I've been following the discussion, but haven't participated yet because 1) I haven't read the book and don't intend to, and 2) was pretty underwhelmed with Kolata's controversial book on exercise a few years ago. But I'm a little puzzled by this discussion.
I am both an astonishing success as a 110+ pound loser and maintainer of that loss over several years, and a failure at controlling my weight, as my BMI is still in the 'Overweight' range. But the perspective from being 15 pounds overweight as opposed to 115 pounds overweight is VASTLY different. While I am responsible for everything I put in my mouth, to get to be +115 pounds overweight I had to actively work at that, buy and eat a lot of junk food basically, with a lot of emotional, compulsive and habitual eating. To stay at +15 pounds is really easy--that is within the 200 calories a day that Wansink calls the mindless margin in his wonderful book, Mindless Eating. Pick up one candy that a co-worker brought into work, eat 3 extra bites of noodles off a dinner plate that is sized too large, the licks, bites and tastes that Meg likes to talk about. No major emotional baggage required for that.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that, while it does happen, as an overweight person (now) I just don't do a lot of emotional eating, most of the excess is just sort of thoughtless, it-happens-to-be-there kind of stuff. Not too much different from my thinner friends. As a morbidly obese person I did a lot of emotional eating.
(Now I do a scientifically untenable thing and extrapolate from my experience to the world at large, where there are people like and unlike me.)
So which is true? Both, certainly. How do you report that in your book, if you want to be controversial, and make a lot of sales, and make overweight people feel good about themselves so they'll buy your book. You tell them, hey, you are 100% normal and this isn't your fault. It might even be true for the majority of people like me who are a little overweight. A "healthy" survival instinct in a rich environment, at least from an evolutionary point of view. There is nothing healthy about morbid obesity. If Kolata does make a distinction, I'll be forced to retract this disparaging statement, but I'm guessing she doesn't.
Long enough have you dream'd contemptible dreams,
Now I wash the gum from your eyes,
You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.
-from Song of Myself, Walt Whitman