Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism

Synopsis

Weighing In takes on the "obesity epidemic," challenging many widely held assumptions about its causes and consequences. Julie Guthman examines fatness and its relationship to health outcomes to ask if our efforts to prevent "obesity" are sensible, efficacious, or ethical. She also focuses the lens of obesity on the broader food system to understand why we produce cheap, over-processed food, as well as why we eat it. Guthman takes issue with the currently touted remedy to obesity--promoting food that is local, organic, and farm fresh. While such fare may be tastier and grown in more ecologically sustainable ways, this approach can also reinforce class and race inequalities and neglect other possible explanations for the rise in obesity, including environmental toxins. Arguing that ours is a political economy of bulimia--one that promotes consumption while also insisting upon thinness--Guthman offers a complex analysis of our entire economic system.

Excerpt

This book begins with me, even though starting this way makes me profoundly nervous. Over the years I’ve learned that just about all scholars have autobiographical connections to their research, although the connections don’t always matter. I have an urge to come clean with mine, because I do have a personal stake in my arguments. Here at the outset I’m going to admit that I’m a foodie, and I’m going to have to convince you that I’m not a hypocrite. I’m going to admit that I’m not very thin, and I want to convince you that the current public conversation about obesity is wrongheaded. I’ll even admit that I’m fairly privileged and still find much to fault in contemporary capitalism. In fact, the topics in this book come full circle for me. It all begins with my father.

My father was a “health food nut” long before natural foods were popularized. A sickly, bedridden child, in 1945 he moved to California as a young adult in search of the California dream and its promises of health. His first business was a health food store in Pasadena. Over the years, he followed and even befriended many of the health food gurus of the day, including Jack LaLanne, Paul Bragg, and John Robbins. He never met a dietary restriction he didn’t like, constantly badgered his loved ones about weight and eating habits, and, while he valorized the “natural” above all, he too readily conflated the natural, the healthy, and the aesthetic. My father went from being a sickly, bedridden child to a singular specimen of physical health in adulthood, overcoming all odds of early death through his unflagging daily practices of rote exercise and orthorexic eating. (Orthorexia is a neologism that refers to selfimposed strictures concerning what foods one eats—a discipline now quite . . .

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