A Finalist for the "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize in History The modern struggle against fat cuts deeply and pervasively into American culture, as evidenced by the compulsion to stay thin, or at least to profess a desire to become thin. Dieting, weight consciousness and widespread hostility to obesity form one of the fundamental themes of modern ...
A Finalist for the "Los Angeles Times" Book Prize in History The modern struggle against fat cuts deeply and pervasively into American culture, as evidenced by the compulsion to stay thin, or at least to profess a desire to become thin. Dieting, weight consciousness and widespread hostility to obesity form one of the fundamental themes of modern life in countries around the world. Yet, for example, while the French are renowned for their delight in all things gustatory, they are significantly trimmer and less diet-obsessed than Americans. Fat History explores the meaning of fat and anti-fat in modern Western society, focusing on the uniquely moral component of dieting in America. Tracing how standards of beauty and physical morality have been radically transformed over the past century in the United States and France, Peter N. Stearns illustrates how the contemporary obsession with fat arose in tandem with the dramatic growth in consumer culture, women's increasing equality, and changes in women's sexual and maternal roles. Contrary to popular belief, fashion and nutrition have played only a secondary role in spurring the American aversion to fat, while the French distaste for obesity can be traced to different origins altogether. Filled with narrative anecdotes and rooted in Stearns' trademark use of engaging original sources--from "Ebony" and "Gourmet" to "The Journal of the American Medical Association" and popularized accounts of French doctors--Fat History explores fat's transformation from a symbol of health and well-being to a sign of moral, psychological, and physical disorder.
Illustrated. Very Good in Very Good jacket. 0814780695 COO 036460 First ed. Solid blue cloth hard cover with mild wear and soiling, jacket is same, we have applied a protective fold-on cover. 294pp Slight waviness in the lower hinge area to the 30 pgs from a moisture exposure?
Publishers Weekly, 1997-04-21 In the realm of books on America's obsession with fat, Stearns's new hypothesis is a refreshing counter to the current denunciations of the patriarchy with a broader sociological and historical approach. The author's measured, scholarly tone can be a bit dry, however. Drawing from magazine articles, advertisements and doctors' recommendations, Stearns (a history professor and dean at Carnegie Mellon University) attempts to explain why, while dieting less than Americans, the French have more success keeping their weight down. He attributes the disparity to the equating of thinness with moral rectitude in the United States, where increasing indulgence in other areas (such as sex and consumerism) has left the population with a guilt complex and a penchant for snacking. By contrast, the French aesthetic approach treats food as a culinary art, to be taken in small amounts and enjoyed for its subtle flavor: "France had no equivalents of rural Americana's pie-eating contests." While his argument is interesting, readers may wonder why Stearns does not adequately address the American perception that French thinness is the consequence of too much caffeine and nicotine. Nor does he compare the occurrence of eating disorders in the two nations, a test with real potential for bolstering his assertion that Americans view "diet more as combat than a matter of simple restraint." Illustrated. (June)
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