Perceptions of the Obese and Overweight

Steven Shapin comes to several interesting conclusions in his review of William Leith’s book “The Hungry Years: Confessions of a Food Addictˮ. The one that struck me was the following…

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that fat became ugly when the poor became fat.

It’s the kind of statement that sticks out, regardless of the information provided in the rest of the review. For every person that shows an obesity epidemic, there’s another person that shows that being overweight (not obese) adds little or nothing to a persons health risk, and that (by the way) the obesity numbers are overblown.

The main reason for this issue is that people equate being overweight (of which there are many) to being obese (of which there is far lower number of people).This mistake in people’s attitude towards weight affects their perceptions of those who are overweight. J. Eric Oliver, a Chicago political scientist and obesity researcher, has found that seventy per cent of all Americans think that laziness and poor self-control are the predominant causes of obesity.

“Lazy” and “poor self control”…to what classes of people have those two characteristics been applied before?

Personally, I don’t know how accurate or not Shapin’s statement is, but it does have a ring of truth to it. Do you remember why potatoes weren’t initially all that popular in Europe? Oh yeah, because it was a dish of the poor.

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