Organic Obesity

Food and female body image has changed drastically over time, leading body shapes from thin, to curvy, to muscular. In America, food and body image is extremely important to females, particularly teens and young adults. Currently, it is “fashionable” to eat organic food and sport a healthy, toned and muscular physique. In the nineties, women were more comfortable eating what they wished and having bodies slightly thicker than women today, wearing clothes that embraced their natural shape. What women choose to eat and how they choose to view their bodies is ever changing in America.

Is organic food the solution to our current extreme health conscious American culture? The Organic Trade Association statistics show that the organic food industry started at $1 billion in 1990 and has grown to $24.8 billion in 2009.[1] As our ideal image of the female body type recently changed from ultra thin to healthy and toned, applied anthropologists, who apply anthropological methods to social problems to find solutions, may have been consulted by various corporations to renegotiate the food Americans were consuming. Because people are worried about health to an extreme degree, food must be free from any toxic pesticides and void of growth hormones. Food now has packaging that promotes the organic “brand,” along with “1/3 Less Fat,” etc. Applied anthropologists may have been called in to investigate and create new food ideas for this calorie conscious crowd. Why have we changed our diet from fast, easy, and fatty to simple and organic?  This theory leads us to believe it was a solution of sorts, perhaps to the rise in weight gain, unhealthy bodies at young ages, and increased sightings of carcinogens in our generation, as these problems are increasingly more prevalent in our society today.

Fat, Skinny, Luscious, Curvy, Toned, Lean, Obese. These words affect how people view their bodies. Healthy, organic, all natural, balanced, fat free, enriched. These are words or phrases we look for when we’re trying to eat well. To a linguistic anthropologist, someone who studies language in the context of human social and cultural diversity in the past and present, these are just words and symbols, but when used in our culture, these words decide what we eat and how we define beautiful bodies. In our current culture, we tend to veer away from the words skinny and fat. Neither promotes positive body image for young females. People now want to be considered lean and toned. People often diet due to that daunting word: obesity. We have placed such a heavy emphasis on this word specifically; frightening people into thinking any type of extra weight will lead to unhappiness and death. This theory of linguistic anthropology focuses on language affecting the type of thoughts we have and how we are able to experience the world accordingly. In the case of food and body image, words may by the strongest factor in changing body types.

— Riley C.

[1](June 2010). Organic Trade Association’s 2010 Organic Industry Survey. Retrieved from http://

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53 Responses to Organic Obesity

  1. Zoe Adelman says:


    I liked your comparison of organic food to female body image. One thing I found interesting is the fact that “organic” food is what we look at as almost hip now. Especially in Boulder, there is an organic food craze, but it seems not only for health, but for that “cool” factor. People feel the need to have organic even over all natural foods that might still be very healthy, but just don’t have the organic title. Also, the idea of organic food and obesity can be related to economic anthropology. Organic food, due to its higher price, can be related more to those who have more wealth. Obesity is often higher in lower income groups, because the most unhealthy, processed foods are usually the most inexpensive. As well as Linguist and Applied anthropology, you could also look at this concept from the point of view of an economic anthropologist. An economic anthropologist might look at how both organic and processed foods are made as well as who chooses to consume these foods. They may also compare different cultures to see how choice in food and willingness to spend more for health varies among different groups.

    • Kelli Peterson says:

      Your comment reminded me of a recent story I heard on NPR about “Food Deserts,” which exist in many urban centers in America. There are several inner city areas where all the typical grocery stores have closed, leaving residents only very unhealthy, convience store foods to eat. This is definitely an economic issue as people are often unable to afford the transportation costs to shop at a store with fresh produce of any kind.
      Thanks to the efforts of the Mari Gallagher Research & Consulting Group, which is chock-full of anthropologists, several (non-typical grocery) stores such as Wal-greens and 7-11, have started offering organic salads, fruit, and vegetables.
      I found this success story very inspiring for any would-be applied anthropolgists in the US. The companies who hired the Group, did so simply to find new revenue streams, but in the process, healthier options are now availible to thousands of people. It is a win-win.

  2. Hannah Chatelain says:

    Looking at the feminist perspective and theory on this I noticed your main focus was on women eating organic and worrying about their weight. You spoke on the change in body size women have gone through from the 90’s into today and how they are currently not focused on being skinny or obese but would rather like to be muscular. I wonder if that shift is true when it came about and what that means for women today. Since they want to be muscular, fit, and treat their bodies right through healthy eating is that a result of their own choice in order to stay in shape to take care of themselves? Also it would be interesting to look at the word organic, as it is labeled on different foods and see what that actually means. Some companies can get away with a lot of not truly organic foods being labeled organic and fat free due to loopholes in the system.

    • Michelle LaGreca says:

      The ideas and perspectives on body image and beauty have changed in America as often as a girl changes her shoes. I do agree with the author in the sense that the current views on what is “beautiful” in society at the time will determine the availability and demand for means to reach that goal. If a girl sees pictures of stick-thin models in a magazine and consequently identifies those under-100 pound girls as beautiful with the desired body type, she will most likely aspire to mirror the model’s image. That same girl, by following the trends might decide to only eat organic foods or foods with only small amounts of calories as an effort to lose weight.
      The essay addresses the linguistic/symbolic anthropological take on this issue. Where better to observe and find these issues than in the media?? The media is an entirely symbolic institution designed to reflect what is happening in society at the time.

  3. Alex Bayer says:

    I would really like to know what a Cultural Evolutionist would say about this idea of body image and organic food. How did our societies culture get to the point of thinking this way?

  4. Alyssa Paylor says:

    Zoe, I really like that you bring up the perspectives of economic anthropologists. I think it’s important to realize that people forget that eating organic, healthy food is a privilege that not all people can enjoy. For many low income people, access to healthy foods, let alone organic ones is incredibly limited. When there is a choice between a $3 gallon of milk and a $.99 two liter of soda,the necessity of stretching a food budget as far as possible creates an obvious choice. I think an economic anthropologist would consider these types of trade offs when looking at obesity in American and its concentration in the lower income strata of our society. It seems to me that lack of access to healthy food, obesity, and low income are mutually reinforcing, and as long as one remains a fact of life, the others will continue to as well. Healthy food would likely decrease obesity in low income individuals, making them more productive and healthy workers with a greater chance at increasing their own socioeconomic mobility in a positive way. I would be interested in looking at how and why organic and nutritional choices are not available to lower income individuals and families and try to better understand the power structure at work.

    • Zoe Adelman says:

      Adding to your idea of looking into why organic and nutritional choices are not available to low income individuals and families, I think it would be interesting to look at the government’s involvement in healthy eating choices. I am unfamiliar with the support that the government provides in the form of food to low income families, but I assume that things like food stamps don’t necessarily encourage the organic products. By encouraging organic choices, the government could both help improve health and stimulate the economy simultaneously. Looking into this problem from a Marxist point of view might be interesting. I am curious how class struggle in relation to food is either improved or worsened by government involvement (of lack there of).

      • andersca316 says:

        I think that government involvement with food is not a bad idea , but that the way it is being carried out now needs to be modified. When I still lived at home in illinois i knew a lot of people who were on food stamps. The problem with the food stamps is that the limitations on what you can buy are not defined well enough. People are aloud to use their food stamps for foods that have almost no nutritional value. If we were able to constrict the usage of food stamps then maybe people in lower income families would have to be forced into buying healthier food items instead of things that have no nutritional value.

      • Logan Lynch says:

        I think that taking a Marxist point of view at the issue of food, affordability, and obesity is a genius move. Marxists, who focus on class struggle would be intrigued by the fact that lower income families are unable to purchase the healthy, natural food. You could look at the companies producing the organic food products, find out their goals, whether it’s actually to reduce obesity in America for the benefit of the people, providing an overall healthier country, or if it’s solely economical. If these companies are just taking advantage of the anti- obesity craze to make lots of money off of it. As Riley said in her article, the organic food industry has grown to almost 25x the money in the last 20 years.

      • Brian Ruddle says:

        I agree with your position on how the government should encourage healthy (organic) food choices, however I do not agree with your point that it would stimulate the economy. The USDA currently is forced to subsidize farmers across the U.S because it is not a very profitable business for nearly all farms. I wonder how the government could stimulate the economy by subsidizing organic farms that have a higher likelihood of failure by insects and disease. Also the turn towards an all organic agricultural system would significantly reduce the amount of food that could be sent in humanitarian relief to places such as Haiti.

  5. Sarah Zall says:

    I really liked how you chose to discuss linguistic anthropology to analyze the impact of the organic food phenomenon. If it could be a longer paper, I would like to have heard your thoughts on words and their impact on organic food and its popularity. The terms “less fat,” “lean” “low fat,” and many others have been qualified by the FDA and are required to stand for certain things in regards to ingredients. However, the general public doesn’t know their true meaning and instead associates a different meaning – something general and along the lines of “better for you.” It is interesting to note that we have a federal institution qualifying these specific terms but American culture lumps them all together into one giant symbol for good health.

  6. biscayeg (Gabrielle Biscaye) says:

    I really enjoyed your analyze of language’s effect on females in America and agree of it’s monstrous affect on body image. Do many women even know what a healthy figure is? What is healthy for our body? The organic craze promotes the right answers, but are they correctly interpreted?
    However, I would argue against the organic trend as being all-ecompassing of American females. I think you could perhaps narrow down the trend to a subculture. Although this is definitely apparent in Boulder and other “hip towns” such as NYC, Portland, Seattle…these are definitely not status-quo for America. Organic food is very expensive, and I’d say that the purchase of it is limited to middle-upper class Americans, at least: those who can afford it. Many Americans can’t purchase these foods and stick with “unhealthier” versions, creating a different body image/conception for them.

    • Hannah Chatelain says:

      In response to your idea that most Americans, unless you live in big cities don’t eat as healthy, as a small town girl from Virginia I would have to disagree. In fact in smaller towns, especially farm towns, I would say the small local population is getting the most “organic” food possible. The Shenandoah Mountain area has many local farmers who offer fresh chicken, beef, eggs, etc. for people to come and pick up that are not much more than the non organic foods in markets. So what I’m trying to say is you don’t have to be wealthy to eat legitimate healthy food, although after you go get fresh eggs from a chicken coop it is not stamped with the label organic or free range, somehow you just know it’s fresh and made organically. I would say that many people, even in health conscious Boulder have not tried real organic, natural or free range food. The problem as many people have already pointed out is in the labeling of things being organic. Did you know you can label a chicken free range after keeping it inside for all but a week of its life? The larger businesses allow the chicken to walk in a small cage for a week before it is killed, then are allowed to label it free range.

    • Anastasia Turner says:

      I agree with Hannah. Coming from a small farming community you notice a difference in what is considered organic there compared to in big cities where it is the new “trend”. In smaller communities such as these, there isn’t a need to be as weary of the labels on items that say organic as you would be other places, such as some of the bigger cities mentioned by Gabrielle. I found the linguistic approach to this topic to be the most interesting as well, and if presented the opportunity I would love to hear more of your perspective on this, Riley. I do also agree with you, Gabrielle, about possibly narrowing the generalization of all American females to a subculture of women instead. I think this would be a more accurate approach to the side effects trends have on the female body image, and how they feed into this notion of a perfect female body.

  7. Jordie Karlinski says:

    The topic you chose to write about it a very talked about topic, especially today. I agree when you say, “Currently, it is “fashionable” to eat organic food and sport a healthy, toned and muscular physique”. But there is more to health than only eating organically and fat free products. You can still be obese and eat these things. I think applied anthropologists should help people become more aware that moderation and exercise are the biggest influences on a changing body that can help young women and men feel good about themselves. More people today are becoming more aware of obesity because we see it on the news more. One of the main reasons children are heavier today than a few years ago is because parents don’t know how to be “healthy” and are not a healthy role model for their children to follow.. An applied anthropologist should target the parent crowd in order to help childhood obesity and overall obesity and body image issues in America. I like how you also incorporated linguistic anthropology and health. It is true when people see “fat free” “lean” and “all natural” they think they need to have these food products in their diets.

  8. Mackenzie Clarkson says:

    Similar to what Zoe and Alyssa said, I find it interesting that “organic” and “natural” foods are MORE expensive today than the processed foods are. This seems counter intuitive since processed foods require so much more labor and product to manufacture. Strangely, just sixty years ago, it was the processed foods that were more expensive and was actually a considerable signifier of wealth. It would be interesting to take a political, economic, and linguistic anthropological approach to look at this subject to better understand how this gigantic transition happened in the American diet, paying specific attention to the manipulation of those words (i.e. “organic” and “all-natural”) that led to the class stratification of healthy and processed foods.

    • Zoe Adelman says:


      I agree with your idea here. I think it would also be interesting to look at organic vs processed foods worldwide. It is interesting that in the United States, organic food is significantly more expensive. However, in many poorer countries, it is the processed foods that are for the richer citizens. The lower income families are the ones who are eating cheaper foods that are actually less processed. I would assume that throughout the world it would be organic food (which requires more care and attention) that would be more expensive. However, both the McDonalds and Pringles examples that Professor McGranahan mentioned in lecture prove otherwise. It might be interesting to look at the food choices in different countries through a Cultural Evolution point of view. A Cultural Evolutionist might argue that the United States moved from agriculture to processed foods and now is in the phase of moving back to agriculture. Other cultures may be seen as being on a different point on the cultural timeline and are just now getting to the processed foods phase.

  9. Kelsey Robb says:

    I would have never thought to look at body image in terms of linguistics, and I think it was a very creative way to draw attention to the way words affect what we eat. I also think it’s true that in today’s society, “healthy and organic” is heavily advertised, while “fatty and fast” is frowned upon; however, I don’t think that much of our society has switched their diet up. I think that many people want to be healthier and eat foods that are nutritious and low in fat, but our busy lives do not always allow for that. Obesity is still a growing epidemic today, and even though many people are trying to make the switch to healthy foods, it’s not a reality yet.

    • chrissa maury says:

      I agree that as much people want to change their eating habits, it is all a matter of convenience. People can plan to start eating healthier and making salads to take to work or buying organic food to make for dinner but when it comes down to it, stopping at places like McDonald’s for lunch or after a long day of work is much easier than spending the time to create a healthy meal at home. So even though people plan to be healthy, fast food is more convenient.

  10. Rachel Nussbaum says:

    I also find it very interesting that you chose to use linguistic anthropology to analyze the organic food trend prevalent in our country. I am very passionate about eating foods labeled organic and locally grown, but I feel many businesses misuse these words to become competitive in America’s overly-saturated green market. If businesses can easily use words to promote their products, how are we supposed to differentiate the good from the bad? The green washing happening in our country is very disturbing and shows that companies will say anything to make a profit. I wonder what the regulations are for a product to be considered “green” and if there are certain linguistics that could help improve the system.

    • Zoe Adelman says:

      I agree with Rachel on this topic. Along with many companies being able to called their food “organic” through loopholes, there is also another side to this issue, which is the local farmers who are not able to label their products as organic due to loopholes. The organic food market seems to be a very tricky subject, because it is still so new. It is not an area of the food industry that has been completely organized at this point. There is now an appearing subfield which is “all natural” foods. These foods are not technically organic. I think there needs to be more clarity in the food industry between these two types of food, as well as more restrictions and regulations as what can be called organic. This idea could be seen through a economic anthropology point of view, because it seems that often large corporations are able to call their foods organic due to loopholes more, while small-scale farmers have more difficulty gaining the permits and access to the organic title on their products. Along this line, it would be interesting to look in more depth into the process to actually title a product as organic. The costs alone may keep many farmers from the means of the organic title, even if their foods are produced completely organically.

  11. kellyloud says:

    I really like how you focused on how the connotations of the euphemistic words changed how we feel about our bodies and how we view the foods that we eat. It’s crazy to me how perspectives on body shape have changed so drastically over the years. In Roman antiquity canonical statues (showing what people should ideally look like) were often impossibly tall, stood in impossible positions and had muscles where you physically impossibly cannot. I think that it would be really interesting for you to show how there is a discrepancy between the ideals of what we “should” eat and what is actually physically possible, or probable.

  12. Rachel Nussbaum says:

    I agree with Kelly. I wish our society would be more concerned with eating foods that maximize their health rather than their skinniness. Although body ideals have changed over the years, the superficiality of our existing media has created an unhealthful and unattainable idealized body image. I wonder if this current ideology will last or if Americans will finally ignore all of the media noise and figure out a food plan that suites their individual health needs. Although there has recently been confusion with what is organic, natural, and FDA approved, Americans are still benefiting from these provided healthier choices. Since the system is still new and developing, I believe buying local and fresh is the best way to guarantee an organic meal.

  13. Elizabeth Myers says:

    It would be interesting to see how much more people would pay for the organic version of different foods. It seems weird to me that food is labeled when it is organic. Shouldn’t it be labeled if it isn’t organic. Because if organic is the “natural” way and the way it should have been done in the first place (without pesticides), then when you think about it, it makes more sense for everything to be organic and the stuff that is not to say “Not Organic.” It is strange that in our culture the un-natural way is the normal way and that when the product is natural it gets all this special attention.

    • Andrew Matthews says:

      Media has a strong impact on the type of foods that people buy and can have a strong influence on swaying the buyers mind. What is always the best for you, may not always be the best buy. Throughout time the industry for organic food has drastically increased due to a popular demand. In places such as Boulder it is easy to see how following the environmental approach can be understood as the right way to eat. Like many others have stated, the label of an organic food places a stereotype into people’s heads, as they interpret why it may be different from another type of that product.

  14. Lyndsi Wisdom says:

    You have a very interesting point of view on how we view our bodies. Though I agree with you for the majority, I do disagree about obesity and the negative connotations behind it being the major determinant in eating organic foods. Body image has always been something we as people consider. At one point in our existence we may not have been so concerned with it, but I strongly think it has always been around. I think the reason our culture eats more organic foods as they did in the 1990’s is not simply about body image but also about our health in general. It doesn’t necessarily matter how lean, toned, overweight, or skinny we are, but its more about being healthy. There are many things that lead to cancer and pesticides and carcinogens are only a few examples of those. The health issues behind bad eating habits-like fast food- are a deterrent for us, along with our self-image. It’s a disagreement with two social expectations. We expect ourselves and others (whether it may be right or wrong) to look lean, toned, and pretty because it is what is “socially important,” and we also have the expectation to be healthy in medical terms, because we are supposed to be the generation that continues to live longer than others in our past.

  15. laine smith says:

    This essay was extremely interesting to me. I’m very passionate about eating healthily, locally and “organically.” The only problem is that you all are right. The term “organic” or “cage-free” or “free-range” are terms that large cooperations are using too freely. Its a constant struggle for me to go to the farmer’s market weekly instead of just walking down to the local Safeway in order to get cheap, year-round produce and other food items. Its painful to look at the price differences between a healthy, local farmer’s market and the just as tasty, if not environmentally or animal friendly, consumer stores such as King Sooper’s or Safeway. Even taking the easy way out and going to Whole Foods or Sunflower can leave the consumer feeling happy and guilt-free, but in reality many of the products are still linked to big cooperations. I think the only way to avoid such realities is to know exactly where your food is coming from and what processes its gone through to be grown/made. I’m a strict vegetarian in my day to day and vegan unless I know the farmer who directly raises his own chickens, cows, goats, etc…This way I know whats going on in the background behind my food. We live in Boulder, and I must say most of the people here are health freaks. If you have the time, the money and the means of living this lifestyle, Boulder is the place to do it. Look into it! Join CU Local, and hit the farmers market saturdays and wednesdays. Its well worth it.

  16. Katherine Caldwell says:

    In response to this essay, I recently had a discussion with someone how often “organic” products are not actually as “pure” as they say they are. I’m not entirely positive what all the rules are to make something “organic” but I know that there are ways to get around them. The company we were discussed is an organic dairy farm and the cows are milked using the same technology as the cows who are not raised to be organic. Essentially all the milk flows through the same tubes as all the other milk- organic or not. I wonder how companies can get away with this and still promote their products as organic. This also brings up the question- does being organic really matter? If often organic and nonorganic foods are mixed together, can we really tell the difference? Are the things we consider to be organic actually following these rules? Shouldn’t they be forced to tell us if they aren’t? If anyone knows what it actually takes to sell a product as “organic,” please let me know.

  17. stephanie ahlgrain says:

    In the original essay it says is ok for women to have a, “toned, muscular physique”. I don’t think this is necessarily true. I have heard people say that they do not weight lift or participate in any other exercise because muscle makes you look “bigger”, which some girls says can be confused with “fatter”. It is a shame that girls are not becoming physically fit because of how they think this will make their body. Exercise if about maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system and strong muscles. It is especially important to allocate time to exercise now because many of our daily lives do not incorporate physical exertion. Few women in America have to carry water long distances, carry their children while they work in fields, or even work in factories which could be very physically demanding. It is really important to keep our bodies in motion as much as possible, and we should try not to let uninformed ideas of body image get in the way of this need. I agree that food is important to body image, but I think exercise is an equally important element of this discussion as far as body image.

    • Carly Korbecki says:

      I agree with Stephanie. Whenever I am looking through a magazine for exercise tips, there always seem to be tips and programs to work out without gaining muscle. The exercise plan seems to avoid muscle mass, but aims to tone and lose weight creating a thinner and less bulky look. I also see many young women who are much more inclined to eat less to create a thinner body shape than women who would go to the gym and exercise to lose weight. Although, health does seem to be the main concern when looking at the food choices people often go to today. Organic foods often are the better choice to keep a healthy diet. This fad promotes healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle, but not necessarily a muscular or physically fit one.

  18. zackparrinella says:

    Yeah, you bring up a very good point that has always been a question in my head. Organic, or non-organic, there are so many parts of food production, and most of it is so mysterious to the everyday person that it is hard to know what is really going on. There is a huge gray area with all kinds of food production, we just choose to not investigate it and assume that the USDA is a truly trustworthy source.
    Although this is not about food, one thing that has always been interesting to me about the organic food/products industry is how American Spirit Cigarettes are stamped with a USDA organic logo. They do seem healthier than other cigarette brands, but it is very funny to me that within the American society, a society that completely frowns upon smoking, they label one type of cigarette almost as “healthy.” This just adds to the mysteries of the organic food industry; it sure is something I would be interested in investigating.

  19. Erica Edelberg says:

    I very much believe that people should be more concerned about being healthy than being skinny. However, something I find very interesting about the organic food industry is the way people view eating organic food as being a tool for weight loss. In actuality, unless advertised otherwise, organic foods contain the same amounts of carbs, fats, etc. as non-organic food but were made without the use of pesticides or fillers. I think the idea of organic food is actually a step toward thinking healthy, not skinny, but Americans tend to put these two in the same category with the view that healthy = skinny. I think an applied anthropologist would do the most good by attempting to educate society on the difference between the two, and help people realize that eating well for a lifetime is far more important than dieting.

  20. Carly Korbecki says:

    I thought it was really interesting how the author described the Linguistic Anthropologist’s interest in this article. I never really thought about the way words could be studied to find the effect they have on a person when considering what to eat. I was sure the author would have leaned towards a Feminist Anthropologist’s view on the way women were following the organic fad, as described at the beginning of the article. I found it refreshing to think about a Linguistic Anthropologist’s point of view on something that I in no way connected to words or symbols before reading the article.

  21. Lucy Lundstrom says:

    I thought that the idea of the food we eat and the way we idealize body image being directly related to language and words was really interesting. There is a huge importance placed on purchasing foods with labels such as “organic.” I also think it is interesting that many food companies as of recently have been naming themselves using words that evoke ideas of small towns with locally and naturally grown food–Archer Farms, Golden Valley, Sanderson Farms, etc. despite the fact that they are actually huge factories that mass produce what is often very unhealthy food. It does seem like we are easily influenced by food labels like “organic” or the idea that the food is coming from a “farm,” and I think it’s really important to look past the idea presented to us by the food industry and know where our food is actually coming from.

  22. Dana Melby says:

    “We have placed such a heavy emphasis on this word [obesity] specifically; frightening people into thinking any type of extra weight will lead to unhappiness and death,” I think this suggestion exemplifies why eating disorder rates are constantly rising in the United States. I believe that people are being pulled towards the extremes of weight rather than to what is healthy. While the organic, all natural woman may be the ideal I think it is often overshot and overvalued leading to an unhealthy body image. The way the female body is viewed constantly ebbs and flows and one can only hope that the healthy form becomes the norm.

    • Andrew Matthews says:

      Especially in America, people have become adapt to the concept of fast food consumption and no considered too many of its externalities. Obesity is a word that has often been used to replace the word “fat”, something not many people want to be. Organic products are shooting up in today’s market due to the ongoing advertising for a healthier and greener lifestyle, yet people still choose to go other ways. Traditions of a home cooked meal have slowly transitioned to incorporating food from outside of the house and it is costing families far more. In the future there will be a finer definition for which food is actually the best for you and the availability for a healthier life will present itself.

  23. Payton Bess says:

    I think this is a very good direction to take the subject of organic food in the place our culture is at today. Women and the way they view their bodies is a huge topic that dominates magazines and celebrity TV shows. Women are surrounded by the hype around waist size and body type and the question you brought up about if organic food was the solution to our current extreme health conscious American culture made me think about the other half of our culture. The male population is also bombarded with messages about the ideal male form and how men are expected to appear. Even since the time of the ancient Greeks, men have had the pressure to have the idyllic body shown through statues etc. I wonder what percent of the rise in the organic food industry is due to males and the pressure they feel to have a certain body type? Or, is it even possible that men are the ones who placed the pressure on the woman to look a specific way in the first place? The fact that women (and possibly men) are taking their appearance so seriously could however be having a positive effect due to the fact that people are eating healthier. This could have an effect on life span and the ability to live an overall productive life. However, no matter the good the organic craze does, the negative effects of possibly pushing women too far are also there too.

  24. Bryan Daino says:

    I really like this paper, I find it really interesting. When it comes to organic food it is usually a lot pricier then non organic food, so not everyone can afford it. In low income areas there wouldn’t be a lot of organic opportunities because of this. People are eating junk food and wondering why they are gaining weight. Why is our society always changing the view of people? I wonder what a cultural ecologist would say about this topic?

  25. Molly Small says:

    Looking at organics and obiesty is a very interesting topic and very much lines up with the ideals in Boulder. I am orginally from Philadelphia where eating organic food and living a healthy life style is not even close to as important as it is out in Colorado (Boulder particularly). I really feel taht the concept of agency plays a key role in this paper. You spoke about the different words we use to describe some one’s physic. Agency looks at how society linguistically constrains our choices in life. Being called “big-boned” is never seen as a compliment, though someone may literally just have big bones and are not large at all for their body type. The ways we express physic linguistically really make us think twice about what we put in our mouth, and how we treat our body in order for it to be more fitting to society. Agency also looks at how culturlly and socially we are constrained. From culture to culture the ideal body differs. When I studied abroad in Ireland, I found the men tended to appreciate a curvier woman, while American men are not exactly into the same body type (as the paper states).

  26. Payton Bess says:

    In response to Molly Smalls point that in every culture the ideal body differs and the example of men in Irelands ideal of a curvier woman versus an American man wanting a skinny woman, I wonder why this is? I think that if Americans had more of this idea that being a little bit bigger or being curvier was beautiful then our society might be more well rounded. It is tragic the amount of people who have diseases like anorexia and bulemia because of the pressure they feel to be thin. I think if men had a different idea of what was beautiful, then the modeling world wouldn’t be so discriminatory to plus sized models and plus sized women in the country in general. I think men have a huge impact on what women want to look like to please the opposite sex. Speaking only from a woman’s point of view, men may feel relieved of some of the same pressure to go to the gym everyday and to achieve a toned body. If the ideas mentioned by Molly Smalls of a larger figure being beautiful, it may rid the different sexes of some stress and country of major image issues.

  27. Catherine Molnar says:

    I think your essay has a lot of strong points and very interesting connections. I liked the link you made to linguistic anthropology and how certain words we use that are associated to our body image reflect the way we perceive the world and ourselves. I was just wondering if there were any critiques that could have been incorporated and investigated like for applied anthropology the fact that they aren’t studying the larger concept of things that surround the issue itself. Or you could maybe look into the fact that it’s an etic view that’s focused on one thing and they aren’t immersing themselves into the culture to understand why it’s all happening.

  28. Forrest Jensen says:

    I agree that there is a strong correlation between linguistic interpretation and biocultural agency. It is important to keep in mind that beauty is culturally subjective and always changing. Matsigenka men in the Andes Mountains of Peru believe that a tubular shaped body is more healthy and attractive as opposed to a curvy one. In Brazil, beautiful often means having larger hips and buttocks. In many other counties where food is scarce a heavier set physique is considered desireable and healthy. Perhaps in a culture like ours where food is abundant and individualization is idolized it would make sense that our preferrences would shift to “lean” and “toned” because they deviate from the social norm. Everyone is looking for that idealized physique. As i said before i agree that there is a strong correlation between linguistic interpretation and biocultural agency and organic foods, as well as just about every other type of food(including fast food) will cator to current cultural interpretation of beauty, whatever that may be. I would be interested to see what people of different cultures would think about the organic food fad.

  29. Meghan McFarland says:

    I would like to comment on the naturalization or normalization that is highlighted by everyone’s comments about the linguistic aspect of words such as “lean” “no fat” and “organic”. These words have become ingrained into American society as holding positive connotations but what data do “we” (as a society) actually have? Does this data prove that organic foods will lead to a healthier lifestyle or reduce obesity?

    I’m not up-to-date on current published data but I would argue that while organic food avoid the use of chemical pesticides, perhaps natural toxins could produce a seemingly similar effect. Crops must defend themselves against attack, so they have natural mechanisms to combat attacks. I would posit that organic foods may have more natural toxic residue because of the lack of chemical pesticides than chemical fertilized crops. Is this healthy?
    Just an idea that questions the overwhelmingly positive connotation that is associated with “organic”.

  30. Lila Zwonitzer says:

    While I agree that organic food is a huge factor in the health craze, I think a lot of the obsession with being skinny comes from what the media and the celebrities and models we use to make comparisons. Organic food became so high in demand as a result of the obsession with weight loss. The irony lies in the fact that people use this food unhealthily, by either not eating enough of it, or not eating the proper variety of things.

    I did really like the part about linguistic anthropology because I feel that a lot of the way we view ourselves comes from the way people talk about and perceive certain body types. Body image exists in the way we view ourselves, but also in the cultural lens we are looking through.

  31. sean kelly says:

    I liked how the essay addressed the fact that we come up with an obnoxious amount of words to describe body type and physical appearance, so many different ways to define one’s own body. Looking through a Linguistic anthropology lens I think is important, asking what exactly facilitates the need for these additional words to describe ourselves. The words are a reflection of how important body image in our society is, I doubt that most other cultures classify themselves with so many terms.
    All these words also carry means that are cultural assigned and associated with feelings, which makes them very powerful in the way that we view are selves.

    The food that a society eats is one of the markers that a cultural evolutionists uses to define the categories savagery, barbarism , etc. I find it ironic that the United State a civilized society now chooses to eat organic food that could be considered barbarism. This shows the flaw in evolutionism, put more important it shows the continual evolution of a society. The eating practices have almost gone full circle. It will be interesting to see how the eating trends and evolution progress forth.

  32. Charlie Bezouska says:

    Sean K – I don’t think the amount of words to describe one’s appearance is necessarily obnoxious. I have no idea if this is really true, but I’ve heard that the Inuits in Alaska have tons of words for snow. If they have many different words for something as simple but important and relevant to them as snow, why should we not have many different words for something so complex but important and relevant to us as physical appearance?

  33. Rosa McAvoy says:

    This whole idea about dieting to become a healthier person has been done by both men and women. While some diets work better than others it is interesting that in a country with so many resources we are rejecting them because of how much we are about what others think. Our society has become selfish and what we aren’t eating to become skinny should be given to the poor in our country or other countries. The USA is so tied up in its own war against obesity that we have become pathetically obsessed with it to the point that not only girls are negatively affected by it but guys as well. This is a good essay but I feel just focusing on girls and their body images and not taking into consideration that males have just as much pressure to look “good” is some what sexist. Yes females are more likely to have eating disorders because of what the public tells us to look like but so do men. To connect this to our current reading, maybe if the USA practiced arranged marriage more, self image would not be as important with the knowledge that you will be guaranteed a spouse regardless of what you look like and our culture could focus on things that actually matter in this world, you weight not being one of them.

  34. Elizabeth Myers says:

    In response to Rosa, I am not sure that arranged marriage is the answer to our body image problems. Because even people that are married care about what they look like. It is not the case that once you get married you stop caring about what other people think. In order to change how people feel about their bodies you need to change the message society is telling you on how you should look. With positive body campaigns like Dove’s, women will more likely embrace the way they naturally look. We want people to be healthy, just not obsessive about striving for imperfection.

  35. angielarson says:

    Riley, this was a very well written essay and was enjoyable for me to read. It is true that women have a lot more sensitive way of thinking and judging their bodies as well as others. An example that actually came up for me recently was a friend of mine complained to her boyfriend that she’s gained 8 lbs in the last two weeks. Hoping for a reassuring reply and possibly a compliment, her boyfriend gave her the opposite and instead said, “Well you better get on that!” To her this was the most insulting comment ever and she was upset. Even though she knew she could lose the unwanted weight in just as much time as she gained it, the judgment and lack-thereof sensitivity from her boyfriend discouraged her. This is also leading to why I think it is very interesting that you tied linguistic anthropology into this subject because the words we use when speaking about food or weight can effect us in drastic ways without us having control of how we react to them. They become more sensitive of terms and phrases when speaking of our body types and eating habits.

  36. Kaitlyn Clure says:

    Within the past few years, my family has chosen to start eating more “healthy”, and part of that is eating organic things. After taking nutrition last year my teacher made a point that what you read on the labels is not always true. You stated, “Because people are worried about health to an extreme degree, food must be free from any toxic pesticides and void of growth hormones.” Many people do not look past the label while looking at the food packaging. After watching the movie Food INC. I realized that many companies say that their food is organic and pesticide free. Or that their animals are grown organically and in “free range” when really they only have a small area of grass which they are barely able to ever adventure out and see. I think it would be interesting to look at organic from another view like symbolic anthropology, but I really liked how you used linguistic anthropology! I never would have thought to look at it from that standpoint.

  37. Ben Perkins says:

    This essay got me thinking about how the the ideas of organic, healthy and weight loss are all intertwined. Organic is a healthy option due to the natural ways in which it was made but does not necessarily help with weight loss. I believe this fairly recent infatuation with organic foods is the belief that since its healthy, it will result in weight loss. This is not true as many organic foods are still fattening and somewhat unhealthy. The organic Ice cream will get one just as fat as a non organic product. Why do people associate organic with weight loss then? Is it possible that those advertising organic, are also pushing notions of a healthy and fit body?

  38. Tim Baker says:

    The organic phenomenon has definitely taken off in recent years with so many people, not just women, worried more and more about physical appearance. Applied anthropologists would almost certainly be utilized to find a solution to the current problems with diet and weight gain in contemporary American society. Linguistic anthropology could be used to determine what words were at present more desirable and which were being phased out as offensive or less desirable and show how these changing definitions are affecting our culture. I’m not sure that going completely organic is the best solution, however, as the term “organic” has a very broad definition so we may not always know what we’re getting.

  39. Amanda Kim says:

    Organic… I suppose organic food is fresher and probably has lots of good vitamins with no petrochemicals or other in-organics used. Personally I think that we have progressed a long way and have almost forgotten about the traditional organic farming ways, since food that we have today … it can be genetically manipulated, such as change of size, color and nutrients. Surely that the chemicals from non-organic food allows food to last longer and create more yield. There are other crazy terms for food for the diet conscious, such as light, diet, fat-free … phew.

    Call me crazy, but I personally think organic is actually pretty overrated. Promoting healthy living should be buying local fruits, vegetables, and meats. You’ll help the economy you live in and the quality is much better. More expensive … however.

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