Saturday, May 01, 2004

Social constructivism runs amok today in the pages of the New York Times. As it turns out, Americans are not in fact the fattest people in the history of the human race overconsuming the resources of the poor and the future. We're actually the target of a right-wing plot to make us all feel bad.
a growing group of historians and cultural critics who study fat say this obsession is based less on science than on morality. Insidious attitudes about politics, sex, race or class are at the heart of the frenzy over obesity, these scholars say, a frenzy they see as comparable to the Salem witch trials, McCarthyism and even the eugenics movement.
In good liberal fashion, academics such as Paul Campos claim that making somebody feel bad about themselves it the cardinal sin. Never mind that over 30% of Americans are obese today, up from just 13% in 1960. Trying to get Mr. Jones to slim down enough so he can fit into a restaurant chair is just too much to bear.

These insufferable post-moderns do have one point worth considering, however.
And while there are many causes for obesity � cheaper food, more aggressive marketing, bigger portions in restaurants and, of course, increasingly sedentary habits � Mr. Stearns says that gaining weight is still seen as a moral issue, "a sign you were lazy, lacked self-control."
This might be true, but there are many excellent studies and writers out there laying to rest this opinion -- and I don't mean Dr. Phil.

For the political economy of fat, pick up a copy of Greg Critser's Fat Land, Michael Pollan's review of Fat Land, and the work of University of Washington researcher Adam Drewnowski on "the very low cost of energy-dense foods".

I suspect obesity in America has a lot more to do with high-fructose corn syrup than with eugenics. But maybe that's just me.

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