Schooled on Fat: What Teens Tell Us About Gender, Body Image, and Obesity (Paperback) book cover

Schooled on Fat

What Teens Tell Us About Gender, Body Image, and Obesity

By Nicole Taylor

© 2016 – Routledge

186 pages

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Paperback: 9781138924215
pub: 2015-12-15
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About the Book

Obesity has dominated popular media as one of the most pressing issues of the new millennium. In the US, high rates of obesity, and by extension, fat people are often blamed for rising health-care costs and a weakening of national security. What does it mean to be considered fat during a time when obesity is framed as a threat? When body fat is the enemy, how does the line between "acceptable" and "too fat" get defined moment-to-moment as people make value judgments about each other’s bodies in the course of everyday life? 

Nicole Taylor explores how teens navigated the fraught realities of body image within a high school culture that reinforced widespread beliefs about body size as a matter of personal responsibility while offering limited opportunity to exercise and an abundance of fattening junk foods. Drawing on daily observations, interviews, and focus groups with teens, Schooled on Fat takes the reader into their lives to show how, through everyday language, they managed their body size, social status, and identities as body-conscious individuals. Taylor traces policy efforts to illustrate where we are as a nation in addressing childhood obesity and offers practical strategies schools and parents can utilize to promote teen wellness.


"Wow. Reading this book was such an intense experience. […] The straightforward reporting, and dialogue with the study participants, really brought up some difficult emotions while I was reading. On one hand, I felt that I was comprehending the information through the eyes of a parent […] On the other hand, the candid discussions brought back memories of a time long ago […] Suddenly I was reliving my own experiences in high school and reflecting on how those experiences shaped a lifetime of dieting, exercise, and social issues for me personally. The writing is brilliant, it’s obvious much time, and effort was spent on the study. Well-written and thoroughly researched, Schooled on Fat by Nicole Taylor should be required reading for every high school teacher AND student. It contains a wealth of quality information crucial to the understanding and development of our children."

From Reading Views review by Sheri Hoyte on March 17, 2017

"Deeply immersed in the dramatic and mundane of everyday high school life, Taylor's access, insight, and interpretive skill beautifully reveal our cultural preoccupation with the 'obesity epidemic' as it is played out in hallways, locker rooms, and cafeterias. Schooled on Fat adeptly disentangles how teenagers talk about their bodies, themselves and each other from overarching disciplinary discourses of morality, sexuality, health, and consumption. A must for the undergraduate classroom!"

Lisa Jean Moore, author of The Body: Social and Cultural Dissections, Purchase College, SUNY

"Schooled on Fat is an innovative and critically important ethnography that will change the conversation about teens and body image. Taylor’s careful study reveals that teenagers are far more than simply passive recipients of cultural messages about 'thin' and 'fat,' but are active participants in their creation. As such, they are also potential allies for change. This book could have far-reaching implications for the mental and physical well-being of young people; a rare and commendable accomplishment."

Rebecca Lester, Washington University in St. Louis

"This book offers an intimate portrait of the everyday lives of teen-aged girls and boys, exploring what it means to grow up in an increasingly obese society that idealizes slenderness and stigmatizes fat. Taylor provides vivid accounts of what goes on in the halls of a public high school and behind the closed doors of locker rooms, where ideas of acceptable and unacceptable body image are negotiated on a daily basis. This engaging ethnography brings a fresh and nuanced voice to the obesity debate and is a must read for educators, parents, policy makers, and young adults."

Mimi Nichter, author of Fat Talk: What Girls and their Parents Say about Dieting, Professor, University of Arizona

Table of Contents

1. "You Can’t Have Your Fat Showing" 2. "Guys, She’s Humongous!" 3. "When I Run My Legs Jiggle" 4. "It’s All Going to Turn into Fat" 5. So What? What Now?

About the Originator

About the Series

Innovative Ethnographies

The purpose of this series is to use the new digital technology to capture a richer, more multidimensional view of social life than was otherwise done in the classic, print tradition of ethnography, while maintaining the traditional strengths of classic, ethnographic analysis.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General