food
- Toward a ‘Knowledge of Causes… and All Things Possible’
- The “False Creation” of Body Image Distortions
- Illusions and “Troubled Senses” of Body Dysmorphic Disorder
- The Double-Edged Sword of Alcohol Use
- In Nutrition, Where Does Science Stop and Fantasy Begin?
- The Care and Feeding of Myths: Breastfeeding and Weight
- Adolphe Quetelet and the Evolution of Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Marijuana and Weight: A Plant With Virtues to Be Discovered?
- Body Weight in the Time of Climate Control
- Advise and Consent
- The “Electrochemical Persuasion” of Neuromodulation
- Is Extreme Childhood Obesity ‘Nutritional Neglect’?
- Interests Conlicted: A ‘Wicked Problem’ in Medical Research
- The Brittle World of Peanut Allergy
- Sugar by Any Other Name? Low Calorie Sweeteners
- Behind the Smoke-Screen of Vaping: E-Cigarettes
- Salt Intake: Taking Advice With That Proverbial Grain
- Of March and Myth: The Politicizing of Science
- The “Furry Test Tubes” of Obesity Research
- The Gambler’s Fallacy in Research
- “Cholesterolphobia” and Eggs: What Do We Know?
- Crossing the Thin Line to Starvation: Caloric Restriction
- The ‘Soy-ling’ of Our Food: The Versatile U.S. Soybean
- Time Present and Time Past: Obesity and Chronobiology
- Frozen: What Do We Know about Cryolipolysis?
- The Long and the Short of It: Sleep Duration and Health
- The Handwriting on the Wall: Menu Labeling
- Sleepers Awake! Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Chocolate: Glorify or Demonize?
- Nuts with Benefits
- A Point of Order: Nutritional Prescriptions and Food Sequence
- The “Disiguring Mayhem” of Cancer Cachexia
- The Body as Metaphor: Social Class and Obesity
- Mathematical Models: Obesity by the Numbers
- “On the Margin of the Impossible”
- EPILOGUE: “The Marrow of Zen” and a Beginner’s Mind
- About the Author
Praise for Of Epidemic Proportions
“Of Epidemic Proportions is gorgeous, and I’m awestruck by how you did it. How did you find those illustrations and how extraordinary that you used them with your blogs? This is one of those situations where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Really, this book is a treasure, and I am honored to have a copy.”
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH,
Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, emerita, at New York University and author of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat
“What a brilliant and beautiful book! I think every physician and weight/nutritional counselor who deals with health and weight should read this.”
-Sander L. Gilman, PhD, JD,
Distinguished Professor of the Liberal Arts and Sciences and Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University, and author of Diets and Dieting and Obesity: The Biography
“Unique among books on obesity, Of Epidemic Proportions is a virtual tour-de-force. Visually stunning art images and well researched scientific essays.”
-Steven B. Heymsield, MD,
Professor of Metabolism & Body Composition, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University and President, The Obesity Society
“With her wit, lucidity and deep insight, Sylvia Karasu’s Of Epidemic Proportions is a gift to readers. This is a scholarly work like no other, providing her cumulative wisdom on the science of weight control in a collection that is as much a work of art as a popular science book.”
-Kenneth J. Rothman, DrPH, MPH, DMD,
Distinguished Fellow, Research Triangle Institute and Professor of Epidemiology, Boston University and author, Modern Epidemiology, 3rd edition
“Dr. Karasu’s writings are erudite, thought-provoking and engrossing, challenging us to engage our thinking at the intersection of science, history and culture. I am delighted to keep a copy of her extraordinary and beautifully illustrated book at my desk. It is a tour de force.”
Judith A. Salerno, MD, MS,
President, The New York Academy of Medicine and co-author, The Weight of the Nation, companion book to the 2013 Emmy-nominated HBO documentary series
“A terrific read. Provocative and evidence-based—the best combination.”
-Cass R. Sunstein,
Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard Law School, and co-author of Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness and the author of the forthcoming How Change Happens.
“Obesity is one of the sentinel epidemics of our time. In this humane book, Dr. Karasu offers a breadth of perspectives about the causes and consequences of the obesity epidemic, bringing to our understanding of the issue wisdom and imagination. We will not solve obesity through simple solutions alone. The ideas offered in Of Epidemic Proportions are an important step towards building a better intellectual architecture about the real scope of the challenges presented by the obesity epidemic.”
Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, Dean, Robert A Knox Professor, School of Public Health Boston University, author of Healthier: Fifty thoughts on the Foundations of Population Health
“Of Epidemic Proportions: The Art and Science of Obesity by Dr. Sylvia Karasu presents her many blogs in a single volume. These cover an eclectic series of topics dealing not only obesity, but also wellness, lifestyle, emotional health, and many other topic issues. Each blog is well researched, authoritative, and beautifully illustrated, including many great paintings. I am confident the reader will find this collection to be informative, entertaining, and both intellectually and visually pleasing.”
Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., MD, DPhil, Dean Emeritus, Weill Cornell Medicine, Provost Emeritus for Medical Affairs, Cornell University
“The book is remarkably thoughtful and rich in content, offering much to reflect on and peruse. The author, through a series of lively, well-researched and beautifully written essays, takes on pressing concerns for health and behavior. Moreover, she has been able to find works of art to illustrate and reinforce her messages. This is a visually and intellectually compelling read.”
Margaret A. Hamburg, MD, Past Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and President of the American Academy of the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
“Of Epidemic Proportions: The Art and Science of Obesity is a remarkable work—visually and intellectually very compelling, the type of work that begs to be looked at. I am delighted to place it on display in the Oskar Diethelm Library, where scholars, practitioners, and historians will be able to peruse it.”
George J. Makari, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the De Witt Wallace Institute for the History of Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medicine and author of Soul Machine: The Invention of the Modern Mind
“This lavishly illustrated and beautifully written book brings new insights into the complex areas of eating, weight management and obesity. Dr. Karasu blends extensive knowledge of psychiatry, the humanities, and mind/body interactions to bring a fresh and most welcomed perspective to the multiple inluences that interact in the complex area of obesity…”
James M. Rippe, MD, the Founder and Director of the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and Editor-in-Chief, American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine and author, Lifestyle Medicine, 3rd edition
“I love the intersection of art and science. This book reminds us of how much the inspiration and creativity of both can combine to motivate new insights. Dr. Karasu’s images and blogs help us to put perceptions of our bodies in perspective and to understand the epidemic of obesity.”
-Barbara Jean Rolls, PhD, Professor and the Helen A. Guthrie Chair of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University and author, The Volumetrics Weight-Control Plan