Obesity as a culture-bound syndrome(USA)

The article I chose to write about is called “Obesity as a culture-bound syndrome” by Cheryl Ritenbaugh.She talks about how obesity in the United States fits the definition of culture bound syndrome. Ritenbaugh says how obesity in other socialites is considered to be a sign of beauty and wealth. While in the USA it’s not considered to be healthy and can cause many health problems. It’s actually considered to be epidemic and a disease. “The  association  of massive  fatness  with  poor  health  that  had  been recognized for  hundreds  of  years  led  insurance  companies  in  the  U.S.,  at  the  turn  of the century,  to  begin  to  charge  higher  rates  to  extremely fat individuals”. (Ritenbaugh) She goes on to say “western culture shapes biomedical thinking can be seen in the obesity research literature”. (Ritenbaugh) . The article states that obesity is a cultural issue and western culture obsession with being thin. It’s says that the media plays a major role in the weight standards especially for woman. “It seems likely that thinness as a culturally valued commodity is related to the value placed on youth”. (Ritenbaugh)

The biological dimensions of obesity can be individuals in genetics or it can simply be consuming too much high-fat or high-calorie food. The cultural dimensions of obesity it can be the surroundings and the socioeconomic status. For example McDonald’s dollar has hardly anything healthy on it but it’s cheaper than the salad they sale. Most people would most likely go with the cheaper item than the more expensive one.  For individuals obesity can something genetic for them but it’s something that they can helped with diet and exercise. Some people don’t see obesity as a health issue so they chose to stay the way there are.

Obesity is being treated in many ways across the sectors in USA. There are diet pills, exercise equipment, weight loss programs, surgeries, diet foods, and behavioral therapy. It depends on the individual if they which route or routes to take. Americans spend billions of dollars a year on these different methods to lose weight. Despite all this money many people are still considered obese.


Ritenbugh, C. (n.d.). Obesity as a culture-bound syndrome. Retrieved from http://www.springerlink.com.proxy2.cl.msu.edu/content/r2434r5278261km7/fulltext.pd


1 thought on “Obesity as a culture-bound syndrome(USA)

  1. Obesity is a very interesting topic to examine, especially when looking at it from within the culture that it most affects. While obesity does occur in other places around the world, it is not as severely looked down upon by other societies. In the USA and western society, obesity is seen as something bad that can be changed with effort. Because our culture is so individualistic, we blame the individual who is obese rather than blaming environment and other factors. I would say that it is the mentality and deeper beliefs surrounding obesity that make it a disease of concern in the United States. So what are the advantages to having obesity as a culture bound syndrome? Obesity offers a visual way of detecting poor health habits. More often than not, if one is not exercising or eating a healthy diet, their weight may reflect their lifestyle habits. While this may be beneficial in some ways, it can also be harmful to the individual and the overall health of the culture. By attributing high weight to being unhealthy and unattractive, our country begins to think that the thinner you are, the better, when thinness can be just as unhealthy as obesity. It begins to be a label of shame that is placed on the individual, which can cause even more health issues.

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