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What's Wrong with Fat? [Kindle Edition]

Abigail C. Saguy
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The United States, we are told, is facing an obesity epidemic-a "battle of the bulge" of not just national, but global proportions-that requires drastic and immediate action. Experts in the media, medical science, and government alike are scrambling to find answers. What or who is responsible for this fat crisis, and what can we do to stop it?
Abigail Saguy argues that these fraught and frantic debates obscure a more important question: How has fatness come to be understood as a public health crisis at all? Why, she asks, has the view of "fat" as a problem-a symptom of immorality, a medical pathology, a public health epidemic-come to dominate more positive framings of weight-as consistent with health, beauty, or a legitimate rights claim-in public discourse? Why are heavy individuals singled out for blame? And what are the consequences of understanding weight in these ways?
What's Wrong with Fat? presents each of the various ways in which fat is understood in America today, examining the implications of understanding fatness as a health risk, disease, and epidemic, and revealing why we've come to understand the issue in these terms, despite considerable scientific uncertainty and debate. Saguy shows how debates over the relationship between body size and health risk take place within a larger, though often invisible, contest over whether we should understand fatness as obesity at all. Moreover, she reveals that public discussions of the "obesity crisis" do more harm than good, leading to bullying, weight-based discrimination, and misdiagnoses.
Showing that the medical framing of fat is literally making us sick, What's Wrong with Fat? provides a crucial corrective to our society's misplaced obsession with weight.

Editorial Reviews


"Fascinating and illuminating." --The New York Times

"Abigail Saguy asks the kinds of questions that can shift scientific paradigms, challenge prejudice, and promote social justice for people of all sizes. She backs up her clear-headed analysis of mainstream belief systems with carefully conducted research that reveals the inherent linkage between how we think about weight and how such beliefs shape not only health, but also lives and society. Anyone who's stepped on a scale or seen a media report about the so-called obesity epidemic will benefit from exploring What's Wrong with Fat?" --Marilyn Wann, author of FAT!SO?

"In this pathbreaking book, Abigail Saguy explores the social implications of viewing fatness as a public health crisis. Saguy's conclusions challenge conventional understandings of obesity as a moral and medical problem and draws attention to the debilitating consequences of weight-based stigma. This book is essential reading for anyone concerned about public policy and cultural consciousness on matters affecting weight." --Deborah L. Rhode, author of The Beauty Bias

"'What's wrong?' is the most basic question we can ask about a social problem. At first glance, the answer may seem obvious. But Abigail Saguy's careful analysis of contemporary claims about fat reveals that it's a question that can be answered in many competing ways, and any apparent consensus is rooted in particular times, places, and social arrangements. This book invites us to think, not just about fat, but about other weighty issues." --Joel Best, author of Everyone's a Winner

"What's Wrong with Fat? excels at something sociology can do quite well-displace simple answers with a razor-sharp questioning of the question. In this lucid and comprehensive account, Saguy teases apart the different threads of contemporary discourse about obesity and investigates the potent real-world consequences of our competing ways of thinking about this social, moral, and medical issue. She reveals the meanings of fatness to be about much more than calories: they are shaped by social processes used to determine biomedical truth, and they are intertwined with the often-divisive politics of race, class, sexuality, gender, culture, and nationality. Highly recommended for people of any size or shape!" --Steven Epstein, author of Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research

"Being fat is bad for you. Being discriminated against because you are fat may be even worse. In this eye-opening book, Saguy shows that the war on obesity is really a war on fat people that targets women, minorities, and the poor. Social inequality-not body mass-is killing people. Saguy reveals the hidden interests behind the so-called obesity epidemic."
--Christine Williams, Professor of Sociology, University of Texas at Austin

"Provocative, thoughtful and thorough." --NatureR

"Written with clarity and passion, this mind-expanding work invites readers to consider the rights of people at any size. An insightful, profoundly nonbiased, must read for anyone in public health/medicine, nutrition/dietetics, public policy, journalism, education, counseling, and social work. Highly recommended." --CHOICE

"What's Wrong with Fat? is a well-written, carefully researched book that contributes an essential perspective on body size that will appeal to a wide range of scholars and activists. It is a bellwether in the growth of the interdisciplinary field of fat studies yet firmly grounded in sociological theory and methodology. ...Saguy's work will continue to push scholarship on health, weight, and size as well as on gender, race, class, and inequality." --American Journal of Sociology

About the Author

Abigail C. Saguy is Associate Professor of Sociology and of Gender Studies at UCLA. She is the author of What Is Sexual Harassment? From Capitol Hill to the Sorbonne (University of California Press, 2003).

Product Details

  • File Size: 3100 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (December 3, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,513 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Do you have a body? Then this a must read! April 13, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Do you have a body? Time to reclaim it!

Dr. Saguy starts with helping her readers understand that obesity is a "frame" not a fact. What this means is that "obesity" is a perspective on fat whereby it (fat) is pathologized and this frame encourages us to pay attention to certain aspects of a situation while obscuring (if not overwriting) others.

The three main frames we use to view fat are: as immoral, as a medical problem and as a public health crisis. The three predominant ways to contest these frames, according to Dr. Saguy. are: fat as beautiful, fat as consistent with health (Health At Every Size(R)), and fat as a basis for (civil) rights claims. When we view fat through a "problem frame" (that is assuming, falsely, that fat is inherently unhealthy & undesirable), there are three predominant "blame frames" we use: personal responsibility, society (sociocultural), and biology.

A perfect example of this would be HBO's Weight of the Nation, which clearly frames fat as a problem by endorsing its pathology via "obesity" and deeming it a medical and public health crisis. It employed all three "blame frames" at different points in the film (i.e. it's this person's fault for eating too much, this person is living in a poor neighborhood and only has access to fast food so it's society's fault, and this person has "fat genes" so he/she is predisposed to be fat). As Dr. Saguy confirmed, however, one "blame frame" is used most predominantly in the media and in our scientific discussions (and in this "documentary"). Which do you think it is?

Personal responsibility. (Next is sociocultural and 3rd is biological).

This is incredibly interesting because it's not the same way in other countries.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ever wondered why we are so focused on fatness? December 23, 2012
Abigail Saguy takes a birds-eye view of battlefield in the "War on Obesity" and this meta-level perspective allows her to ask, "what is at stake?" It turns out there is a great deal at stake: A $60billion industry that exists to perpetuate the pursuit of weight loss vs. the mental and physical health of millions of children and adults. Yes, that "vs" is a surprise to those who do not question why there are so many more people who are harmed by the pursuit of weight loss than helped by it, but Saguy asks those hard questions. The book is entertaining and readable, wonderfully argued, and like all good books about war, will leave you with a deep yearning for peace.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
This is an excellent analysis of how and why we've come to think of fatness as a medical problem and a public health crisis, why we have so much trouble talking about the real problem of weight-based discrimination, and the social costs associated with how we talk about fat. Saguy draws on over a decade of her own sociological research into these questions. This includes content analysis of hundreds of news articles, in-depth interviews with researchers and activists, and controlled experiments examining how exposure to different news reports on weight affect attitudes about health risk and weight-based discrimination. Remarkably, Saguy has synthesized this work - as well as other relevant research in the field - into an extremely readable narrative. This book should change the way we talk about fat in this country.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an extraordinary contribution January 6, 2013
Saguy has brought a robust intelligence to the analysis of the issues surrounding fatness. Those who have been the focus of anti-fat bigotry owe her a debt of gratitude. Those who value scholarship and precision will be glad for her attention to this subject. We would all be well-served if everyone who covers the subject in all of the media outlets were to read it. Too many people jump at conclusions and rush to judgment. Saguy's approach breaks new ground and sets a very high standard for subsequent books on this subject.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The problem with fat May 5, 2013
This is a terrific book. Clearly argued, crisply written, and multi-layered in its analysis, What's Wrong with Fat carefully deconstructs the various ways in which fatness is framed in public discourse as a personal, medical, and social problem. Saguy argues compellingly that we are so busy taking on the battles within this problem frame -- is yo-yo dieting okay? should I eat fewer carbs, less fat, or more fiber? what's a good BMI? -- that the frame itself becomes invisible. In the process, we ignore the mounting evidence indicating that fatness, in itself, is neither unhealthy nor the primary cause of rising healthcare costs; that it is, for most people, not a sign of gluttony or lack of self-control; and that it is the source of entrenched and culturally sanctioned discrimination. Saguy also demonstrates how public discourse on fatness reveals longstanding assumptions about race, class, and gender as well as anxiety about health and personal responsibility in an increasingly neo-liberal culture. This book is essential reading for anyone who appreciates that the world can't possibly be as simple as the anti-obesity crusaders have presented it.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book January 4, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Loved it. It is a great book to get a person to start thinking differently about weight diversity. Thanks for writing this
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
In the introduction to What's Wrong With Fat, sociologist Abigail Saguy promises that you will never hear the word "obesity" the same way again. That is absolutely true. What's also true--although she doesn't tell you this--is that you might wish you wrote this book yourself. What's Wrong With Fat offers a sophisticated and highly readable analysis of the ways news media in the United States and France have covered and interpreted the socially constructed problem of fat. Drawing on data both quantitative and qualitative, Saguy charts how scientific research studies get picked up, and distorted in systematic ways, by news media and uses a series of experiments with readers to explore audience responses to such news stories. Where other authors have focused on the harm that obesity itself may cause, Saguy adeptly examines the harm caused by uncritically treating fat as a social problem--as when overweight people avoid medical care because of overt discrimination by providers. Moreover, lumping disparate issues like food insecurity and a lack of safe places to exercise under the banner of obesity may result in the misdirection of public policy attention and resources. What's Wrong With Fat should be on the reading list of anyone interested in the social construction of public problems in general, and in obesity, fatness, and health in particular.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good book! Brand New Thanks!
Published 1 month ago by Katherine Rodriguez
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book. I used it for my class on ...
Interesting book. I used it for my class on Alcoholism and Obesity cross-culturally. The author takes the perspective that we put down fat people and that being overweight is not... Read more
Published 2 months ago by William Divale, Ph.D.
3.0 out of 5 stars beautiful cover
Worst table of contents no subtexts or topics in chapters are displayed, dry but well referenced. Very useful information. Read more
Published 4 months ago by wintergarden
5.0 out of 5 stars Finally tells the truth about diet-crazed America.
Well researched and courageous. Saguy exposes the money-driven connection between the medical establishment, diet "gurus" and the media. Read more
Published 13 months ago by peggytg
3.0 out of 5 stars has interesting points, but weak on solid science
This book raises some interesting points in how we view obesity, but it is very weak on solid scientific studies backing up the claims that "experts" make. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Karen
5.0 out of 5 stars Ambitious, comparative. compelling, refreshing
This is a deeply ambitious and successful project. It examines the content of media frames in terms of what constitutes obesity (whether this is an individidual blame frame, a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Shari Dworkin
5.0 out of 5 stars A revolutionary, intellectually stimulating book that will make you...
We are maddeningly complacent in our society in regard to tolerating assumptions about the concept of obesity. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Elyse Resch
1.0 out of 5 stars More "Fat Logic" from a fat person.
Well, Ms. Abigail C. Saguy has demonstrated that sociology/women's studies has no basis in science or fact and she engages in rampant confirmation bias and ignores even the most... Read more
Published 23 months ago by M. Jackson
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Subject Matter
I thought this was an extremely interesting book. The only problem is, that it reads like what it is . . . an academic thesis. Read more
Published on April 3, 2013 by Joyce E. Jackson
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