I took a week off work this week, but it’s more like a staycation than a vacation. The pregnant foster cat was considerate enough to give birth yesterday morning, so now I can get to that impossibly long to-do list I’ve been mentally tabulating since, oh, February. I probably won’t be online much this week, so I thought it would be a good chance to revisit some of the more popular posts featured on the blog in the three-plus years it’s been online. The first to be (re)featured is this November, 2007 interview with Gina Kolata, award-winning science and medicine reporter with The New York Times and author.
Gina Kolata is an award-winning science and medicine reporter for The New York Times and the author of many books, including, “Clone: The Road to Dolly and the Path Ahead”, “The Baby Doctors: Probing the Limits of Fetal Medicine“, “Sex in America”, the best-selling “Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused It” , and “Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth about Health and Exercise.”
Kolata’s career in journalism began when she joined Science magazine in 1971, where she selected reviewers for manuscripts. She eventually became a writer and then senior writer. She also wrote for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including Science Magazine, Smithsonian, GQ and Ms. Magazine. She earned her bachelor’s degree in microbiology and her master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Maryland. She studied molecular biology at M.I.T. in a Ph.D. program.
In Ultimate Fitness, you set out to discover the truth of the exercise industry and found much of fitness claims to be misleading. In your most recent work, Rethinking Thin, you blast those in the obesity industry, who promote the idea that overweight is unhealthy and diet and exercise to be effective. What prompted your interest in the study of diet, exercise and weight-loss?
I got interested in the exercise industry because I spend a lot of time exercising and at gyms and I kept hearing all sorts of things that did not seem to make a lot of scientific sense, like the “fat-burning zone.” I was interested in diet and weight loss because of my experience as a reporter. I have been writing about major research on weight and weight loss for decades, and these often involved discoveries that seemed pathbreaking. Yet the public, and the diet industry, kept on saying that all you have to do to lose weight is just eat less and exercise more.
What are some of the biggest core beliefs of dieting and weight-loss that you found to be incorrect?
The idea that anyone can be arbitrarily thin is at the top of the list. Then comes the idea that thinner people could easily be fat if they just let themselves go. Or the idea that people gain weight because they have emotional problems and are using food to fill an unmet need. Or that if you just walk for 20 minutes or so a day those unwanted pounds would melt away. Or that if you take junk foods out of the schools and re institute pe kids would not gain weight.