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Appetite. 1996 Oct;27(2):97-108.

The epidemic of dieting women: the need for a sociological approach to food and nutrition.

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Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia.


The social construction of overweight has meant that dieting is an experience of being a woman in Western society. Health promotion fails to counteract the cult of slimness and reinforces medicalized notions of the "problem" of overweight, legitimizing unnecessary dieting practices. The limitations of the health promotion approach are examined through medicalization and healthism critiques. The negative consequences for women of dieting to control weight are highlighted in this article through the concepts of gendered food and gendered bodies. The issue of gender and dieting is used here to illustrate the need for interdisciplinary and qualitative approaches to the study of food and nutrition practices, before intervening to change those practices. An examination of the social implications of health promotion in the area of weight control exposes the need for a moratorium on such strategies until a database of qualitative research is established through sociological studies on food and nutrition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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