Thank you for reading thecheers.org's The-Agora articles.

Marketing Obesity

 article about Marketing Obesity

This article belongs to Obesity and weight issues theme.


Let's face it. We're all aware that the United States is in the throes of an obesity "epidemic". We're also all more than aware of what is necessary to lose weight. It's a simple formula: eat less, exercise more. And yet, with all the knowledge and information we have access to, there are no signs of waist-lines slimming down in this country any time soon. We know that at the collective level, we're fatter than ever. Something just does not compute. But what is really going on here?

Out Of Control Bodies

"
Beliefs about self-control and choice are personified through our eating habits.
The way we eat says a lot about the culture we live in and the values we adhere to. Thinness is a symbol of "control" and fatness represents a sense of moral inferiority. It sounds harsh, to be sure, and we might hesitate to admit we perceive overweight individuals as "less than" in terms of morality and/or social status. But it happens and it is a reality of the society we currently function in. Beliefs about self-control and choice are personified through our eating habits. In this way, "food becomes a tangible form of power...social hierarchy and sense of autonomy are demonstrated in how we consume food" (Counihan, 1992). What and how much or how little we eat tend to be subtle indicators about our societal role, class, gender, and/or race.

Think about it: the wealthier a person is, the thinner they usually are. And wealthier people tend not to flock to McDonald's or stock up on liters of soda and boxes of Frosted Flakes when they shop at the supermarket. Access to healthier (and often more expensive) food choices is a more of a privilege for a few than an option for the majority. The average middle class family cannot afford to shop in organic food supply stores and it's more likely that middle class Americans make meals that come out of boxes. For many, food choices reflect a convenience factor in part, but it also is becoming more of an economic factor, especially given the current state of financial affairs.

"
If food is a form of power and the thin are more adept at self-discipline, what does it mean when the vast majority is considered obese?
But is that the full picture? Can obesity, in some ways, be a result of economic disparity and/or a need for instant gratification in a fast-paced culture? If food is a form of power and the thin are more adept at self-discipline, what does it mean when the vast majority is considered obese? Are we losing control over our bodies? What if overeating and fatness essentially represent an embodied form of rebellion and resistance?

A Culture of Consumption

In non-capitalist societies, food exchange is perceived as a way to increase social ties and decrease social distance (Counihan, 1992). In the U.S., the exchange of food is carried out via a removed mechanism.
"
There is a profit to be made in selling diet pills, “low-fat” foods, exercise equipment and gym memberships.

The producer of the food is on one end of the spectrum while the consumer is located all the way on the opposite end. We might share meals with family and friends, but there is a disconnect between literal production and consumption. While food is necessary to sustain our bodies, food has also become commodified. Likewise, the diet industry is commodified. There is a profit to be made in selling diet pills, "low-fat" foods, exercise equipment and gym memberships. Additionally, the clothing industry is beginning to catch on to the benefits of marketing products to larger individuals and there are more "plus size" boutiques and "big and tall" shops than ever before. We might be a culture that seemingly fetishizes excess in the way we consume food, but there are businesses that make a fortune on the consequences of this excess.

Fat Activism

Fat acceptance is the total surrender to the truth of your body. ~ Fat acceptance blogger

Anyone who is or has been overweight can attest to the social stigmas that are attached to them. In recent years, there has been a movement toward increasing size acceptance. Schools of feminist thought frame obesity as a form of social oppression and in some circles, it is argued that obesity ought to be considered a disability. Therefore, stigmatizing the obese is a form of discrimination. Some might posit that it's a fine line between supporting human diversity and encouraging detrimental choices.

If fat acceptance involves surrendering to a certain truth, then what is the truth of our bodies?

It comes down to a personal vs. private issue. Is the obesity epidemic a personal responsibility or a social problem? What are the implications of assigning responsibility in either domain?

References/Additional Reading

Counihan, C. (1992). Food rules in the United States: Individualism, control, hierarchy. Anthropological Quarterly, 62(2), 55-66.

Guthman, J., & DuPuis, M. (2006). Embodying neoliberalism: economy, culture and the politics of fat. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 24, 427-448.


have your say
thecheers.org

Welcome to TheCheers! We've been around for a long time now, since 2004, publishing articles by people from all over the world. Roughly 300 people from 30 different countries have written for us over the years. Should you want to become a volunteer contributor, be sure to contact us!

Friendlies

# Dish Network Michigan
get in touch

You can contact us via the email you can find on our contact page, via telegram @thecheers, or through our The Cheers Facebook page. No real point in contacting us through The Cheers Twitter account.