All posts tagged: obesity

Presidential Obesity: Taft, Bathtubs, and the Medicalization of Corpulence

Ask your average citizen what he or she knows about President William Howard Taft and you’ll most likely hear recanted the rumor that due to his girth, Taft once became stuck in the White House bathtub. In the article, “Corpulence and Correspondence: President William H. Taft and the Medical Management of Obesity,” Providence College’s Deborah Levine analyzes fascinating primary sources from the Library of Congress—letters in which the 27th president of the United States corresponded with Dr. Nathaniel E. Yorke-Davies, an English diet expert—that chronicle Taft’s efforts to lose weight while in the harsh spotlight of American politics and popular culture. [If you haven’t read Monday’s New York Times coverage or the original article in the most recent issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, they’re marvelous. Go read them now!] As Levine demonstrates, this correspondence reveals Taft’s own views of the relationship between obesity and personal character, as he aspired to lose weight not only “to combat uncomfortable symptoms” (565), but also to “become a better civil servant” (565), revealing the assumption that one’s weight informs both objectives. This perspective is reinforced …

Food & Fat as Metaphor in ‘The Middlesteins’

When NPR included Jami Attenberg’s The Middlesteins as a foodie summer read, I had forgotten that it was on my request list at the library. When it came available with its fast food inspired red and yellow cover, I excitedly carried it home, ready to dig in. Late last year, Hannah Rosefield wrote an incredibly insightful piece on the use of obesity as metaphor in not only The Middlesteins, but also in Michael Kimball’s Big Ray, Heft by Liz Moore, and Erin Lange’s young adult novel Butter. She argues: An obese body is never, any longer, just an obese body, in life or in fiction, but an embodiment of an epidemic, an image of our society…It is true that although 70 percent of American adults are overweight or obese, a relatively small number is super obese. But these novels show Ray, Arthur, Butter, and Edie not at one end of a continuum, but as existing in a separate category, divided from their “normal” friends and family. We see the various societal factors that contribute to obesity, but …

April Showers Bring May Flowers—and Thesis Due Dates

Spring has finally sprung in New England and tomorrow looks to be a great day for the Boston Marathon. Luckily, I’ll be able to take some time to enjoy Patriots’ Day because I’ve spent the last few weeks glued to my desk chair, pounding out the second draft of my thesis, which examines the marketing of weight loss programs to men. Here’s a little taste… Over the past decade, much has changed on the twenty-first century landscape of dieting, as the “low carb craze” of Atkins and South Beach made way for today’s Paleo Diet, evangelizing the diet of Stone Age hunter-gatherers and encouraging dieters to “eat like a caveman.” Perhaps no change is more notable, however, than the new target audience of weight loss programs—men. Considered a masculine food in cultures the world over (Jensen and Holm 1999), the high intake of meat in low-carbohydrate diets made the Atkins and South Beach diets more popular among men than conventional low-fat diets. While men joined these diets in new numbers (Weinbraub 2004), Men’s Health Magazine …

Meat is Bad & The World is Flat: Thoughts from the Critical Nutrition Symposium

On March 8, 2013, I had the pleasure of attending the Critical Nutrition Symposium at UC Santa Cruz, organized by Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In. The event was spawned from a roundtable discussion at last year’s Association for the Study of Food and Society conference. The symposium brought together an interdisciplinary group of scholars to critically examine what is missing from conventional nutrition science research and practice, discuss why it matters, and brainstorm how to move forward in an informed and balanced way. What follows are a few of my favorite key ideas from the day’s discussions. Adele Hite, a registered dietitian and public health advocate who is not afraid to ask big and delightfully confrontational questions regarding nutrition science, began the day by dissecting Michael Pollan’s now famous aphorism—Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Step by step, she revealed the decades of revisionist myth and shaky science on which the diet most often considered healthy (one that is plant-based) is built. For example, she argued that the recommendation to eat like our grandparents is …

The Cheesecake Factory: America at Her Best—and Her Worst

With a castle-like façade, a phone-book-sized menu, and massive portions, The Cheesecake Factory aptly represents all-American abundance. Beginning with its name, The Cheesecake Factory, this chain restaurant builds not upon a tradition of artisanal craft, but of mass production. The interior continues this theme. A mash-up of ancient Rome, Medieval England, and today’s Las Vegas, the restaurant interior features ridiculously high ceilings and nearly comedic interpretations of Corinthian columns, projecting an exaggerated view of middle class luxury. The spiral-bound laminated pages of the menu boast more than 200 selections, representing a variety of ethnic traditions from pasta marinara to miso salmon—not to mention chicken teriyaki, di pana, madiera, picatta, and marsala, to name but a few. Half the menu features this multitude of food options, while every other page features advertisements. With restaurants often located in or near shopping centers and malls, The Cheesecake Factory menu seamlessly links the dining experience to the consumerist activities outside the restaurant. With heavily weighted cutlery, diners dig into meals served on boat-like plates, complemented by stein-like glasses better suited for …

Food News Round Up: On Obesity, Eating Rodents, & the Economy (Yes, in that order)

The past couple of weeks have provided fecund fodder for the food news enthusiast. Any fan of the CDC’s year-by-year ever-increasing obesity map will be intrigued that the 2011 data was released recently, alongside other obesity news. The news also turned up studies of disgust, which you can explore firsthand in articles on cooking up rat and squirrel. And finally, the struggling economy continues to affect life in the U.S. and abroad, especially dining trends. So, dig in to this edition of Food News Round Up… Food and Obesity Obesity remains a key issue both culturally and politically, especially with the release of the CDC’s most recent obesity statistical analysis. New 2011 obesity statistics analysis finds 12 states exceeding 30% obesity Pondering Mississippi obesity: Southern diet or culture on the skids? Study links healthier weight in children with strict laws on school snacks Food and Disgust Disgust is an always interesting element of eating. Would you consider rat or squirrel? How and why to eat rat meat ‘Chicken of the trees:’ A history of eating …

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: 5 Images That Summarize My Food Studies Interests

I’m a food studies student, who obviously loved Jay-Z’s Black Album when I was in college, which feels like a long time ago. As I continue my interdisciplinary studies of food, nutrition, and public health, this blog is a place for some of my finished work, as well as lots of projects that are in process or ideas that are just rumbling around in my mind. Please feel free to comment and engage! It’s okay to be critical, but please be kind. Most of my interests are encapsulated in the cover header I created for this blog… Image 1: MyPlate — Nutrition Education & Food Politics  Introduced in 2011, MyPlate is the USDA’s current nutrition education tool, replacing the 2005 tool, MyPyramid, a bit of a disaster, which built upon the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid, which anyone from my generation learned in elementary school. The plate image has been used previously, such as in the UK’s eatwell plate and the Plate Method used and evaluated in the US. While I feel conflicted about whether we should be telling, instructing, or cajoling people into eating a certain …