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The Weight Attached to Dieting: Health, Beauty and Morality in Sweden from the End of the Nineteenth Century to the Present Day
Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences, GIH, Department of Sport and Health Sciences, Sport History Research Group.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8501-8987
2019 (English)In: Athens Journal of Health and Medical Sciences, E-ISSN 2653-9411, Vol. 6, no 4, p. 243-260Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Over the last hundred years a new ideal body norm has been established. We should be thin, or at least strive to be. Consequently, dieting has become a topical subject. This article aims to examine the history of Swedish dieting from the introduction of William Banting's diet into Sweden at the end of the nineteenth century to the present day. The article takes tries to answer the following questions: Why did people diet? Was it for aesthetic, social or health reasons? Or was it a physical expression of good morality in the form of self-discipline and control? The theoretical basis of this study is inspired by Michael Foucault's concept of biopower and the study method is a qualitative text analysis done by examining medical books and weekly newspapers. The findings show that a strong argument for dieting was the health risks which corpulence was deemed to be linked to. But there were moral, aesthetic and psychosocial reasons too. All these reasons appeared, to a lesser or greater extent, in both medical books and weeklies during the whole period. Aesthetic reasons, however, featured most prominently in weeklies, whereas medical books devoted most space to health reasons. When discussing the latter, physicians, often, however, strayed onto moral reasons. Highlighted as the psychosocial reason were the derision and insults corpulent people endured, which made their lives miserable because they could not participate in society in the same way as thin people. In this context, dieting was portrayed as little short of a miracle. If only an overweight person became thin, their life would change and they would be happy. There is such an abundance of these dieting stories in weeklies that they constitute their own genre.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Athens Institute for Education and Research (ATINER), 2019. Vol. 6, no 4, p. 243-260
Keywords [en]
Dieting, Body norm, History, Biopower, Qualitative text analysis
National Category
History
Research subject
Social Sciences/Humanities
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:gih:diva-5936DOI: 10.30958/ajhms.6-4-4OAI: oai:DiVA.org:gih-5936DiVA, id: diva2:1374684
Available from: 2019-12-02 Created: 2019-12-02 Last updated: 2019-12-02Bibliographically approved

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Publisher's full texthttps://www.athensjournals.gr/health/2019-6-4-4-Wanneberg.pdf

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Lundquist Wanneberg, Pia

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