you're reading...

Interpreting Anti-Obesity Campaigns with a History of Disordered Eating

Advertisements bemoaning the evils of obesity, begging us to eat healthier and to exercise, surround us every day. Big corporations and governments alike have jumped on the anti-obesity bandwagon, crafting public service announcements aimed at correcting what is being framed as an epidemic. For many, these messages are likely generic reminders to strive for health, if they are noticed at all. But what about individuals with eating disorders? A recent (2012) study by Catling & Malson (full text available here) looked into how a group of women with a history of disordered eating interpreted anti-obesity messages.

I was particularly drawn to this article, having personally felt rage at some of the overly simplified messages that circulate around obesity and “health.” Particularly when I was early in recovery, I often felt as though I was swimming against the current in my attempts to do just the opposite to what these advertisements were suggesting. I still often shake my head when I see big companies releasing aesthetically pleasing montages of shiny, happy people drinking diet cola, and talking about “health.”

Something to keep in mind is that this study was preliminary, hopefully paving the way for deeper explorations of the ways in which different individuals who have experienced eating disorders read anti-obesity campaigns. Only 8 women participated, and the age range was wide: 19-57 years.

All participants lived in the UK and had been diagnosed with an eating disorder: 5 with anorexia nervosa, 2 with bulimia nervosa, and 1 with EDNOS. Eating disorder duration also varied widely, ranging from 2-40 years. Participants were provided with examples of anti-obesity campaigns and were individually interviewed about their readings of the campaigns.

DISCOURSE AND THEMATIC ANALYSIS

The authors used a discourse analysis framework, meaning that they focused on the language participants used to describe their experiences with anti-obesity campaigns (Lazar (2007) describes feminist discourse analysis in detail in this article). In this particular study, discourse analysis (and it’s inherent focus on language) was combined with thematic analysis, to identify the key themes found in these messages.

The authors used a feminist, social constructionist frame for their research, locating expressions and negotiations of gender and power in this kind of messaging. Using this lens allows for the development of a deeper understanding of how women with eating disorders interpret messages they encounter regularly, but which may conflict with messages of recovery.

For this article, the authors reported on the main themes present in anti-obesity campaigns as described by participants, focusing on those campaigns targeting childhood obesity. I found this focus on childhood obesity to be somewhat puzzling, as I question whether the women felt these ads were less personally relevant than those targeting obesity in general. This choice might have been due to the large number of campaigns that are particularly geared at childhood obesity, which is a “big ticket issue” on the public radar in many (Western, in particular) countries. Nonetheless, the article details several interesting findings.

MAIN FINDINGS

Participants primarily critiqued the campaigns, though some positive features of the ads were noted, primarily relating to the potential for such advertisements to promote healthy eating.

What critiques did participants raise about anti-obesity campaigns?

“The Fat Kid”

Catling & Malson found that participants were especially critical of the ways in which campaigns demonized “the fat kid.” The association between fat and bad and thin and good was noted across campaigns, and participants suggested that these associations might lead to the development of eating disordered behaviors among consumers of these advertisements.

Participants also noted that anti-obesity campaigns might exacerbate bullying. Commonly, this suggestion was contextualized in the participants’ own experiences of weight-related bullying, which many linked to the development of their eating disorders. While the link between media consumption, bullying, and the development of eating disorders is neither clear cut nor causal (I’ll talk more about this later), participants talked in detail about this relationship.

Good vs. Bad Foods

Anti-obesity campaigns were perceived by participants as condoning the kinds of behaviours that may be especially problematic for individuals predisposed to disordered eating, including creating divisions between “good” and “bad” foods. Rather than promoting “healthy eating,” participants described these campaigns as vilifying certain foods and the individuals who consume them. The authors suggest that this moralization also feeds into the idealization of thinness and scorn of larger body sizes.

A Lack of Balance

Participants also noted that anti-obesity campaigns talked extensively about the dangers of fatness, without exploring the dangers of underweight. Similarly to other studies illustrating the potential pitfalls of anti-obesity messages, particularly those geared at children (see Pinhas et al., 2013. Carrie Arnold of ED Bites wrote a great post about this study here), participants feared that the focus on obesity might lead to a glossing-over of self-starvation, or the “other extreme” on the spectrum.

Gender

The authors also suggest that while anti-obesity campaigns are supposedly aimed at all individuals, regardless of age, gender or body size, the messages may collude with an existing focus on the thin-ideal more explicitly targeted at women.

IMPLICATIONS

While none of these findings are particularly shocking, I do think it is an interesting study; asking individuals with a history of eating disorders their perceptions of anti-obesity campaigns seems to me like an important and relevant approach to understanding the potentially problematic impacts of campaigns with (I hope) good intentions. Too often, I think, these campaigns get pumped out without really thinking about the potential for negative ramifications. I’m encouraged by studies such as this, and by the increased attention to the downsides of anti-obesity campaigns.

Obviously, these results can’t be taken to represent that way that all individuals with eating disorders interpret anti-obesity campaigns, as the authors acknowledge. They also note that further studies will help more concretely guide suggestions for health promotion campaigns that minimize potentially negative ramifications.

A further caution I would issue is that this study, and others like it, do not mean that anti-obesity campaigns cause eating disorders. As the posts on this blog and elsewhere point out, eating disorders are complex phenomena with biological and environmental factors contributing to their development; it is not simply a matter of individuals passively internalizing media messages and developing eating disorders. There’s just a lot more to it than that.

Accordingly, the authors of this article are not making the case that anti-obesity campaigns result in disordered eating; put simply, they are suggesting caution in producing this type of campaign, as the messages may promote a problematic framing of food, health, weight and shape that conflates health with thinness.

Catling, L, & Malson, H (2012). Feeding a fear of fatness? A preliminary investigation of how women with a history of eating disorders
view anti-obesity health promotion campaigns. Psychology of Women Section Review, 14 (1)

Written by Andrea

Andrea is a PhD student focusing on individual, familial, and health care definitions and experiences of eating disorder recovery. She has an MSc. in Family Relations and Human Development and a a BA in Sociology. In her Masters research, she used qualitative and arts-based approaches (digital storytelling) to explore the experiences of young women in recovery from eating disorders. Andrea has recovered from EDNOS. She can be reached at andrea[@]scienceofeds[.]org.

Discussion

28 Responses to “Interpreting Anti-Obesity Campaigns with a History of Disordered Eating”

  1. I read the actual paper itself. The narratives as they stand are interesting, but they don’t lend themselves to a feminist, social constructionist framework. Eating disorders are clinical diseases and the critical feminist stance de-medicalises these illnesses. This is emphasised in the Discussion, where the authors write: “….from a critical feminist stance, ‘eating disorders’ are understood not as objectively existing clinical entities but as discursive constructions: individual psychopathology is re-theorised in terms of problematic (but not pathologised) subjectivities and practices that are constituted within and mobilised by normative discursive contexts.”

    Posted by Cathy (UK) | May 29, 2013, 6:11 AM
    • Hi Cathy,
      I think I need a bit of clarification before replying to your comment- do you mean that eating disorders in general do not lend themselves to feminist social constructionist framing, or that this particular study might have better used a different frame to examine the ways in which women with a history of disordered eating interpret anti-obesity campaigns?

      If you mean the former, I will do my best to respond (but forgive me if this isn’t the case!). I personally appreciate the feminist social constructionist approach to understanding eating disorders, as it helps to transcend the (at times narrow) diagnostic criteria that I think some feel invalidates their experiences. Using this kind of framing enables us to look beyond a normal/pathological divide and recognize that people’s experiences of suffering are real to them and need attending to, whether or not their experiences fit, for example, into a DSM category. That is why, in this article and others like it, the authors will put “eating disorder” into quotation marks or use “eating dis/order.” I don’t think that to use a feminist, social constructionist framing downplays the seriousness of these disorders, or denies that they can cause significant physical and mental outcomes including death; far from it. This type of framing invites a deeper understanding of the social forces that help to shape and support the development and presentation of these disorders. As the authors indicate in the passage you quote, eating disorders are de-pathologised, partly to help to not label individuals as “normal” or “abnormal,” suggesting that these labels may be detrimental to understanding individuals’ experiences and eating disorders in general.

      I hope this reply made sense; I certainly understand where you’re coming from and know that not everyone would agree that social constructionist feminism is an appropriate way to frame eating issues. I hope, though, that de-medicalizing (or de-pathologizing) opens up space for deeper dialogue about and understanding of eating disorders and what they mean to the individuals who suffer. I recognize that diagnostic labels have utility, for example in securing insurance coverage etc., however, people are so much more than labels, you know? Anyway, those are just my two cents! Thanks for your comment!

      Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 9:24 AM
      • Your reply is very helpful to me Andrea! I think it helps me understand the need/utility of looking at it from that perspective.

        I don’t think it de-medicalises it as much as it looks BEYOND the medical aspects. I have not read the original paper though.

        Posted by Tetyana | May 29, 2013, 9:40 AM
      • Thanks for your response, Andrea :)

        You asked: “Do you mean that eating disorders in general do not lend themselves to feminist social constructionist framing, or that this particular study might have better used a different frame to examine the ways in which women with a history of disordered eating interpret anti-obesity campaigns?”

        A degree of both, actually.

        In terms of EDs themselves: I see established EDs as being largely biologically and neurologically based, with an interaction between peripheral metabolism and brain physiology. EDs usually start with disordered eating and sometimes weight loss, but the cause of disordered eating and weight loss need have nothing to do with ‘internalisation of a thin ideal’ or fear of obesity. Some people enter an energy deficit and lose weight inadvertently – due to illness or overtraining in sports – and this can trigger an ED if they have some inherent vulnerability. Some people have intense anxiety and depression that is not body-focused pre-ED and they discover, by chance, that restricting food, binge-eating, purging and/or over-exercising relieve their anxiety and elevate their mood. That is not to say that ‘internalisation of a thin ideal’ never plays a role. It is just that social pressures relating to physical appearance are only one of many paths into an ED. But ultimately, it is the disordered eating, energy deficit and/or weight loss that seem to trigger the compulsive behaviours that constitute an ED. The ED comprises an interaction between nutritional status, fluctuations in energy stores, the levels of various metabolic fuels and hormones – and their feedback on the brain, as well as loss of grey matter in AN that coincides with weight loss. And so I see EDs as being biologically based, with a possible social trigger, for some (but not all) people. That is, the ED itself is not directly caused by society and is therefore not socially constructed.

        In terms of the particular study you cite: I am struggling to see how responses to ‘anti-obesity’ campaigns bear any relation to feminism. It seems quite plausible that fear of the health effects of obesity or fear of being judged for carrying more body fat than is typical, or healthful, could lead people to develop eating patterns that trigger an ED, but feminism???? What makes more sense is that certain people (on account of various traits) are particularly responsive to societal ‘rules’ around ‘healthy eating’ to avoid obesity. Some traits I am thinking of include anxious temperament and autistic traits, because individuals with the latter traits tend to be literal and rule-bound.

        I hope that makes sense.

        Posted by Cathy (UK) | May 29, 2013, 11:24 AM
        • Does it help, to attribute the ED to some pathology within the person? Sometimes, yes.

          I had well-meaning therapists suggest to me that my ED (restricting AN, with exercise dependence) was socially constructed – and that actually, my behaviours were completely normal and predictable given our culture! This is before they knew that I had a history of childhood OCD that pre-dated the onset of my AN, alongside autistic traits (mainly rigid repetitive behaviours, but not autism per se). I saw my AN as being an extension of these childhood behaviour patterns, NOT a new condition that was socially constructed. It has really helped me to see my AN as constituting a neuropsychiatric condition – particularly when, during recovery from AN, the OCD returned with a vengeance. And so I blame my brain.

          Posted by Cathy (UK) | May 29, 2013, 11:32 AM
          • I also agree with this- I think that for some people, a more biologically-based explanation feels more salient and is more helpful than a social-constructionist explanation for a number of reasons. However, for others this might not resonate as much. Personally, I find it hard to see one without the other- I’m most interested in the complexity in the interaction between biology and society, and how that plays out in the development and course of eating disorders, my own prior experiences included! For me, I didn’t find it helpful to rely primarily on a neuropsychiatric explanation, but that could be my sociology background talking…

            Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 1:30 PM
        • Hi Cathy,
          Yes, your reply makes a lot of sense. I think you make a good point about the physiology of eating disorders and that it is not necessary for someone to have a fear of gaining weight/obesity in order for them to develop an eating disorder, and that social pressures/contexts do not always come into play. I think it widens our understanding of eating disorders, however, to look at them through a number of lenses, rather than simply the biological. Certainly, studies such as these will reveal findings that are not true for ALL individuals, but I do think that qualitative, social constructionist and feminist studies probing the normal/pathological divide offer something to our overall understanding. But that’s just me!

          The authors of this particular study used a feminist framework to explore how responses to anti-obesity campaigns might be exacerbated in women (i.e. messages might be perceived as more salient, etc.) despite the fact that these ads are ostensibly targeted at “the general population,” including men as well. I think further study (for example, asking men about their interpretations of the same/similar ads) would need to be done to more clearly make this link and tease out the particularities of reactions and interpretations and gender dynamics.

          Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 1:27 PM
      • I haven’t read the full paper, only the write-up above, and I am far from an expert on this issue. But I wanted to chime in and say that I had the same concerns as Cathy about the feminist/social-constructionist framework. Like Cathy, I see EDs as biologically based rather than socially constructed, with food/shape/weight preoccupation a symptom, not a cause, of the underlying disorder. For this and other reasons, I find the de-pathologizing of eating disorders troubling. Conceptualizing my disorder as an illness allows me to see it as separate from my “self” – not in a cheesy Jenni Schaefer way, but in such a way that I can work on extinguishing the symptoms of my ED without threatening my understanding of who I am and how I fit in the world. It is more useful to me to think of myself as a person who has anorexia – a disease, something “abnormal” and even “pathological,” but also something that’s not an integral part of me and whose presence can be diminished or possibly eliminated – than as a “whole person,” where “whole person” includes things like obsession with the size of my thighs.

        [Disclaimer: these are musings, not fully-formed thoughts.]

        Posted by E | May 29, 2013, 1:28 PM
        • Thanks for the comment, E. I’ll echo my reply to Cathy’s comment in that anecdotally, I assume that different people prefer different explanations for their disorders (which sounds a bit trite, I realize…). I personally think that the de-pathologizing helps me deal with such things as, for example, changing labels in the DSM and diagnostic cross-over. I also get what you’re saying about separating yourself from the eating disorder in order to see it as something that can be diminished/eliminated. I’ve explored some of the narrative literature, which sometimes does this same thing but through a de-pathologizing lens; essentially, I think it is still possible to separate oneself from the eating disorder without necessarily using labels/pathologizing language. Or at least I hope it is. Something that I struggle with in separating oneself completely from a labelled/categorized/diagnosed eating disorder is that there may be elements of the eating disorder that play a role in other parts of one’s life. For example, I know that for me, my driven-ness played a big role in my disorder; however, this serves a different purpose in my academic life. So, I find it difficult to completely separate myself from those elements that played several roles in making me who I am. Does that make sense? I fear I might also have rambled a bit, there…

          Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 1:46 PM
          • It makes total sense to me. I have the same problem with separating elements of the eating disorder from things that are integral to who I am. I think the pathological model can help me there, though, because I try to think of it as a part of myself that has become sick. For instance, if you take the “driven-ness” example, I also feel I have this trait, and it contributes hugely to keeping the eating disorder going – but I try to reconceptualise it as my “driven-ness” getting sick, in the same way that my head could ache or arm break, and need to be healed, without being any the less part of myself. I wouldn’t just chop off my arm because it wasn’t working as well as it used to. I know things that are part of your sense of self are a bit more complicated, but at least this way of thinking obviates the need for me to think of the eating disorder as a separate entity, which doesn’t ring true.

            Posted by Jemima | May 30, 2013, 5:48 AM
            • Thanks for your comment, Jemima, and good point about not “getting rid” of something just because it isn’t working as well/in the way that you’d like it to. I like the focus on healing you put forward- whether we stick with a more medicalized model or move toward a different conceptualization of eating disorders, the idea of focusing on healing is key.

              Posted by Andrea | May 30, 2013, 9:13 AM
        • “But I wanted to chime in and say that I had the same concerns as Cathy about the feminist/social-constructionist framework. Like Cathy, I see EDs as biologically based rather than socially constructed, with food/shape/weight preoccupation a symptom, not a cause, of the underlying disorder. For this and other reasons, I find the de-pathologizing of eating disorders troubling. ”

          I totally understand where you’re coming from. I would like to say, though, that these don’t negate or contradict each other. They are not mutually exclusive. I also think EDs are biologically based. As a neuroscience major, it is kind-of a “duh” statement. But, how we understand behaviour and what behaviours mean to us, well, that requires more than just a biological understanding of the behaviour. Hopefully that makes sense.

          Posted by Tetyana | June 5, 2013, 2:30 PM
  2. Interesting. I liked this post because it also spoke to me. I hate having to fight the anxiety provoked by anti-obesity campaigns, although my ability to ignore such messages has gotten much better recently.

    A question I have is in regards to how effective these messages are for the general public? Does the general public really tend to ignore these messages, or are they actually influenced by the dieting campaigns? If so, we would have a hard time arguing that, for the sake of 5% of the population, we should eliminate an ad that may encourage better choices for the majority of individuals. I hate to take that stance, but I do think the economics of the issue come into play when we make policy decisions.

    Posted by Liz | May 29, 2013, 9:14 AM
    • Hi Liz,
      Thanks for your comment and question, which is something I’ve also wondered. I think that in order to answer it, more research needs to be done with regard to influences of the campaigns on the general public, and even those at whom they are targeted (i.e. people of a larger body size). I do know that some research has been done that indicates that in many cases, anti-obesity campaigns (particularly those that are blatantly anti-fat) do not actually have the intended effect, and in some cases backfire through increased stigma and shame… I can’t think of a particular study to cite at the moment but I will get back to you. Abigail Saguay’s book, “What’s Wrong With Fat?” takes issue with the way overweight/obesity have been framed, as do works by Michael Gard (“The Obesity Epidemic” and “The End of the Obesity Epidemic”) So, works like those problematize the whole idea that these ads are effective in the first place, and so in my opinion articles like the one I wrote about here add fuel to the suggestion that perhaps these ads could be correlated with some less than ideal outcomes. Of course, as the authors suggest, more study is needed before any strong policy recommendations could be made.

      Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 9:38 AM
      • My comment was actually similar to Liz’s. It would be interesting if, in this study, they compared women with a history of EDs/disordered eating to healthy women with no history of dieting and “normal” BMIs TO individuals on the “overweight” and/or “obese” end of the scale.

        It is not surprising that stigmatizing obesity doesn’t work. (Duh!) While I admit I don’t read this literature, there seems to be a LOT of backlash against this, especially on places like Tumblr (Well, not “especially” as much that’s probably the only place I get exposed to it because I don’t seek it out.)

        I do wonder how effective these campaigns are and whether they actually negative affect those with EDs/disordered eating history BUT don’t really play a positive role in the lives of the people they target? I would not be surprised if that’s the case. Indeed, I’d bet that’s the case (but, I admit, I don’t know).

        Does anyone know if putting calorie counts on everything in NYC (is it statewide?) did anything?

        My problem with anti-obesity campaigns is not that they affect me in any way because of eating disorder. I don’t think they do. But they tend to bother me from a different perspective: they blames the individual for a problem that’s really, for the most part, as far as I’m concerned, not really their fault.

        Can you blame a poor working mother for buying cheap, calorie-dense food? Eating healthy is expensive. Living in a safe neighborhood where kids can run around and play safely is a luxury. How many people can walk to work or to school? How many can do so safely? How much of a grocery store or a Walmart is devoted to junk food?

        In some ways, being and staying healthy is a privilege.

        This discussion (err my own rambling) reminds me of the “healthy immigrant effect.”

        But anyway, that’s quite removed from my eating disorder. I think these campaigns might affect me much more if my “set-weight” was higher. I feel it is harder for me to comment since my natural BMI is in the lower/mid-end of “normal.”

        Posted by Tetyana | May 29, 2013, 9:54 AM
        • I agree with you, Tetyana, about ‘blame’ in obesity. Obesity is a very complex condition. Eating healthily IS expensive and although I am not an expert on the obesity literature, my understanding is that socio-economic factors are influential.

          Posted by Cathy (UK) | May 29, 2013, 10:49 AM
        • I totally agree re: blame and socioeconomic factors. Though there is some literature indicating that it isn’t actually more expensive to eat “healthy food,” I am always skeptical about these studies; what about food deserts, or the time it takes to prepare meals and sit down to them as a family, for example? Staying healthy is definitely a privilege, I agree.

          I also completely agree that these campaigns might have been more damaging for me if my set point were higher, as well. This is something I think about a fair amount- the fact that I am coming at these issues from a “normal weight.” Considering that I already rage against them, I can only imagine that it would be worse if I were a larger size…

          Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 1:39 PM
          • I saw an excellent breakdown of that concept of “healthy food is actually cheaper” a while ago – I’ll try to find it. Basic gist was that if you counted the time to shop for, prepare and cook so-called “healthy” foods as time that might otherwise be paid, even adding an hour or two of lost minimum-wage does add up to make that food a more expensive choice.

            There’s also the issue that foods like produce and beans and grains are only really cheap when bought in bulk. This is a problem first because when you’re living paycheck to paycheck, sure, it’s cheaper in the long run to buy $100 of food now, but if I don’t HAVE $100 at one time for groceries, I’m going to spend $40…and then another $40…and then another $40…and so on (see http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/04/05/poor-vs-rich-spending-habits-/; http://pss.sagepub.com/content/24/2/197 for more explanation on this.)
            Secondly, because many individuals may lack either a) experience and knowledge of how to cook (remember the shitstorm in the NYT when Mark Bitteman assumed that everyone knows how to break down a whole raw chicken?) or b) basic amenities for cooking, like an oven that works properly or pots and pans and utensils and all those things we probably take for granted as just being around, growing up middle-class.

            —-

            My set point is (probably, who knows) higher and I was always historically on the very upper end of the percentiles for both height and weight. It took me a long, long time of being anorexic, frankly, to stop automatically identifying as a “fat person” and the target of these campaigns, even when emaciated.

            I appreciate your bringing this perspective to the discussion, Andrea. I know social constructionism and feminism aren’t to everyone’s taste (though they are mine!) but I do find it instructive and valuable to consider these frameworks, as even if you do accept a purely neuropsychiatric model of EDs, these behaviors occur in and take on meaning from their context in culture.

            Posted by Saren | May 29, 2013, 11:30 PM
            • I have very strong moral connotations regarding food and weight and concepts like “self-indulgence” (it’s like the Protestant work ethic 24/7 up in here! Or it was, anyway.)

              Posted by Saren | May 29, 2013, 11:33 PM
              • …meant to add that that’s an example of how typical behaviors of the ED like intake restriction – which may or may not “mean” anything in and of themselves – take on significance and meaning from the extrinsic social setting in which they occur.

                I think contexts such as ones where campaigns like this exist are detrimental in that it increases likelihood that a predisposed individual will restrict their intake in some way, creating an energy imbalance which may “trigger” the disorder, and decreases the likelihood that anyone will see ED’d behavior as problematic unless truly overt. I had a very hard time conceptualizing what I was doing as a DISORDER for a long time because I was limiting my intake to a number which I saw described everywhere as an appropriate number for a “normal” “healthy” diet. It also prevented the people around me from either recognizing the problem or taking steps to intervene – particularly because I had been objectively overweight pre-diet/ED. My behavior and desire to be “healthy” and to exercise, instead of being seen as pathological, was seen as positive and I got a lot of praise, at least at first. (This is not to say that doing x y and z is always pathological, but in my case, I had the compulsivity, rigidity and obsessive qualities that persisted in the face of all good sense and actual health, if that makes any sense.)

                Posted by Saren | May 29, 2013, 11:43 PM
              • Thanks for your comments, Saren- for some reason it won’t let me reply to the addition below this comment but… I absolutely agree. You wrote:

                “I think contexts such as ones where campaigns like this exist are detrimental in that it increases likelihood that a predisposed individual will restrict their intake in some way, creating an energy imbalance which may “trigger” the disorder, and decreases the likelihood that anyone will see ED’d behavior as problematic unless truly overt.”

                I think that’s a great way of summing up the importance of taking context into account! I also identify with your struggles for recognition (both internal and external) of the disorder- I often felt “not sick enough” when I compared myself to what I thought “anorexia” looked like, though I was clearly doing things that were extremely damaging to my body and mind, in hindsight. Though I was not labelled “overweight” before my disorder, I still received similar praise for my actions, despite the damage they were causing me, praise that I attribute in part to the social context in which we live which as you mention ascribes powerful moral character to food/weight/exercise. I read an article about the Protestant work ethic and body weight/well being/physical activity etc. last year (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17686746), actually, that spoke to this association.

                Thanks, too, for the breakdown of the “healthy food is actually cheaper” argument.

                Posted by Andrea | May 30, 2013, 9:24 AM
        • Does anyone know if putting calorie counts on everything in NYC (is it statewide?) did anything?

          It didn’t. I don’t have the full study this article is based on, but see http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/06/nyregion/06calories.html

          They mention food insecurity as one reason for the failure (see Satter’s ‘Hierarchy of Food Needs’):
          One advocate of calorie posting suggested that low-income people were more interested in price than calories.

          “Nutrition is not the top concern of low-income people, who are probably the least amenable to calorie labeling,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington.

          Um, no kidding.

          Posted by Saren | May 29, 2013, 11:14 PM
      • Incidentally, I wrote a paper (published) with Michael Gard in 2007 when he was resident in the UK. I was interested to learn some Sociology. He’s an interesting and very intelligent person.

        Posted by Cathy (UK) | May 29, 2013, 12:22 PM
        • I really enjoy his work, I’d love to speak to him at some point! He’s one of those “academic celebrities,” to me.

          Posted by Andrea | May 29, 2013, 1:33 PM
          • Michael Gard used to be at CSU Bathurst, in South-East Australia. I’m not sure if he’s still there. He held a visiting research post (Professorship or Reader) at a university where I worked in the UK in 2006 as a Physiologist. I have a lot of time for him.

            Posted by Cathy (UK) | May 29, 2013, 1:48 PM
  3. Media campaigns don’t cause ED’s, but under eating sure does. As psychiatrist at an adolescent ED program, I’ve had about 10 patients over the past two years attribute their initial (healthful) dietary restraint to “messages about the obesity epidemic”, and to increased awareness of weight as a marker of “goodness”. School health education classes, where students are often openly weighed within the context of discussing the risks of obesity and “healthy eating” have also played a role.
    The discourse is very dichotomous, at the moment. Obesity is certainly a public health menace, but the way the issue is being framed is a typical over-reaction, an unfortunate road that the medical profession has travelled before.

    Posted by Omar Canosa | May 30, 2013, 1:51 PM
    • Thanks for your comment, Omar. I think it is interesting that you’ve seen this in your practice! I certainly agree, too, about the dichotomous discourses circulating. I have to say I cringe at the idea of students being weighed at school… or the idea of weight/BMI being included on report cards I heard about a while ago.

      Posted by Andrea | May 30, 2013, 4:07 PM

Post a Comment

Follow…

Ajax spinner

TIP JAR

If you enjoy the content on the Science of Eating Disorders blog, please considering supporting the website with a recurring monthly donation or with a single donation of your choice. (Donations are not tax-deductible.)

If you can't spare any change, that's okay too. You can always tweet, or share on Facebook.
Thanks!

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: