The History of Obesity
Obesity is simply fatness in a degree higher than being overweight. The energy intake coming from food is stored as fat because the body does not use it. Obesity has quite an impact in one’s physical health that many degenerative diseases are directly and indirectly linked to obesity as observed in the history of obesity. It may even have a much worse impact on a person’s mental health. Throughout the history of obesity, its reputation varies from appreciation and the opposite among cultures and in time.
Take a look in the history of obesity and we’ll learn that this is truly an age-old health condition. Ancient Egyptians are said to consider obesity as a disease, having been drawn in a wall of depicted illnesses. Perhaps the most famous and earliest evidence of obesity is the Venus figurines, statuettes of an obese female torso that probably had a major role in rituals. Ancient China have also been aware of obesity and the dangers that come with it. They have always been a believer of prevention as a key to longevity. The Aztecs believed that obesity was supernatural, an affliction of the gods. Hippocrates, the father of medicine, was aware of sudden deaths being more common among obese men than lean ones as stated in his writings. In certain cultures and areas where food is scarce and poverty is prevalent obesity is viewed as a symbol of wealth and social status. To date, an African tribe purposely plumps up a bride to prepare her for child bearing. Before a wedding can be set, a slim bride is pampered to gain weight until she reaches the suitable weight.
Throughout the history of obesity, the public’s view and status of obesity changed considerably in the 1900’s. It was regarded as unfashionable by the French designer, Paul Poiret who designed skin-revealing clothes for women. About the same time, the incidence of obesity began to increase and become widespread. Later in the 1940’s, Metropolitan Life Insurance published a chart of ideal weights for various heights. They also advocated that weight gain parallel to age is not ok. The government and the medical society became more hands-on with obesity by initiating a campaign against it. This was preceded by a study of risk factors of cardiovascular diseases revealing obesity among the high ranks. Since then various diet and exercise programs have emerged. In 1996, the Body Mass Index (BMI) was published. This statistical calculation and index determined if a person is obese or not. At this time, obesity incidence have soared, led by children and adolescent obesity, tripling in just a few short years, greater than any number in the history of obesity.
Perhaps the most controversial is the independent film, Super Size Me. Released in 2004, Super Size Me was written, produced and directed by American independent filmmaker, Martin Spurlock in an exploration of the prevalence of obesity in the USA. He documented 30 days of his life in an experiment of eating only McDonald’s food with completely no exercise. He began the project as healthy and lean but ended up overweight. It was later followed by several other documentaries and a few changes in the McDonald’s menu. The history of obesity should be well studied so precautions can be practiced and thus prevent obesity from spreading.
Over the years and in the history of obesity, it seems to worsen despite growing awareness and combating techniques that it has been called an epidemic.