Plus Size International: the Cultural Comparison

The pursuit of a lean body seems now to be an indisputable beauty ideal in most Western cultures. From the media world you are regularly bombarded with advertisements for all sorts of diet programs like Weight Watchers. Above all, in Europe, the compulsion to be slim has become a fixed cultural component. Only those who are slim, seem to be beautiful. But is this really true in all cultures, or are these ideals purely Western phenomena?

Plus Size International: the Cultural Comparison

Overweight as a status symbol & beauty idealsal

China – Have you eaten yet?

The Chinese are completely unimpressed by the western slenderness.According to the motto “Getting rich and eating out” the lush food culture is celebrated here as a status symbol.If you can afford it, you can go out and eat in company, according to the motto:”Tell me with whom and how you eat, and I will tell you who you are” ( source ).

So it is not surprising that you are greeted with friends and relatives in China at any time of the day with a friendly “ni chi le ma?” Which means “Did you eat already?”.This greeting is much more than a mere invitation to eat.It can be interpreted as a sign of profound familiarity.Through this seeming humming, one signals to the welcomed person subliminally, that one would share with this itself the food.The sharing of the obligatory “shell of rice” in China is an absolute proof of friendship.Eating in China is therefore not only an important aspect for body and soul, but above all for society.

Africa – The louder the more coveted!

“Big Hips, Big Bums” – this life-threatening motto meets one in Uganda’s capital Kampala.But in many other parts of Africa as well, for both men and women, body-filling is an absolute beauty ideals.This is not only associated with wealth but also with health.As a result, the chances of the marriages market are increasing, especially for the men, because this is the feature of the women’s world:”He has brought it to something and can feed a family” ( source ).Less popular are lean forms, which are brought in connection with illness and poverty ( source ).It is therefore no wonder that the urban middle class in Africa has a preference for beer and fried meat, because this is the only way to get the most out of the competition on the marriages market.

Three superlatives islands: celebrated overweight in the South Pacific

A few islands of Oceania show themselves completely unimpressed by Western lean madness.Only a few inhabitants of the South Pacific island world feel themselves too fat.On the contrary, opulence is felt in many of these regions, both men and women, as very beautiful ( source ).Not in a dream would the islanders think of changing their cheerful food culture.In the face of the rich, exotic food of these dreamlike island states is no wonder.For who could resist a heavenly paradise on the blue sea, under palm trees and bright sun?

1. Nauru:

Not for nothing is Nauru considered the country with the most overweight ( source ).According to statistics, around 80 per cent of men had a BMI of more than 30 in 2007. The reason for the widespread physical dependency is found in the whimsical history of the island.In the seventies Nauru came to sudden wealth by bird droppings.How to get rich?Well, under the Tropenklima Naurus the droppings formed calcium phosphate, a popular fertilizer, which at that time was very scarce and therefore also extremely precious.What followed were the golden years of Naurus, in which prosperity was expressed above all in the construction of countless restaurants and supermarkets.This variety of new food possibilities was extensively used by the Nauruanians.Unfortunately the money money was not permanent – but still remains the passionate eating culture of the island inhabitants ( Quelle ).

2. Tonga:

A particularly hedonistic food culture is celebrated in Tonga.Lush buffets and parties with a variety of exotic delicacies such as seafood, fried chicken, octopus, coconut milk and sweet potatoes are the order of the day.A true paradise for food, the temptations of which can hardly be avoided.No wonder, then, that western beauty ideals of size zero and Hollywood meager delusion are largely ignored here ( source ).About 58 percent of men and 75 percent of women in Tonga have a BMI well over 30 ( source ).

3. Cook Islands :

A true abundance of culinary highlights can also be found on the Cook Islands, which also stands out among its inhabitants.However, not only is the food diversity very impressive, which is mainly due to the rich abundance of tropical fruits as well as massively tasty animals such as pigs, goats and chickens.Also the hospitality of the strong island inhabitants, the tourists gladly participate in their delicious island specialties, is in this foodparadies unique.Because here, not only is passionate cooked, but also happy with guests from all over the world celebrated with good food.( Source )

USA: Land of unlimited (food) opportunities

The American Way of Life stands for individualism, optimism and freedom.The motto of life in the land of unlimited possibilities is to stand by yourself and enjoy life to the fullest – and not too tightly!This is also reflected in the food culture.All you can eat and XXL restaurants with huge food portions are standard.While the relatively modest portions in many European restaurants literally count the peas (absolute pioneer: France), so in the USA no one has to worry about dine in the restaurant or even in the snack bar to become.Hollywood Trends á la Low Carb and Size Zero are perceived by most of the “normal” American population, but otherwise ignored.Understandable, because slimming constraints and controlled meals in mini formate not only spoil the fun of eating, but ultimately the fun of life.With the typical American Way of Life this has not much to do.

Size Acceptance Movement and Fat Studies

According to, the members of the ” Plus Size Acceptance Movement” also fight for the ideals of the typical American way of life.This is primarily about the social freedom of all body forms, whether thick or thin.After all, America makes not only the diversity of ethnic groups, but also the variety of body forms.So, weight does not matter in the US, it has long been recognized that the basis for true happiness lies in the acceptance of others and above all in itself ( source ).

The activists of the Size Acceptance movement, with their proud “overweight -na and?” Message, have now even penetrated into the academic world.Young overweight academics at US universities are now fighting for the establishment of the study subject Fat Studies.This deals with the societal-political aspect of fatness.As a result, scientific discussions are taking place with the aesthetic, ethical, and political meanings associated with the thickness and the reasons for these attributions.Comparable with the gender studies is therefore to question societal role distributions, to expose them and in this way discriminate discriminating conventions.This way of fighting the stigmatization of the overweight in society, many students like Stefanie Snider, who is working on a Fat Studies dissertation, feel as a regular liberation: “I’ve been fat all my life and I’ve got it as a real liberation has also dealt with me in my scientific work on a topic that is extremely important to me in terms of social policy.”( Source )

Overweight as a freedom metaphor in African-American pop culture

Not only against the exclusion of overweight, but even for an emancipation of the Thickness as a freedom metaphor, for this also some overweight artists of the black pop culture plead.One of the pioneers of this artist movement is Cee-Lo Green, one half of the hiphop duo Gnarls Barkley.In the hit “Go-Go Gadget Gospel”, this proudly sings its lush forms with the lines: “Shapeless, formless/Heart is enormous.After all, artistic excellence is not dependent on physique.A clear proof of this is the long ancestral series of legendary black overweight artists such as the unforgettable Soulsänger Barry White or Notorious BIG, probably the most important rapper of the 90s.( Source )