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Fat History explores the meaning of fat in contemporary Western society and illustrates how progressive changes, such as growth in consumer culture, increasing equality for women, and the refocusing of women's sexual and maternal roles have influenced today's obsession with fat.

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Brought up-to-date with a new preface and filled with narrative anecdotes, Fat History explores fat's transformation from a symbol of health and well-being to a sign of moral, psychological, and physical disorder. Paperback , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Fat History , please sign up. Lists with This Book.

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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Tracing how Western standards of beauty and physical morality have been radically transformed over the past century, Peter N.

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Stearns illustrates how the contemporary obsession with fat arose in tandem with the dramatic growth in consumer culture, women's increasing equality, and changes in women's sexual and maternal roles. I enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book but found it dragged a little over the last third.

Fat history : bodies and beauty in the Modern West

The author's arguments that modern fat antipathy has its roots in the start of the consumer revolution and women's rights is interesting. He posits it as similar to religious atonement, with people subconsciously choosing to restrict their diet in order to indulge in other areas. The author argues that this feeling towards fat is fairly recent 18th century but I am about to read a book on the views of gluttony and fat in the ancient Roman empire, so we shall see if new evidence contradicts this.

May 01, Sally rated it it was ok Shelves: A rather slow, sometimes repetitive read, though with an interesting comparison between American and French cultural approaches to demanding and acheiving slimness. It makes an explicit connection between women's changing roles and increased freedom in some spheres and the demand for the personal constraints needed to achieve a thin body; but also argues that both sexes have been required to meet weight standards in order to demonstrate personal discipline in response to the greater freedom and A rather slow, sometimes repetitive read, though with an interesting comparison between American and French cultural approaches to demanding and acheiving slimness.

It makes an explicit connection between women's changing roles and increased freedom in some spheres and the demand for the personal constraints needed to achieve a thin body; but also argues that both sexes have been required to meet weight standards in order to demonstrate personal discipline in response to the greater freedom and abundance of modern society.

In the end I disagree with its thesis: Mar 20, Sophia rated it really liked it. This book reminds me of one of my favorite Ani Difranco quote "for every lie I unlearn, I learn something new. And how much of what we believe about the virtues and vices of weight is an illusion imposed by the tyranny of the masses.

If you've ever felt that it all seems a little unfair this book will vindicate those feelings.

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It is the best book on the subject that I have read so far. Apr 27, Joanna rated it really liked it. I don't know how I missed this when it originally came out years ago. Stearns has some really interesting ideas about the history of our obsession with fat and weight loss. It's definitely a departure from the typical feminist screeds on body image, and I enjoyed this different perspective. Jan 26, Michele rated it liked it. It was interesting read.

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The back round of health and diets is really insightful. It's pretty dry and I wish there were more references. Dec 07, Mell rated it it was ok Shelves: I saw this on Margaret's shelf, and she was kind enough to lend to me. Smadar Prager rated it really liked it Oct 12, Dorothy rated it really liked it Jan 08, Katie rated it really liked it Aug 23, Attrice rated it liked it Dec 04, War rated it liked it Aug 29, Natalie rated it really liked it Feb 06, Stefanie rated it really liked it May 20, Angela rated it liked it Dec 01, Sara rated it really liked it Jan 01, Erin rated it liked it Oct 24, April Johnson rated it really liked it Sep 01, Peter Mcloughlin rated it really liked it Jan 26, Katherine rated it liked it Oct 08, Laura Gladney-lemon rated it really liked it Jul 26, Hilary Friedman rated it really liked it Jul 25, Jacob rated it it was amazing Mar 21, Emily rated it it was ok Nov 04, Jessica rated it really liked it Jan 01, The modern struggle against fat cuts deeply and pervasively into American culture, as evidenced by the compulsion to stay thin, or at least to profess a desire to become thin.

Dieting, weight consciousness and widespread hostility to obesity form one of the fundamental themes of modern life in countries around the world. Yet, for example, while the French are renowned for their delight in all things gustatory, they are significantly trimmer and less diet-obsessed than Americans. Fat History explores the meaning of fat and anti-fat in modern Western society, focusing on the uniquely moral component of dieting in America.

Tracing how standards of beauty and physical morality have been radically transformed over the past century in the United States and France, Peter N. Stearns illustrates how the contemporary obsession with fat arose in tandem with the dramatic growth in consumer culture, women's increasing equality, and changes in women's sexual and maternal roles. Contrary to popular belief, fashion and nutrition have played only a secondary role in spurring the American aversion to fat, while the French distaste for obesity can be traced to different origins altogether.


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Filled with narrative anecdotes and rooted in Stearns' trademark use of engaging original sources--from Ebony and Gourmet to The Journal of the American Medical Association and popularized accounts of French doctors-- Fat History explores fat's transformation from a symbol of health and well-being to a sign of moral, psychological, and physical disorder.

This leftist academic examination of our collective fascination with dieting depicts it as a manifestation of capitalist consumer culture duking it out with the secular remnants of puritanism.