[SportMed] MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: OBESITY : TREATMENTS: “True” Stories of the Obesity Epidemic

 

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MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: OBESITY :

TREATMENTS:

“True” Stories of the Obesity Epidemic

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“True” Stories of the Obesity Epidemic

BY HELENE A. SHUGART

NOVEMBER 4TH 2016

Oxford University Blog (OUG)

“True” Stories of the Obesity Epidemic

http://blog.oup.com/2016/11/true-stories-obesity-narrative-health/

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Eat  right and exercise: amid the cacophony of diet fads and aids, conflicting reports regarding what causes obesity, and debate about whether and what kind of fat might be good for us after all, this seems like pretty sound and refreshingly simple advice. On the surface, it is: its hard to argue against good nutrition or circulation. But dig a bit deeper and its a veritable political and cultural minefield.

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In the first place, the eat right and exercise maxim places full responsibility for weight on the individuals shoulders: its on him or her to monitor and regulate intake and output. A variation of this theme is the calories in/calories out narrative of obesity, featured in every official public obesity campaign originating from health or government agencies: we are encouraged to make wise choices by these agencies, who stand by to offer resources, but dont presume to cross the line in ways that might compromise our autonomy. Moreover, what does it mean to eat right? Perhaps calorie restriction is part of that, but its mostly understood to mean quality of foodfruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats, for instance. As Michael Pollan succinctly surmised in his Eaters Manifesto, Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. But in the context of the obesity crisis and the discourse surrounding it, this is grounds for a host of debates regarding how such foods are grown and processedconsiderable science suggests, contrary to the caloric imbalance narrative, that obesity is a consequence of endocrinal and hormonal imbalance, perhaps prompted by adultered food, whether via pesticides, hormone or antibiotic treated livestock, GMOs, refinement/processing, or preservatives. And of course, those debates are inherently political and ideological because they inevitably lead to questions about food politics in particular, and the political economy in general: Big Agriculture, food subsidies, greed, and profit. Which brings us back to the individual: if industry is responsible for the obesity epidemic, what is our role? What is the governments?

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In fact, the core issues that inform each of these competing narratives are reflections of the broader political economic crisis that the United States (and most of the world) has been grappling with since 2008a crisis in neoliberalism, a political economic philosophy that promotes a market unfettered by government oversight and justified by individual autonomy: that is, individuals are articulated as having more and better choices if the industry responds exclusively to their demands. Government regulation is understood in this view to be patronizing and oppressive to the individual. In 2008, when the bottom fell out of neoliberalism, this self-serving (for industry) logic was called to task, in particular as relevant to its insensitivity to the material realities and experiences of everyday citizens, a sentiment popularized in the 99 percenters movement. This same impasse is evident in the official story of obesitythe rational individual monitoring her/his consumption, unfettered by structural intervention and aided by the marketand the reactive, environmental obesity story that posits the individual as the hapless victim of corporate greed.

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The complete blog post can be read at the URL above.

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Helene A. Shugart is Professor of Communication at the University of Utah. Her research synthesizes rhetorical, media, and cultural studies to critically assess cultural discourses; her most recent work examines discourses around health, concentrating specifically on obesity. She is the author of Heavy: The Obesity Crisis in Cultural Context.

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Sincerely,
David Dillard
Temple University
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jwne@temple.edu
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[SportMed] MEDICAL: CONDITIONS: OBESITY : TREATMENTS: “True” Stories of the Obesity Epidemic

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