San Diego professor leads the way in fat studies

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Photo by 'Christian Cable' via Flickr

Photo by 'Christian Cable' via Flickr

Nowadays, college students can major in almost anything they are interested in.  There are academic fields that are relatively new and gaining popularity today, such as gay and lesbian studies.  Fat studies is one more addition.

Fat studies grew out of the fat liberation movement of the 1960s, exploring the social and political consequences of being overweight.  Courses on topics such as weight discrimination and body image have been taught by sociologists, psychologists, and heath educators.

This emerging academic field is led by San Diego State University professor Esther Rothblum.  As a psychology professor at the University of Vermont, she spent 20 years studying discrimination.  In the past four years at SDSU, she has been focusing on women’s studies.  Her co-edited book, “The Fat Studies Reader,” will be published next month.

What sparked her interest in fat studies is how there is open prejudice against fat people.  People are rarely open about their sexist or racist views, yet many of her research subjects did not withhold their negative views about obese Americans.

Why this field is growing rapidly is due to Americans becoming more obese.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67 percent of Americans are overweight or obese today compared to 45 percent in 1962.

The recurring theme of her book is challenging the stereotypes of overweight people being lazy, ugly, stupid, smelly, and greedy.  Rothblum believes that fitness, not fatness, is what matters.  Weighing 230 pounds herself, she takes pride in staying fit through her 30 years of racquetball experience.  Weight is merely a number, and being healthy is what is important.

Living a busier lifestyle than the generation before, many Americans nowadays have no other choice than to eat fast food.  In addition, the media is pressuring Americans to become thinner and thinner.

As Janet Harris, the director of SDSU’s School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences told Union-Tribune, “Extreme obesity is still unhealthy, but claims about the need to be slender to be healthy are exaggerated.”

Exercising three times a week for thirty minutes can greatly improve health.  Cardio exercises such as running, bicycling, and swimming that take in oxygen are very effective.  In addition to burning calories, building muscle can help to burn more fat throughout the day.

No time to exercise?  Then follow these simple tips given by American Council on Exercise to eat healthier:
•    Reduce portion size of meals by 10 to 15 percent.
•    Avoid skipping breakfast and eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day.
•    Consume a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and non-fat or low-fat dairy products
•    Limit total fat intake to 20 to 35 percent of daily calories, selecting low-fat foods and avoiding trans fats
•    Avoid salty foods
•    Limit alcohol intake

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