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Appetite and Its DiscontentsScience, Medicine, and the Urge to Eat, 1750-1950$
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Elizabeth A. Williams

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226692999

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226693187.001.0001

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Appetite after 1950

Appetite after 1950

(p.273) Epilogue Appetite after 1950
Appetite and Its Discontents

Elizabeth A. Williams

University of Chicago Press

The Epilogue discusses the upsurge of work on appetite and eating after 1950 in proliferating disciplines and subdisciplines in biomedicine and the behavioral and social sciences. Advances in neuroscience and biochemistry intensified interest in neurohormonal interactions while the genetic revolution lent new shape to contests over the roles of nature and nurture. Psychologists shifted interest away from “need states” to the “hedonic value” of food while anthropologists investigated such questions as the forging of personal or ethnic identities via dietary choice. In medicine, anxieties mounted over a perceived obesity “epidemic” despite critiques that experts themselves generated the sense of crisis. Approaches to anorexia nervosa diversified as some therapists urged renewed attention to the importance of feelings about food. Overall, work on appetite was fragmented despite integrative efforts widely endorsed but rarely realized. Buttressed by “nutritionist” ideology, the scientized drive toward universal norms of healthy eating gained momentum, helping to undermine personal autonomy in defining health and to generate new anxieties about eating. Restoring a measure of respect for appetite is proposed as a means to take new aim at its discontents.

Keywords:   neurohormonal interactions, genetic revolution, hedonic value, obesity epidemic, anorexia nervosa, integrative efforts, nutritionism

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