Controlling Bodies: Mothers, Adolescents, and Bad Advice

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Virginia Tech

Since the 1990s, medical and media articles containing the word "obesity" inevitably included the word "epidemic" as well. These articles usually pointed to the exponential growth in overweight and obese persons in high-income and low-income countries alike. A recent field of literature called "fat studies" has sought to question this so-called epidemic, bringing to light inconsistencies or down-right falsehoods present in obesity research. While researchers in this field have importantly uncovered many myths surrounding obesity and overweight, examinations of the rhetorical strategies used to approve potentially dangerous weight loss or weight maintenance procedures remain few.

This thesis project hopes to cover just a portion of that gap by examining two groups targeted most directly by obesity researchers: women and children. Particularly, this research examines potentially dangerous recommendations made by doctors and the media to pregnant obese women and obese adolescents. Ultimately, this project uncovers dualisms of wrong versus right bodies and fat stigmatization in the "objective" language of health about obesity. This polemic leaves pregnant women and adolescents little choice except either to conform or to face a world of media and medicine that blames these two groups for the "choice" to remain fat.

rhetoric, Obesity, adolescents, pregnancy, Women