Many people consider their weight to be a personal problem; when, then, does body weight become a social problem? Until recently, the major public concern was whether enough food was consistently available. As food systems began to provide ample and stable amounts of food, questions about food availability were replaced with concerns about "ideal" weights and appearance. These interests were aggregated into public concerns about defining people as "too fat" and "too thin."Social constructionist perspectives can contribute to the understanding of weight problems because they focus attention on how these problems are created, maintained, and promoted within various social environments. While there is much objectivist research concerning weight problems, few studies address the socially constructed aspects of fatness and thinness.This book however draws from and contributes to social constructionist perspectives. The chapters in this volume offer several perspectives that can be used to understand the way society deals with fatness and thinness. The contributors consider historical foundations, medical models, gendered dimensions, institutional components, and collective perspectives. These different perspectives illustrate the multifaceted nature of obesity and eating disorders, providing examples of how a variety of social groups construct weight as a social problem.
Part 1 Introduction: body weight as a social problem, Jeffery Sobal, Donna Naurer. Part 2 Historical foundations: children and dieting - priorities in the US and France, Peter N. Stearns; fat boys and goody girls - Hilde Bruch's work on eating disorders and the post-war American zeitgeist, Paula Saukko. Part 3 Medical models: constitutional types, institutional forms - contending diagnostic and therapeutic models for obesity in early 20th century biomedical research, Mark T. Hamin; defining perfect and not-so-perfect bodies - the rise and fall of the Dreyer Method for the assessment of physique and fitness, 1918-1926, David Smith, Sally Horrocks. Part 4 Gendered dimensions: ideal weight/ ideal women - society constructs the female, Nita McKinley; the female gaze - gendered bodies and the dieting panopticon, John Germov, Lauren Williams; fleshing out the discomforts of femininity - female anorexia and male compulsive bodybuilding as attempts to achieve invulnerability, Martha McCaughley. Part 5 Institutional components: commodity knowledge in consumer culture - the role of nutritional health promotion in the making of the diet industry, Bryn Austin; the meaning of weight among dietitians, nutrition educators, and related health professionals, Ellen Parham. Part 6 Collective processes: too skinny or vibrant and healthy? weight management in the vegetarian movement, Donna Maurer; the size acceptance movement and the social construction of body weight, Jeffery Sobal. Bibliographical sketches of the contributors.