Over the years, we have seen obesity medicalized into an epidemic. Within our pop cultural world, obesity has been integrated into prime-time television with such programs as The Biggest Loser, Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition, I Used to be Fat. Not to mention the fact that celebrities and their weight gains or losses infiltrate entertainment news on a daily basis. We follow various journeys of weight gain and weight loss with celebrities because they are constantly in the public sphere.
Jennifer Hudson, once the first plus-sized woman (and only the third black woman) to grace the cover of Vogue fashion magazine, now serves as the spokeswoman for Weight Watchers. On the Dr. Oz show, Hudson shared the secrets to her weight loss success noting exercise techniques, food choices and the over-all sense of happiness she feels now that she is thinner and “healthier”.
But not all celebrities endorse the “thinner” lifestyle as a “healthier” lifestyle. Recently, Lady Gaga responded to criticisms concerning her recent weight gain by launching Body Revolution, a site geared towards body acceptance and body tolerance.
What we see in this celebrity sphere, is the discourse of obesity practiced and enforced through tactics of biopower. If our society continues to enforce a “healthy” lifestyle as that of a “thin” lifestyle, then we are enforcing the notion that fatness equates to an unhealthy lifestyle. Thus fatness (or obesity) equates to some form of badness within our society.
Obesity is often linked to mental issues, especially in women. How many times have you heard women (or been a woman who says), “I’m totally eating my feelings right now”? Or after a long day, “I just want to just pig out and be lazy tonight”? Women are frequently judged by their bodies, are controlled by their bodies and thus women are taught to control their bodies. Be curvy, look like a woman with breasts and hips, but not too curvy. Be thin but not too thin, otherwise you’ll look like a boy.
If a person is fat, we use our knowledge of unhappiness passed down through biopower, to label a person as troubled, unhappy or depressed.
Society has capitalized on this concept of the happy, thin person trapped inside the layer of fat with shows like The Biggest Loser and I Used to be Fat. But what if “fat” people are happy? Or “thin” people? And why can’t we just leave them alone?