ABSTRACT

Since the WHO (1998) lamented the so-called ‘obesity epidemic’ over a decade ago, there has been much rhetoric and concern about fatness/weight/obesity across an increasing range of national contexts.1 Alarmist claims about an ‘obesity time-bomb’ are continually recycled in policy reports, reviews and white papers, each of which begin with the assumption that fatness is fundamentally unhealthy and damaging to national economies (UK examples include: AMRC 2013; Foresight 2007; HOC 2004). This rhetoric and the associated moral panic have been amplified by a dramatising mass media (Boero 2012; also, see Boero in this issue) and have in no way dissipated even though certain ‘sceptics’ maintain the ‘crisis’ is coming to an end (Gard 2011; for a critique, see Lupton 2013). Recent examples of what Saguy and Almeling (2005) call ‘fat panic’ are not difficult to find. In February 2013, shortly before we finalised this special issue, the AMRC (2013, 7) released a well-publicised report, Measuring Up, which reiterated the dominant view: fatness is ‘a problem of epidemic proportions’ that ‘must now be tackled urgently’. Similar to earlier manifestations of fat panic (see McPhail 2009, for example), these public health concerns intersect with broader political economic anxieties about poor national fitness, with the UK labelled as ‘the “fat man” (sic) of Europe’ (AMRC 2013, 3). This document, like others before it, legitimises calls for various interventions to tackle the ‘problem of obesity’ (e.g. intensified surveillance inside and outside of the clinic, including injunctions that healthcare professionals must attend to their own weight); interventions which aim to literally reduce the number of bodies of ‘size’ and the size of individuals’ bodies (Evans and Colls 2009).