The Opposite of Obesity
The book concludes by examining how a group of committed Guatemalan nutritionists sought to redefine the standards of ideal weight by emphasizing the importance of fatness. Whereas the BMI situates thinness in opposition to obesity, these nutritionists positioned fatness as obesity’s opposite. While they associated obesity with metabolic illness, an increased reliance on processed foods, and the stress of urbanization, they used fatness to refer to a hearty, healthy appetite and a life in which balance was fluid and imprecise. Fatness did not reference weight, but the fullness experienced by finding deep pleasure, satisfaction, and richness in bodies and food. This focus on experiences and relations and not on quantities of calories or weight destabilized the dangerous practices of restrictive dieting; with fatness—a way of being that defied measurement—the commonly taught equation “input minus output = dietary balance” simply did not add up. Through this final examination of forms of health that cannot be quantified, the book makes a case for the value of anthropological approaches to knowledge-making in the fields of nutrition, medicine, and global health.
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