I found an article called Obesity as a Culture-Bound Syndrome by Cheryl Ritenbaugh. The title automatically grabbed my attention because obesity is such a huge and ongoing problem in America. In the article Ritenbaugh talks about how anthropologists have been using the term “culture-bound syndrome” (CBS) for many years, yet a concise definition has not been available. This is probably due to what we learned in lecture. That culture-bound syndromes are hard to pin down because cultures are not bounded, they aren’t homogenous, culture bound syndromes have occurred in many unrelated cultures, and culture-bound syndromes imply that illnesses are not real, or are merely psychological (week 3 lecture 2). However, Ritenbaugh states that obesity fits her understanding of what a CBS is and fits in its four parameters she came up with. The first parameter states: A CBS cannot be understood apart from its specific cultural or sub-cultural context. An example of this according to Ritenbaugh is in western society, misfortunes are often considered random occurrences and the sufferer is unlucky. On the other hand, mild-to-moderate obesity is considered to be a sign of beauty/health in many societies (Ritenbaugh 351). The second parameter states: The Etiology of a CBS Summarizes and Symbolizes Core Meanings and Behavioral Norms of a Culture. An example of this is the result of overeating and/or under-exercising that causes feeling of gluttony and sloth (Ritenbaugh 352). The third parameter states: Diagnosis Relies on a Culturally Specific Technology and Ideology. An example of this is in America there is a clear belief in obesity and its etiology. Therefore, diagnosis of obesity requires a belief that fatness is unhealthy, which most Americans believe (Ritenbaugh 352). Lastly the fourth parameter states: Successful Treatment is Accomplished only by Participants in that Culture. An example of this is short-term weight loss is considered by many (Americans) to represent successful treatment as also is “going on a diet” (Ritenbaugh 353). Ritenbaugh also mentions that this is a CBS in America because obesity and thinness are closely tied to our core societal values for the west (357). Americans have become so obsessed with body images and thinness due to our culture and the media. Obesity is definitely not seen as an indicator of wealth in this country anymore as it is seen in many other countries.
The biological dimensions of this disease could lie in our very own genetics. For some people, their bodies retain higher fat contents or they may have a slow metabolism. Having these issues will give you a higher risk at attaining an obese body weight. The cultural dimensions of this illness are huge on the media. We see all these skinny, beautiful, and “perfect” models on TV, in magazines, and on other various social media sites and strive to be that way. The media puts this idea of what we’re “supposed to look like” and that adds so much pressure on individuals. In return this can causes stress, anxiety, and depression, which are all factors in making your risk higher (especially stress) for being obese. The individual dimensions could be as simple as choosing what to eat and to work out. A healthy diet and some exercise may not make someone skinny but it will definitely make them a little healthier and less of a risk of becoming obese. Individual dimensions to me all come down to choices. You have a choice to work out. You have a choice on eating healthy etc. Some people chose a healthy lifestyle and some don’t.
In America, there’s specific healthy weight ranges for each height (provided and drawn up by doctors). If you’re in the weight range for your height your considered to be healthy. If you’re not, then you may be considered overweight or obese if you’re over. That is how obesity is evaluated in America. There are many ways on how it’s being treated. Ritenbaugh mentions a few in her article Fat farms, spas, diet foods, weight-loss therapy (from behavior modification through groups modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous), drugs and publications are all purchased to solve the problem (357). Others include diet pills, dieting, going to the gym, exercising at home or at a park, or even surgery to correct the problem.
Ritenbaugh, Cheryl. “Obesity As A Culture-bound Syndrome.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry: 347-361. http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/780/art%253A10.1007%252FBF00118882.pdf?auth66=1405551932_9ec9b6771d067be126d8fa8f346a7ecf&ext=.pdf (accessed July 14, 2014).