Obesity: Cultural and Biocultural Perspectives

Obesity: Cultural and Biocultural Perspectives

by Alexandra A. Brewis

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In a world now filled with more people who are overweight than underweight, public health and medical perspectives paint obesity as a catastrophic epidemic that threatens to overwhelm health systems and undermine life expectancies globally. In many societies, being obese also creates profound personal suffering because it is so culturally stigmatized. Yet despite loud messages about the health and social costs of being obese, weight gain is a seemingly universal aspect of the modern human condition.

Grounded in a holistic anthropological approach and using a range of ethnographic and ecological case studies, Obesity shows that the human tendency to become and stay fat makes perfect sense in terms of evolved human inclinations and the physical and social realities of modern life. Drawing on her own fieldwork in the rural United States, Mexico, and the Pacific Islands over the last two decades, Alexandra A. Brewis addresses such critical questions as why obesity is defined as a problem and why some groups are so much more at risk than others. She suggests innovative ways that anthropology and other social sciences can use community-based research to address the serious public health and social justice concerns provoked by the global spread of obesity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813548913
Publisher: Rutgers University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2010
Series: Studies in Medical Anthropology
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 232
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

ALEXANDRA A. BREWIS is a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University where she teaches anthropology and directs the Center for Global Health.

Table of Contents

List of Figures vii

List of Tables ix

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xvii

1 Introduction: The Problem of Obesity 1

2 Defining Obesity 11

3 Obesity and Human Adaptation 35

4 The Distribution of Risk 48

5 Culture and Body Ideals 84

6 Big-Body Symbolism, Meanings, and Norms 99

7 Conclusion: The Big Picture 125

Appendix A Global Rates of Overweight and Obesity 135

Appendix B Body Mass Index Tables 151

Appendix C Tools for the Comparative Study of Body Image 155

Appendix D Using Cultural Consensus Analysis to Understand Obesity Norms 161

References 175

Index 201

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