Books of interest



McCullough, M. & Hardin, J. (2013) Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures and the Measure of Meanings. New York and Oxford: Berghahn.
Megan McCullough and Jessica Hardin compile a volume of ten interdisciplinary authors which  considers the impact of cultural difference, embodiment, and local knowledge on the construction of obesity, both in local contexts and in the field of obesity research globally.
 Addicted to Food
Erlichman J (2013) Addicted to food: understanding the obesity epidemic. London: Guardian Shorts.

James Erlichman presents a brief and clear argument that we have become addicted to food. He reviews research about the science of obesity, discusses literature relating to the social history that underlies what we eat and why, and explores different social, economic and commercial pressures that surround us every day and determine what we eat and why. The book is at once humorous and carries a powerful message that the driving force of obesity is far beyond individual choice.

Lustig, RH (2013) Fat chance: the bitter truth about sugar. London: Fourth Estate.

‘Fat Chance’, documents the science and the politics that has led to the pandemic of metabolic syndrome – which results in conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Dr Robert Lustig exposes how changes in the food industry and in our wider environment have affected our collective metabolisms and our waistlines, and he shows how industry and political forces, motivated by greed, don’t want things to change.

Akabas S, Lederman SA, Moore BJ (2012) Textbook of obesity: biological, psychological and cultural influences. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Textbook of Obesity is designed to cover all of the essential elements concerning the aetiology, prevention and treatment of obesity suitable for students in nutrition, dietetics and health science courses.

Allardyce CS (2012) Fat chemistry: the science behind obesity. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry.

This book probes the chemistry of fat in our bodies, providing a unique insight into understanding obesity, and how this material becomes accumulated to cause obesity with particular emphasis on the contribution of nutrition beyond calories.

Harcombe Z (2010) The obesity epidemic: What caused it?How can we stop it? Caldicot: Columbus Publishing Limited.

A comprehensive and engaging investigation of research evidence that helps to respond to the two questions in the title of the book. The volune is aimed at a general readership which calls into question popular diet and health advice, as well as the popular assumption that energy balance is at the core of obesogenesis.

Fairburn CG & Brownell KD (eds) (2005) Eating disorders and obesity: a comprehensive handbook. Second edition. Abingdon: Guilford Press.

This handbook presents and integrates much of what is currently known about eating disorders and obesity in one accessible volume of 112 chapters. Contributing authors cover topics ranging from biological, psychological, and social processes associated with risk, to clinical methods for assessment and intervention. The contents are organized to highlight areas of overlap between lines of research that often remain disparate.

Shove E, Trentmann F, Wilk R (eds) (2009) Time, consumption and everyday life: practice, materiality and culture. Oxford: Berg.

This book examines the changing rhythms and temporal organization of everyday life. How do people handle hurriedness, burn-out and stress? Are slower forms of consumption viable? This volume brings together international experts from geography, sociology, history, anthropology and philosophy. In case studies covering the United States, Asia, and Europe, contributors follow routines and rhythms, their emotional and political dynamics, and show how they are anchored in material culture and everyday practice. Running themes of the book are questions of coordination and disruption; cycles and seasons; and, the interplay between power and freedom, and between material and natural forces. The result is a volume that brings studies of practice, temporality and material culture together to open up a new intellectual agenda.

Gilman SL (2008) Fat: a cultural history of obesity. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Written as a cultural history, the book is particularly concerned with the cultural meanings that have been attached to obesity over time and explores the implications of these meanings for wider society. In Fat, Gilman looks at the interweaving of fact and fiction about obesity, tracing public concern from the mid-nineteenth century to the modern day global dieting obession. He looks critically at the source of our anxieties about fat, covering issues such as childhood obesity, the production of food, media coverage of the subject and the emergence of obesity in modern China.

Popkin B (2010) The World is Fat: the fads, trends, policies, and products that are fattening the human race. New York: Avery.

In this look at the striking changes in both our lifestyles and food system since World War II, Barry Popkin shows how present options for eating and drinking, especially when combined with a dramatic reduction in physical activity, are clashing with millions of years of evolution to fatten the human race. Popkin argues that widespread obesity, and the chronic health problems that contribute to the bulk of deaths in the world today, is less a result of poor dietary choices than about a hi-tech, interconnected world in which governments and multinational corporations have extraordinary power to shape our everyday lives.

Steel C (2008) Hungry City: how food shapes our lives. London: Vintage.

The relationship between food and cities is fundamental to our every day lives. Food shapes cities, and through them, it moulds us – along with the countryside that feeds us. The gargantuan effort necessary to feed cities arguably has a greater social and physical impact on us and our planet than anything else we do. Yet few of us are conscious of the process and we rarely stop to wonder how food reaches our plates.Hungry City examines the way in which modern food production has damaged the balance of human existence, and reveals that we have yet to resolve a centuries-old dilemma – one which holds the key to a host of current problems, from obesity, the inexorable rise of the supermarkets, to the destruction of the natural world. Carolyn Steel, an architect, lecturer and writer, follows food on its journey – from the land (and sea) to market and supermarket, kitchen to table, waste-dump and back again – exploring the historical roots and the contemporary issues at each stage of food’s cycle.Check out Carolyn Steel’s TED talk here.

Patel R (2007) Stuffed and Starved: from farm to fork, the hidden battle for the world food system. London: Portobello.

It’s a perverse fact of modern life: There are more starving people in the world than ever before (800 million) while there are also more people overweight (1 billion). To find out how we got to this point and what we can do about it, Raj Patel launched a comprehensive investigation into the global food network. It took him from the colossal supermarkets of California to India’s wrecked paddy-fields and Africa’s bankrupt coffee farms, while along the way he ate genetically engineered soy beans and dodged flying objects in the protestor-packed streets of South Korea. What he found was shocking, from the false choices given us by supermarkets to a global epidemic of farmer suicides, and real reasons for famine in Asia and Africa. Yet he also found great cause for hope – in international resistance movements working to create a more democratic, sustainable and joyful food system. Going beyond ethical consumerism, Patel explains, from seed to store to plate, the steps to regain control of the global food economy, stop the exploitation of both farmers and consumers, and rebalance global sustenance.

Levenstein H (2003) Paradox of Plenty: A social history of eating in modern America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

In this sweeping history of food and eating in modern America, Harvey Levenstein explores the social, economic, and political factors that have shaped the American diet since 1930.

Parasecoli (2008) Bite Me: food in popular culture. Oxford: Berg.

Food is not only something we eat, it is something we use to define ourselves. Ingestion and incorporation are central to our connection with the world outside our bodies. Food’s powerful social, economic, political and symbolic roles cannot be ignored – what we eat is a marker of power, cultural capital, class, ethnic and racial identity. Bite Me considers the ways in which popular culture reveals our relationship with food and our own bodies and how these have become an arena for political and ideological battles. Drawing on an extraordinary range of material – films, books, comics, songs, music videos, websites, slang, performances, advertising and mass-produced objects – Bite Me invites the reader to take a fresh look at today’s products and practices to see how much food shapes our lives, perceptions and identities.

 men war
Monaghan LF (2008) Men and the War on Obesity: A sociological study. Abingdon: Routledge.

Is obesity really a public health problem and what does the construction of obesity as a health problem mean for men? According to official statistics, the majority of men in nations such as England and the USA are overweight or obese. Public health officials, researchers, governments and various agencies are alarmed and have issued dire warnings about a global ‘obesity epidemic’. This perceived threat to public health seemingly legitimates declarations of war against what one US Surgeon General called ‘the terror within’. Yet, little is known about weight-related issues among everyday men in this context of symbolic or communicated violence. Men and the War on Obesity is an original, timely and controversial study. Using observations from a mixed-sex slimming club, interviews with men whom medicine might label overweight or obese and other sources, this study urges a rethink of weight or fat as a public health issue and sometimes private trouble. Recognizing the sociological wisdom that things are not as they seem, it challenges obesity warmongering and the many battles it mandates or incites. This important book could therefore help to change current thinking and practices not only in relation to men but also women and children who are defined as overweight, obese or too fat. It will be of interest to students and researchers of gender and the body within sociology, gender studies and cultural studies as well as public health researchers, policymakers and practitioners.

 fat politics
Oliver JE (2006) Fat Politics: The real story behind America’s obesity epidemic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

It seems almost daily we read newspaper articles and watch news reports exposing the growing epidemic of obesity in America. Our government tells us we are experiencing a major health crisis, with sixty percent of Americans classified as overweight, and one in four as obese. But how valid are these claims? In Fat Politics , J. Eric Oliver shows how a handful of doctors, government bureaucrats, and health researchers, with financial backing from the drug and weight-loss industries, have campaigned to create standards that mislead the public. They mislabel more than sixty million Americans as “overweight,” inflate the health risks of being fat, and promote the idea that obesity is a killer disease. In reviewing the scientific evidence, Oliver shows there is little proof that obesity causes so much disease and death or that losing weight is what makes people healthier. Our concern with obesity, he writes, is fueled more by social prejudice, bureaucratic politics, and industry profit than by scientific fact. Misinformation pushes millions of Americans towards dangerous surgeries, crash diets, and harmful diet drugs, while we ignore other, more real health problems. Oliver goes on to examine why it is that Americans despise fatness and explores why, despite this revulsion, we continue to gain weight. Fat Politics will topple your most basic assumptions about obesity and health. It is essential reading for anyone with a stake in the nation’s–or their own–good health.

 food morals meaning
Coveney J (2000) Food, Morals and Meaning: The pleasure and anxiety of eating. London: Routledge.

Following on from the success of the first edition, John Coveney traces our complex relationship with food and eating and our preoccupation with diet, self-discipline and food guilt. Using our current fascination with health and nutrition, he explores why our appetite for food pleasures makes us feel anxious. This up-to-date edition includes an examination of how our current obsession with body size, especially fatness, drives a national and international panic about the obesity ‘epidemic’. Focussing on how our food anxieties have stemmed from social, political and religious problems in Western history, “Food Morals and Meaning” looks at: the ancient Greeks’ preoccupation with eating; early Christianity and the conflict between the pleasures of the flesh and spirituality; scientific developments in eighteenth and nineteenth century Europe and our current knowledge of food; the social organization of food in the modern home, based on real interviews; and the obesity ‘epidemic’ and its association with moral degeneration. Based on the work of Michel Foucault, this fresh and updated edition explains how a rationalization food choice – so apparent in current programmes on nutrition and health – can be traced through a genealogy of historical social imperatives and moral panics. “Food, Morals and Meaning” is essential reading for those studying nutrition, public health, sociology of health and illness, and sociology of the body.

 free market madness
Ubel PA (2009) Free Market Madness: Why human nature is at odds with economics – and why it matters. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

In this book, Peter Ubel, a physician, argues that trusting the market economy and associated freedoms of choice to solve major health problems is a problematic plan. He reviews the history of economic thought, and in particular the development of the field of behavioural economics — a field that emerged when selected economists began to question the underlying economic assumption that humans will ultimately behave rationally. He illustrates his arguments with vignettes of research studies, as well as his own experiences at home and in the clinic, in what is a very accessible and easy-to-read text. Ultimately, he argues that some market regulation will be required to curb things like high levels of obesity, but that market regulation should not be confused with any form of ‘nanny state’ behaviour.

 fit not fat
Sassi F (2010) Obesity and the Economics of Prevention: Fit not fat. OECD.

Obesity has risen to the top of the public health policy agenda worldwide. Before 1980, rates were generally well below 10%. They have since doubled or tripled in many countries, and in almost half of the OECD, 50% or more of the population is overweight. A key risk factor for numerous chronic diseases, obesity is a major public health concern. There is a popular perception that explanations for the obesity epidemic are simple and solutions within reach. But the data reveal a more complicated picture, one in which even finding objective evidence on the phenomenon is difficult. Policy makers, health professionals and academics all face challenges in understanding the epidemic and devising effective counter strategies. This book contributes to evidence-based policy making by exploring multiple dimensions of the obesity problem. It examines the scale and characteristics of the epidemic, the respective roles and influence of market forces and governments, and the impact of interventions. It outlines an economic approach to the prevention of chronic diseases that provides novel insights relative to a more traditional public health approach. The analysis was undertaken by the OECD, partly in collaboration with the World Health Organization. The main chapters are complemented by special contributions from health and obesity experts, including Marc Suhrcke, Tim Lobstein, Donald Kenkel and Francesco Branca.

Brown H (2010) The Economic Causes and Consequences of Obesity: Three empirical applications. Lambert Academic Publishing.

Rising worldwide obesity rates have generated massive amounts of policy concern and public interest. In this book, we use two household surveys (British Household Panel Survey (BHPS) and Household and Income Dynamics of Australia (HILDA)) to empirically analyse: 1) the relationship between obesity and economic incentives that influence individual and household behaviour; 2) the role of the environment and economic incentives on discretionary activities which directly impact the likelihood of being obese, such as physical activity; and 3) the impact of obesity on labour market outcomes.

 fat economics Mazzocchi M, Traill WB, Shogren JF (2009) Fat Economics: Nutrition, health and economic policy. Oxford University Press.The obesity epidemic and the growing debate about what, if any, public health policy should be adopted is the subject of endless debates within the media and in governments around the world. Whilst much has been written on the subject, this book takes a unique approach by looking at the obesity epidemic from an economic perspective. Written in a language accessible to non-specialists, the authors provide a timely discussion of evolving nutrition policies in both the developing and developed world, discuss the factors influencing supply and demand of food supply, and review the evidence for various factors which may explain recent trends in diets, weight, and health. The traditional economic model assumes people choose to be overweight as part of a utility maximisation process that involves choices about what to eat and drink, how much time to spend on leisure, food preparation, and exercise, and choices about appearance and health. Market and behavioural failures, however, such as time available to a person, education, costs imposed on the health system and economic productivity provide the economic rationale for government intervention. The authors explore various policy measures designed to deal with the epidemic and examine their effectiveness within a cost-benefit analysis framework. While providing a sound economic basis for analysing policy decisions, the book also aims to show the underlying limits of the economic framework in quantifying changes in public well-being.
 food body self
Lupton, D (1996) Food, the Body and the Self. London: Sage.

In this wide-ranging and thought-provoking analysis of the sociocultural and personal meanings of food and eating, Deborah Lupton explores the relationship between food and embodiment, the emotions and subjectivity. She includes discussion of the intertwining of food, meaning and culture in the context of childhood and the family, as well as: the gendered social construction of foodstuffs; food tastes, dislikes and preferences; the dining-out experience; spirituality; and the `civilized’ body. She draws on diverse sources, including representations of food and eating in film, literature, advertising, gourmet magazines, news reports and public health literature, and her own empirical research into people’s preferences, memories, experiences and emotional responses to food.

Haslam DW & Haslam F (2009) Fat, Gluttony And Sloth: Obesity In Literature, Art And Medicine. Liverpool University Press.

Historical symbol of wealth and fertility, stigma of the modern West, and currently the world’s second-leading cause of preventable death: despite advances in hygiene, science, and public health, obesity and its corpulent imagery are inescapable reminders of a global epidemic and its manifold incarnations. For the first time, the number of overweight people in the world has overtaken the number of those malnourished and in Fat, Gluttony, and Sloth, the current crisis is put in historical perspective. The authors examine the changing meaning of “fat” in the public consciousness—reconsidering art, literature, and the history of medicine alongside circus freaks, pharmacology, and present-day trends in food and fashion—all in an effort to glean knowledge from examining our heavy past.

Dixon J & Broom DH (2007) The 7 deadly sins of obesity. How the modern world is making us fat. Sydney: UNSW Press.

In the thirteenth century, Saint Thomas Aquinas identified the seven major sins. These sins, particularly sloth and greed, are now frequently invoked to explain obesity.The Seven Deadly Sins of Obesity argues that the skyrocketing increase in the rate of obesity in Australia (as has also occurred in many Western countries) is not due to morally suspect individuals. Instead it points to a modern society that lacks the virtues necessary for people to adopt and maintain healthy behaviours.The book details seven contemporary sins that contribute to the obesity and overweight epidemic: 1. An obsession with consumption 2. Time pressures 3. Parenting demands 4. Obsessions with technology 5. A reliance on cars 6. The marketing of unhealthy products, and 7. Competing sources of advice. The authors then suggest ways of challenging these sins.

Delpeuch F, Maire B, Monnier E, Holdsworth M (2009) Globesity: A planet out of control? London: Earthscan.

Obesity represents one of the major global health challenges of the 21st century. Its occurrence has now reached epidemic proportions, not only in industrialized nations, but increasingly in less developed countries too. Written by world-leading specialists in public health nutrition, Globesity cuts straight to the underlying nature and causes of this devastating trend. It shows that the causes of obesity are primarily socio-economic and the result of a distorted agricultural and food production and supply system. To address this problem, we must learn how to better manage the physical, social and economic environment rather than simply focusing on individual lifestyle choices. The authors draw startling parallels between the obesity crisis and climate change, both of which are characterized by the over-consumption of increasingly scarce resources and require radical, urgent and sustainable solutions. The authors argue that if we are to deal with the twin crises of our climate and our waistlines, action must be taken now. Drawing on a wide range of sources and disciplines, including anthropology, economics, sociology, epidemiology, medicine and nutrition, Globesity provides a vital treatment of the issues for general readers, health professionals, policy-makers and students alike.

Forth CE & Carden-Coyne A (eds) (2005) Cultures of the Abdomen: Diet, Digestion, and Fat in the Modern World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

We live in a world obsessed with abdomens. Whether we call it the belly, tummy, or stomach, we take this area of the body for granted as an object of our gaze, the subject of our obsessions, and the location of deeply felt desires. Diet, nutrition, and exercise all play critical roles in the development of our body images and thus our sense of self, not least because how we are made to feel about bodies (both our own and those of others) is often grounded in dietary and lifestyle choices. Cultures of the Abdomen traces the history of social, cultural, and medical ideas about the stomach and related organs since the seventeenth century, and demonstrates that a focused study of the abdomen is necessary for understanding the deep historical meanings that underscore our contemporary obsessions with hunger, diet, fat, indigestion, and excretion. It locates that history from dietary ideals in early modern Europe to the vexing issue of American fat in the twenty-first century, surveying along the way developments in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Russia.

Lambert H & McDonald M (eds) (2009) Social Bodies. New York: Berghan Books.

A proliferation of press headlines, social science texts and “ethical” concerns about the social implications of recent developments in human genetics and biomedicine have created a sense that, at least in European and American contexts, both the way we treat the human body and our attitudes towards it have changed.This volume asks what really happens to social relations in the face of new types of transaction – such as organ donation, forensic identification and other new medical and reproductive technologies – that involve the use of corporeal material. Drawing on comparative insights into how human biological material is treated, it aims to consider how far human bodies and their components are themselves inherently “social.”The case studies – ranging from animal-human transformations in Amazonia to forensic reconstruction in post-conflict Serbia and the treatment of Native American specimens in English museums – all underline that, without social relations, there are no bodies but only “human remains.” The volume gives us new and striking ethnographic insights into bodies as sociality, as well as a potentially powerful analytical reconsideration of notions of embodiment. It makes a novel contribution, too, to “science and society” debates.

Longhurst R (2001) Bodies: exploring fluid boundaries. London: Routledge.

Exploring bodiy boundaries and fluids can prompt new understandings of power, knowledge and social relationships between people and places.Geography has recently seen something of a ‘body craze’. The politics that surround bodies and spaces are increasingly being held up to scrutiny. Despite this, the ‘leaky’, ‘messy’ zones between the inside and outside of bodies and their resulting spatial relationships, remain largely unexamined in the discipline.This book revolves around three case studies – pregnant bodies in public places, men’s bodies in domestic toilets and bathrooms, managers’ bodies in Central Business Districts. These bodies share an abject materiality. The pregnant body threatens to expel matter from inside. It is often constructed as ‘ugly’ and as ‘matter out of place’ in the public sphere. Geographers have ignored men’s bodies in domestic toilets and bathrooms boundaries are broken and then made solid again.Women and men managers in Central Business Districts are increasingly expected to have firm and flexible bodies. Highly tailored, dark coloured business suits provide straight lines and starched creases that give the appearence of a body which is impervious to leakage or penetration.The case studies illustrate that bodies and spaces are socially constructed and yet have an undeniable materiality and fluidity. Ignoring the everyday materiality of bodies that ‘leak’ and ‘seep’ is not a harmless ommission, rather it contains a political imperative that helps keep masculinism intact.

Braziel JE & LeBesco K (eds) (2001) Bodies out of bounds: Fatness and transgression. Berkley: University of California Press.

Since World War II, when the diet and fitness industries promoted mass obsession with weight and body shape, fat has been a dirty word. In the United States, fat is seen as repulsive, funny, ugly, unclean, obscene, and above all as something to lose. Bodies Out of Bounds challenges these dominant perceptions by examining social representations of the fat body. The contributors to this collection show that what counts as fat and how it is valued are far from universal; the variety of meanings attributed to body size in other times and places demonstrates that perceptions of corpulence are infused with cultural, historical, political, and economic biases. The exceptionally rich and engaging essays collected in this volume question discursive constructions of fatness while analyzing the politics and power of corpulence and addressing the absence of fat people in media representations of the body.

Nutzenadel A & Trentmann F (eds) (2008) Food and Globalization: Consumption, Markets and Politics in the Modern World. Oxford: Berg.

Food has a special significance in the expanding field of global history. Food markets were the first to become globally integrated, linking distant cultures of the world, and in no other area have the interactions between global exchange and local cultural practices been as pronounced as in changing food cultures. In this wide-ranging and fascinating book, the authors provide an historical overview of the relationship between food and globalization in the modern world. Together, the chapters of this book provide a fresh perspective on both global history and food studies. As such, this book will be of interest to a wide range of students and scholars of history, food studies, sociology, anthropology and globalization.

Offer A (2006) The Challenge of Affluence. Self-Control and Well-Being in the United States and Britain since 1950. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Since the 1940s Americans and Britons have come to enjoy an era of rising material abundance. Yet this has been accompanied by a range of social and personal disorders, including family breakdown, addiction, mental instability, crime, obesity, inequality, economic insecurity, and declining trust. Avner Offer argues that well-being has lagged behind affluence in these societies, because they present an environment in which consistent choices are difficult to achieve over different time ranges and in which the capacity for personal and social commitment is undermined by the flow of novelty. His approach draws on economics and social science, makes use of the latest cognitive research, and provides a detailed and reasoned critique of modern consumer society, especially the assumption that freedom of choice necessarily maximizes individual and social well-being. The book falls into three parts. Part one analyses the ways in which economic resources map on to human welfare, why choice is so intractable, and how commitment to people and institutions is sustained. It argues that choice is constrained by prior obligation and reciprocity. The second section then applies these conceptual arguments to comparative empirical studies of advertising, of eating and obesity, and of the production and acquisition of appliances and automobiles. Finally, in part three, Offer investigates social and personal relations in the USA and Britain, including inter-personal regard, the rewards and reversals of status, the social and psychological costs of inequality, and the challenges posed to heterosexual love and to parenthood by the rise of affluence.

Ulijaszek SJ (1995) Human energetics in biological anthropology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Many aspects of human activity involve energy transfer of some type. Human Energetics in Biological Anthropology examines some of the ways in which measurements of energy intake, expenditure and balance have been used to study human populations by biological anthropologists and human biologists. The book provides an integration of human adaptation and adaptability approaches, placing these issues in an ecological context by considering traditional subsistence economies in the developing world. This is the first volume to present such an integrated approach, and will be useful in the teaching of biological anthropology, human population biology, nutritional anthropology, and third world nutrition at senior undergraduate and graduate student level.

Ulijaszek SJ, Johnston FE, Preece MA (eds) (1998) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Growth and Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Human Growth and Development is a comprehensive but accessible account of the current understanding of the factors affecting human growth and development. Over 120 internationally renowned experts have contributed to the book, covering topics such as fetal and post-natal growth, the relative impact of genetic and environmental factors, behavioural development, growth abnormalities, the human lifespan and the prospects for future generations. Extensively illustrated with photographs, graphs and diagrams, it offers a great breadth of topic coverage, providing insights into the subject for those not familiar with the areas as well as being essential reading for all students and professionals interested in growth and development, child health and nutrition.

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