I've been reading The 100 Year Diet, by Susan Yager, a history of dietiting. This fascinating book chronicles America's obsession with thinness as a means of controlling one's life when it feels otherwise uncontrollable. It reveals the historical roots, in terms of what was happening in US history during various times in the past 100 years, and how this affecting our cultural ideals for the human body.
Isn't it amazing that the whole idea of dieting or thinness only began 100 years ag0? Many in our society take it as an article of faith that thin is good, and says a lot about the person's integrity, self control and overall attractiveness. 100 years ago, the idea of calories was not known, and the means of gaining or losing weight was not well understood. Yager describes the popular ideas about fatness, and how being "overweight" was not a BAD thing, until several journalists began writing about the idea.
During the 1930's, when many felt that life was not in their control, one easy way of creating (at least) the illusion of control, was to control what you ate, and therefore your weight. Amazing, isn't it, that during a time when many people did not have enough food to eat, that others worked hard to LOSE weight. What irony!