Humans love to measure things, for example temperature, time, distance and calorie intake. Increasingly, we have discovered new ways to apply these measurements to our own bodies. New technologies have allowed us to collect this data more precisely than before and also, perhaps more importantly, to have these measurements available at all times. “Worrying” about our body has become second nature to us so much that we may not even realize how much of our time revolves around tracking ourselves. Every January, magazines, websites, and social media outdo each other in giving weight-loss advice and fueling a guilty conscience. So we are forced to consider working on our “beach body” for the summer. Starting a diet, working out, getting in…

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“Why do they always look at me like that?” That’s what I think when I consistently see the same white men and women on the running trail in my neighborhood. My boyfriend and I recently moved to this neighborhood, motivated in part by the vast amount of running trails in the area. Granted, I see more people using the trails to walk their dogs in the morning, but I don’t mind the dogs. What I do mind are the constantly surveilling eyes that watch me as I jog over the bridge.  I cannot help but think that their gaze is a response to both my being black and running on the trail. My blackness may be disrupting their racially homogenous…

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Prevailing voices in the public and health sciences state that lower class people are much more likely to become “overweight” compared to their “middle” and “high class” counterparts. In this sense, the so-called “obesity epidemic” becomes inseparable from the discussion of class, and the equation remains clear: “the poor are fat and the fat are poor.” In order to explain the link between class and body weight, people generally refer to two assumptions about poor people: they have less access to healthy food and they don’t know which food is healthy. Over the last decades, studies that explore the social determinants of health and illness in populations (“social-epidemiology”) have particularly discussed this relation between food and fatness as a class…

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While the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program in which low-income men constructed trails and lodges in parks, built public roads, and otherwise improved the American environment, lasted just under a decade, it has remained an incredibly popular agency in American consciousness. Organizations push its memory, the National Park Service celebrates its past, and Americans write a surprising number of editorials about how we should revive the program. This is an unusual amount of love for a social welfare program, most of which are loathed and stigmatized in the U.S. Why are so many welfare programs villainized, even when they include a work component, while the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) invokes such pride and nostalgia? There are several reasons…

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Weight Watchers first launched an online program “customized just for guys” in 2007, one of their advertisements proclaimed, “Real men don’t diet.” This counterintuitive declaration evoked the questions that animate my current research. I’m analyzing how the consumer culture constructs notions of “real men” through depictions of food and the body, particularly during moments of intense social change and anxiety. As you might have guessed, commercial weight loss programs, developed for men in the early decades of the new millennium, provide ample evidence. Men have made up a small but consistent 10 percent of the Weight Watchers membership since the company’s founding in 1963. Throughout the decades, program materials, cookbooks, and magazines have each addressed men. For example, the 1973…

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