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Boston College Expert: Obesity in America

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Sharlene Hesse-Biber

Sharlene Hesse-Biber
Professor of Sociology
617 335 8562 (cell)

Sharlene Janice Nagy Hesse-Biber is an expert on body image and the director of the Women’s Studies & Gender Studies Program at Boston College and has published widely on the impact of sociocultural factors on women’s body image. Her new book, Waiting for Cancer to Come  - Genetic Testing And Women’s Medical Decision Making for Breast And Ovarian Cancer (University of Michigan Press) will be released later this year. She has also written the book, Am I Thin Enough Yet? The Cult of Thinness and the Commercialization of Identity, and The Cult of Thinness.




The United States has only 5% of the world population but 13%  of the world’s obese people, according to new report released today showing the U.S easily leads the world in the battle of the bulge.

“It’s that sedentary lifestyle that we and other nations have,” says Boston College Sociology Professor, Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Ph.D.  “We’re sitting more, we’re exercising less. All of these add to a pattern of obesity. We want the quick fix in America, we want to diet, we want  liposuction, we want to take the quick cure but what we need is to have a lifestyle change.”   

Released by the medical journal Lancet today, the study looked at 188 counties and is the most comprehensive ever done. Of the 671 million people around the world who are obese, 87 million live in the United States. Worldwide, the number of those who are obese jumped from 857 million in 1980 to more than 2.1 billion in 2013; perhaps most troubling, there has not been a single country that has seen a decline in obesity over the last three decades, indicating the problem is only getting worse. 

“What worries me is this will continues to grow and with that, younger and younger kids will be showing up with heart issues,” said Hesse-Biber, author of two books, Am I Thin Enough Yet? The Cult of Thinness and the Commercialization of Identity and The Cult of Thinness. “What is it going to take for us to stem the tide? We haven’t figured that out yet.”

Hesse-Biber blames the fast food industry, the grazing people do throughout the day instead of eating scheduled meals, and the lack of structure at home around the food a family may eat.

“Lots of kids are eating alone and parents don’t always know what their kids are eating. We have to collectively as a nation say, ‘What do we want to do to make the time for families, to make the time for creating structure where food is woven into a culture of solidarity?”



Media Note: For assistance or to request a source on another topic, please contact Sean Hennessey, BC Office of News & Public Affairs: 617-552-3630 (o); (617) 943-4323 (c)

Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html

Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

(617) 552-3630 (office)
(617) 943-4323 (cell)