Indicating that the distressing trend of size zero has gone global, a new study has found that obesity and fat are increasingly being stigmatized even in cultures that are traditionally more accepting towards larger people. Predominantly a 21st century phenomenon, the size zero obsession continues to be a grave health concern is one among the many implications of the study conducted by Arizona State University researchers.
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The cross-cultural study of attitudes to obesity to be published in the April issue of Current Anthropology shows that the negative attitudes toward overweight people seen in western countries have spread to countries where large bodies have traditionally been valued.
Arizona State University (ASU) researchers surveyed 680 adults living in urban areas in 10 countries and territories around the world, including Argentina, Iceland, Mexico, Paraguay, New Zealand, the UK and the US; besides surveying people part of cultures that have traditionally been regarded as having positive attitudes towards fatness in American Samoa, Puerto Rico and Tanzania.
The study found negative attitudes toward fat bodies in all locations surveyed. Researchers said that overweight people were considered ugly, undesirable, lazy or lacking in self control.
Speaking to the press, study author Dr Alexandra Brewis, a biological anthropologist at Arizona State, said, "Previously, a wide range of ethnographic studies have shown that many human societies preferred larger, plumper bodies."
"Plump bodies represented success, generosity, fertility, wealth, and beauty."
The study, therefore, marks the end of the age when only western countries have idealized slim bodies. During the research, Brewis and colleagues found that the responses across the diverse cultures were largely congruent with Western attitudes.
The western obsession with slim bodies took on a concerning avatar with the concept of size zero, which has come to be hailed across the globe now. The "size zero" phenomenon brought in several side-effects, including a significant social ramification of "skinny" being associated with "success".
Over the past few years, the acceptance of size zero has given birth to various adverse health practices. Eating disorders became rampant even as much younger girls started falling prey to the phenomenon.
Subsequently, the obesity numbers have also surged. A recent research found that obesity has doubled since 1980. Three studies published online Feb. 3 in The Lancet, however, established that people in the wealthiest nations are managing to reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Meanwhile, as the governments are faced with the health concerns due to the surge in obesity, some efforts continue to backfire as the society continually rejects the stigmatization that comes with increasing awareness on weight issues.