Fat Ethics – Obesity and Society Report

In recent years, there have been raging debates in the public arena regarding the effects of obesity in the developed world. These protracted debates can offer certainty and authority in this area of research. However, these debates may also rule out the possibility of such certainties. Debates on obesity have given rise to various forms of discrimination and oppression. The discriminated individuals have had ill-health because they may resort to unhealthy eating habits and exercises.

The paper will also critically look at the causes of obesity and why it is increasingly becoming a major medical dilemma to the developed world. The paper also seeks to establish the role that sociology plays in obesity debate other than the traditional lifestyle and body-society relationship talk. The obesity debate has always been dominated by psychology and genetics. This essay seeks to summarize two works that have been done in regard to obesity and fat ethics.

It is true that the number of people suffering from obesity have remarkably within the last two decades. This has made some spectators to refer to the situation as a crisis. This has made relevant government department to develop interest. The topic on obesity has since attracted the attention of sociologists whose input cannot be downplayed.

These sociologists also stand to gain a lot. The media has given a lot of attention to issues obesity. Much of their reporting has been on relationship between the body and the society. Prominence has however been given to disciplines like psychology and genetics ignoring the fact that fat is basically a sociological issue.

The obesity debate has created an environment where people with certain body feature are look down upon while certain body sizes are cherished and idolized. There has to be interactive relationship between biological and social processes as envisaged in increase or decrease in the rates of obesity and the consequences of such fluctuations. It should be noted that the influx of the number of people suffering from obesity is purely a preserve of changes in lifestyle in the dynamic society (Crossley, 222).

It is very important that sociological perspective be introduced when lifestyle factors associated with obesity are ventilated. It is prudent that the input of these sociological factors into rising rates of obesity be critically looked at. Obesity is indeed a crisis at an individual point of view and in the societal perspective. Social agents have had their input in determining how they look.

To them slimness, fitness, and efficiency are the central social values. These have been christened by academics as body projects and technology of the self. Social agents have also used terminologies like mastery and awareness to spur debates concerning obesity. Social agents have at times been forced to rebel against sexual natures which were previously being imposed on them citing sexual liberation. Many women have done considerable damage to their own bodies by trying to ape some dominant ideals of thinness.

Many women have ended up suffering from anorexia nervosa. In the thriving economies of developed world, many people have taken to registering with health clubs leading to a 18% increase in private health clubs between 1998 and 2002. It is interesting to note that membership to health clubs has surpassed that of trade unions in the developed world between 1998 and 2002 in a survey conducted citizen audit.

These health clubs have turned out to be schemes for slimming and keeping fit. Apart from health clubs, dieting has become an in-thing in slimming. Diet books are really treasured. A third of developed world’s adult population had in 2002 tried to slim with the female population taking the bulk of this statistics.

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All these show that many people have become conscious with their bodies hence preoccupation with body maintenance. In 1980 England 8% and 6% of women and men respectively suffered from obesity a figured that multiplied threefold in 1998. This was commensurate with the figures in North America and Europe. Age plays a pivotal role in determining rate of obesity with obesity being an issue for an older generation.

Other than age, gender and class also plays greater role in determining the rate of obesity in a population of people. Obesity runs in opposite direction with bodily ideals in our today’s modern society. Regarding the issue pertaining to whether obesity should be treated as a social construct, it should be understood that obesity is a scientific concept. It should be noted that the rates of obesity are seen to be in the increase of the monitoring by relevant public health departments.

By merely approving that obesity is a construct does not disqualify it from being researched on and learnt about. The issue on obesity and resistance has been raised quite often. When agents are coaxed into slimming and staying fit they developed some form of resistance by becoming fat instead. This has however been faulted. Some people have mooted the issue of passive resistance by saying that obesity is passively motivated.

Some media reports have made the society to be speaking only on weight issues. Some of their deliberations have relegated the debates to gender issues hence the moral panic witnessed in the modern society. Much of attention has been given to body mass index and how it can be used to show whether one is underweight, overweight, or obese.

Such debates have left the public preoccupied with what ideal weight figures should be. Scientists who have taken center stage in writing all sorts of literature on obesity have on many occasions failed to factor in issuing regarding how fat has been stereotyped, the brunt of guilt and shame that has been borne by those suffering from obesity and the cropping up of culture of individualism and healthism (Rich and Evans, 352).

These issues are central if one needs to develop proper scientific evidence. However, they have been considered secondary issues. The media personalities and public health experts have held that obesity is an epidemic that is largely influence by people’s lifestyle, emergence of fast food joints, and changes ion diets.

This may be treated as credible scientific fact but are however laced with ideologies and cultural beliefs of people’s perception of fatness. Because of raging public debates, many people have been made to believe that being overweight obviously imply ill health and that when one undertakes to shed some weight will cure certain diseases that are associated with being overweight.

The papers are interesting because they state that it is prudent people get to know that not only medical experts and psychologists who can be quoted as authorizes in issues related to obesity. Even sociologists have a role to play as fat is indeed a social issue.

Discussion questions:

  • Should the issue of obesity be a preserve of the medical practioners?
  • What is the role of sociologists in the fight against obesity?
  • Is obesity really an epidemic or that is the creation of the media?
  • Is obesity really a lifestyle disease?

Works Cited

Crossley, Nick. Fat is a sociological issue: Obesity rates in late modern, Body conscious societies Social Theory & Health 2 (2004): 222–253

Rich, Emma and Evans, John. ‘Fat Ethics’ – The Obesity Discourse and Body Politics Social. Theory & Health 3 (2005): 341–358