Moral panic over weight (article)
Here's an excellent interview with Paul Campos, the author of The Diet Myth (originally titled The Ob***** Myth), a book that offers a devastating account of the current hysteria about weight, the fallacy of weight control, and the outright perniciousness of the diet industry.
The entire article is worth reading, but this Q&A effectively sets out the theme:
And here are some highlights. Campos too often concentrates on material grounds for people's behaviours, whereas material concerns are only part of the issue - and not even the most significant part - but many of his observations are spot on:
But there are two items in particular that I want to single out as very significant observations:
Also, note this:
Brilliant point - noting that this Puritan impulse crosses political lines. Weight bigots are astonishingly maniacal in their beliefs, like the worst kind of religious zealots, and voluptuousness seems to offend both modern political morality and traditional religious morality in equal measure.
I've often read statements at this site referring to the modern minimalist standard as "the aesthetics of guilt," and Campos's statement amplifies this point.
Re: Moralistic panic over weight (article)
I wouldn't say traditional religious morality. Outside of monasticism, the old, Church-dominated European culture loved the pleasures of the flesh!
Re: Moralistic panic over weight (article)
"Traditional" is a loaded word, or can be. Mr. Campos was speaking of the traditions of the United States, where the first seekers of religious freedom were Calvinist Puritans, for whom the flesh was a snare of evil -- a sentiment repackaged for today by the weight-loss industrial complex.
Re: Moral panic over weight (article)
Maureen and Kristina both make excellent points. As Maureen suggests, the early American Puritanical mindset does seem to have laid the foundation for today's "aesthetics of guilt." It is troubling how seamlessly Puritanism has morphed into the new political religion (call it "social justice" or "political correctness" or whatever you will) that informs modern media values, and is infecting society as a whole. Nietzsche, who was right about everything, would have identified both moral and political Puritanism as expressions of "slave morality," and in this, the anti-aristocratic aspect of U.S. history plays a destructive role.
However, Kristina is very much correct when she notes that "the old, Church-dominated European culture loved the pleasures of the flesh." Very true!
One cannot do any significant travelling in Europe without seeing countless utterly gorgeous depictions of the Blessed Virgin Mary--depictions that are often astonishingly sensual, and show the Virgin with very soft, well-fed features that testify to an un-Puritanical degree of self-indulgence.
(All of the following photographs were taken by the author in Germany, this past August.)
This enchanting life-size sculpture from the cathedral museum in Frankfurt-am-Main (the birthplace of Goethe) shows Mary with the Christ Child, and originates in the Lower Rhine, c.1520.
Observe how soft and full her facial features appear. With her gentle blue eyes and youthful, rosy glow, she reminds one of Kelsey Olson.
The next two carvings are housed in the Liebieghaus sculpture collection, also in Frankfurt-am-Main. This depiction of the Virgin Mary is a product of Ile-de-France, c.1330.
Her lovely face is very round, and sumptuously fleshy.
A profile photo shows a prominent, seductive curve under her chin.
The next sculpture, titled Figure of Mary from a Visitation Group, is of Upper Swabian origin, c.1520.
Mary's facial features appear especially round, her cheeks very plump,
and the soft curve under her chin is unmistakable.
From the Museum of the Teutonic Knights in Bad Mergentheim comes this Fragment of the Holy Family, also c.1520.
The Virgin's face is somewhat damaged (scars of the Reformation, sadly), but the lavish fullness of her features, and the fleshiness of her neck, is lovingly depicted.
The next two artworks are housed in the collection of the City Museum of Göttingen, where Otto von Bismarck spent his student years. First, a Virgin Mary of 1420-30:
Again, note the sensually plump neck.
Second, a really wonderful piece--the central screen of a winged altar by Dietrich Vormann and Ulrich Adam, dated 1477.
The round, fair visage of the crowned Virgin reminds one of Kailee O'Sullivan.
A profile view shows an alluring curve under her chin.
The city of Dortmund, on the eastern end of the Ruhr conurbation, boasts several noteworthy sights, particularly the Monument of Kaiser Wilhelm I on the Hohensyburg, and an excellent Museum of Art and Cultural History. One of the loveliest pieces in the museum's collection (and also one of the hardest to photograph, due to the glass screen) is this depiction of the Holy Family by Jan Baegert, c.1530.
The facial features of the Virgin are almost indescribably beautiful--perfectly round and soft, featuring the sensual rise of a slope toward the throat.
For the last two pieces in this essay, we return to the Liebieghaus in Frankfurt-am-Main. First, another Virgin Mary from Ile-de-France, c.1330.
Her face appears noble, and decadently full.
And finally, here is a really stunning work--a Crucifixion Altar by the "Master of the Rimini Altar" (as this unknown artist is dubbed), from the southern Netherlands, c.1430.
Observe the group of female mourners at the foot of the left cross.
Their facial features appear extravagantly luxurious and fleshy, all with plump cheeks and seductive curves under their chins.
These gorgeous Catholic artworks confirm Kristina's observation that "the old, Church-dominated European culture loved the pleasures of the flesh," for the sensual fullness that is evident in these images of the Blessed Virgin Mary testifies to an appreciation of well-fed beauty. After all, as the holiest of women, the Mother of God would not have been depicted in this manner if such obvious indicates of a generous appetite were viewed negatively. Rather, these images indicate that plump femininity was seen as ideally beautiful--even sacred.
Campos isn't right about everything, but his identification of the forces that have created an unholy alliance to spread weight hysteria and curve-o-phobia is spot on, as is his denunciation of the stigmatization of full-figured girls as "child abuse as government policy." If ever there was a case of the government becoming too intrusive in people's lives, this is it. Likewise, if there was ever grounds for wresting back control of our culture from the neo-Puritanical zealots who currently govern it, here it is.
Re: Moral panic over weight (article)
I bought the book a few years ago and it is very good reading. A true eye opener! One thing that Paul Campos touches on in his book is the interesting fact that many of the people who enter the field of nutrition become powerful arbiters and leaders in the field, deciding what is healthy and what is not, and the scary thing is that they have often suffered from or still suffer from serious eating disorders. Many nutritionists and others in related fields were anorexic. Many probably still are. Therefore, their ideas about food and weight are grossly abnormal. Yet, these sick people who need help dealing with their own food issues are allowed to enter fields where they get to twist and confuse the minds of the public. So, not only have they NOT dealt with their own disordered eating and twisted view of food, but they foist their disordered ideas onto the public - all on the government's dime, of course! People who loathe food and are afraid of it telling the entire world how to eat "healthy".
In an odd way it's rather like the fox guarding the hen house.
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