Obesity in America

Obesity is a hot topic, not just in the U.S, but around the world also. In America, it holds a different standard for very good reason. Out of every other country, we have the heaviest people. I have heard the excuse one too many times that we have access to a lot more unhealthy foods, but I’m pretty sure Mcdonalds and Taco Bell exist almost everywhere now! I find this to be a culture bound syndrome as do many others.

Thought the article I read was lengthy the author made some very good points throughout. She mentioned all the biological history behind body changes and traditionally how bigger bodies signified health and fertility while today all we seek is thinness. She included graphs and charts about ideal body weights between different eras and eve mentioned how in hell there is claimed to be a certain area for “gluttony”. Although all true things, everyone has already heard all of that. There were a few things that really stuck out and made me think.

One was the simple sentence “Important themes in American society are individual control and fear of non-control”. I think this symbolizes the cultural dimension of obesity. American society is so wrapped up in perfection; it is taking a toll on the citizens. To have control of every aspect of your life is nonsense because you will still run into traffic going to work and there will always be people to bring you down. One aspect of life we can control is our appearance. As mentioned in the article, biomedical views see your weight as a representation of your control over life. With all the expected tasks that are required to live a comfortable American life, something has to suffer such as weight, which leads to obesity.

As an individual, obesity is dealt with differently. The article claims that when considering body image changes, weight is the overwhelmingly focused on factor. Something such as drinking more water, eating healthier, or taking more time for yourself are not thought about when in reality they all should be combined to have weight loss. Also at an individual level the process of obesity and body image can turn into a vicious cycle. Your upset because of the way you look but are struggling to complete everything society asks (which includes being skinny) so in some cases one can become anxious or depressed which leads to eating unhealthy, hiding out, etc and so begins the cycle again.

Today there are an abundance of treatments for obesity. Everything from medical surgery and liposuction to the ever so popular fad diets that seem to be invented every few months and even diet pills. For people following a more holistic approach to health maybe acupuncture or “body sweats” are used to help cleanse the body. There are so many methods and thoughts on treating obesity today you could probably write a whole book about them.


Ritenbaugh, Cheryl. “Obesity as a Culture Bound Syndrome.” . http://download.springer.com/static/pdf/780/art%253A10.1007%252FBF00118882.pdf?auth66=1405715918_340fa96d580ab3ef8336c8b0bd538f02&ext=.pdf (accessed July 16, 2014).

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