Though there has been much speculation about the origins of globalization, with some historians arguing that it dates back to the fifteenth century and the spread of European colonialism, there is an understanding that both in terms of scope as well as in terms of historical specificity, globalization is a uniquely "modern" phenomenon. Globalization in the twentieth century, which can be broadly defined as the transnational movement of goods, people, and capital across national borders, boasts characteristics that mark it as peculiarly contemporary. Politically speaking, academics argue that the nation-state is growing increasingly redundant, while economically one has seen a paradigm shift in the realm of production and consumption from Fordism to Post-Fordism, which incorporates technological advances like computers and the internet (Thompson, n.d.). There have been changes in culture and, as mentioned, patterns of consumption that have articulated these larger structural changes. Another change is the feminization of the work force—the appearance of more women in the formal economy—as well as the growing emergence of a white and what is also known as a "pink" collar workforce in developing countries (Freeman 2000; Littlewood 2004). These have led to the burgeoning of a transnational dieting culture accompanied by, according to certain social scientists, a rise in eating disorders.
In May 2004, the Fifty-Fifth World Health Assembly called for the development of "a global strategy on diet, physical activity and health" based on reports such as Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic (2001) which argued that the majority of the world's deaths are caused by noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as cancer, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular conditions, and obesity. The reasons behind this phenomenon: "industrialization, urbanization, economic development and increasing food market globalization," which manifest as a lack of well regulated diet and appropriate levels of physical activity (World Health Organization 2001). Dubbed "Globesity" by some, globalization is seen as the key engine powering the unsavory new "pandemic" of worldwide obesity which is considered both a disease in its own right as well as a contributory factor in most NCDs.
An important manifestation of this increased transna-tionalism is the shared pathologization of fat/overweight in various parts of the world, including among the upper classes in the developing world. There has been a corresponding boom in the weight-loss and weight-control industry, which ranges from "slimming centres" or "obesity clinics" to diet pills and drugs. In India, national centers such as VLCC (Vandhara Luthra Clinics) and regional ones such as La Belle specialize in "passive" and "active" weight loss approaches: Passive refers to the use of "fat redistribution machines" as well as liposuction, while "active" refers to exercise regimens that include yoga, weight training, and cardiovascular training. These clinics also come equipped with nutritionists and dieticians who advise women (and increasingly men) on how to reduce caloric intake and eat more healthily. Dieting could be said to consist of a spectrum of practices whose sole aim is weight loss in order to "look good" (and is indexical of a larger culture of body consciousness). It has manifested itself in many corners of the world, not in the form of fad diets, but in the use of specific weight-loss aids that need to be ingested.
Although most scientists agree that people from diverse backgrounds and classes engage in dieting practices and suffer from eating disorders, dieting and eating disorders, such as anorexia nervosa, are also seen as closely connected to the introduction of First World attitudes toward food consumption and body ideals among the educated middle and upper-middle classes in the Global South. However, scholars have also called for more qualitative research that will better elucidate the local articulations of phenomena that are phenomenologically the same. In one study of the incidence of anorexia nervosa in Hong Kong, the researcher found that though the women studied met all the diagnostic criteria for anorexia nervosa, "fat phobia" wasn't a feature of their condition (Becker 2004).
Globalization has also had a major impact on dieting. Everything from popular fad diets to exercise crazes to fast food have been exported from the U.S.A. to other parts of the world. At the same time, a variety of foods and practices are imported to the U.S.A. from various parts of the world. This is a phenomenon unique to modern times. It has made studying the diets of people around the world a bit more complicated because they are more homogenous than they once were. Since diets today are more similar than they are different, finding dietary factors that lead to diseases is a major challenge. In addition to food, Americans have become more exposed to Eastern medicine and dietary practices. For example, Hatha yoga, an ancient Indian form of exercise, has become very popular in the U.S.A. Although many people focus only on the economic consequences of globalization, it has affected much more than just commerce.
See also Alternative Medicine; Anorexia; Bariatric Surgery; Craig; Fat Camp; Food Choice; Spurlock
Becker, Anne E. (2004) "New Global Perspectives on Eating Disorders," Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 28 (4): 433-7. Freeman, C. (2000) High Tech and High Heels in the
Global Economy: Women, Work and Pink-Collar Identities in the Caribbean, Durham, Md.: Duke University Press.
Littlewood, R. (2004) "Commentary: Globalization, Culture, Body Image, and Eating Disorders," Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 28 (4): 597-602.
Thompson, Fred (n.d.) "Fordism, post-Fordism and the flexible system of production," Willamette University, available online at <http://www.willamette.edu/ ~fthompso/MgmtCon/Fordism_&_Postfordism-.html> (accessed February 18, 2007).
World Health Organization (2001) Obesity: Preventing and Managing the Global Epidemic. Report of a WHO consultation: Technical Report Series, No. 894.
-"Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and
Health." Available online at <http://www.who.int/ dietphysicalactivity/goals/en/index.html> (accessed February 18, 2007).
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