Food, Fatness and Fitness – Critical Perspectives

In Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, exercising is now all the rage. Scores of joggers take to the streets before sunrise, or just after sunset, while others gather in parks and roundabouts to exercise together, often to the commands of an instructor. Some use public staircases for sprints and jump-squats, and benches for triceps dips. The practice of physical activity in this part of the world is, of course, not entirely new, and the colonial histories of sports and leisure offer an important historical backdrop against which to understand current trends. But fitness, as a pursuit driven by a combination of health and aesthetic concerns is a novel and increasingly popular phenomenon. Only a few years ago, gyms and joggers…

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Posted in Fitness Practices, Politics of Beauty

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Tagged body fat, exercise, Femininity, mozambique

In the 1970s, Christmas Eve was divided between extremes. First, we had Toast Hawaii, like many other Germans in the Federal Republic: take a slice of sandwich bread, cover it with ham and a wheel of canned pineapple, top it with a slice of gleaming yellow processed cheese, bake it, and stick a bright red maraschino cherry in the resulting crusty indentation. Arranged on bread that, according to ‘low-food biographer’ Carolyn Wyman, was “tamed to be more palatable to a broader range of people from … the small kid to the adult,” Toast Hawaii was the stringy glue that held our nation together. An exotic feast for eyes and palate, it created a sense of belonging against all odds, even for a ten-year-old like myself.…

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Posted in Diet Practices, Eating the Other, Food and Space

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Tagged bread, German food culture, Pumpernickel, Toast Hawaii

Popular culture produced, circulated, and challenged ideals of the female body in the 19th century as much as in the 21st century. Serials, novels published in installments, and short stories in fashionable literary magazines were as popular and religiously followed as Netflix original series today. As romance was one of the most important genres, what made women attractive was defined in these stories and nationally distributed as normative beauty and gender ideals. The fascination with female body weight at the end of the 19th century is a case in point: it reflected a broader shift in what constituted ideal femininity and how it was to be embodied.  In 1863 a small pamphlet, A Letter on Corpulence, triggered the first dieting craze in the United…

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Posted in Body Politics, Diet Practices, Media Culture, Politics of Beauty

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Tagged 19th Century USA, Beauty, Corset, Femininity, Self-help

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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Posted in Diet Practices, Politics of Health, Quantification

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Tagged body weight, history of technologies, technologies of measurement, weighing

In the October 2018 issue of UK’s Cosmopolitan, “one of the busiest working models today,” Tess Holliday, was featured on the cover (Farrah Storr). The image of Holliday caused quite a stir, because this “Cosmo girl,” an iconic figure who has since the 1960s defined ideals of female beauty and attractiveness, is a white, fat woman who is shown blowing a kiss at her readers while wearing a green bathing suit. The image displays her full body, accompanied by the headline: “A Supermodel Roars: Tess Holliday Wants Her Haters to Kiss Her Ass.” Inside the magazine, writer Farrah Storr teases the article by listing that Holliday “weighs 300lbs.,” “grew up in a trailer in Mississippi,” has “suffered abuse,” and “cried just minutes” before the…

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Posted in Diet Practices

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Tagged body positivity, feminism, healthism

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