Fat Is All My Fault: Globalized Metathemes of Body Self‐blame


Norms valorizing not‐fat bodies appear to have spread around the world, combined with a globalizing belief that thinness is the result of individual management of self and hard work. We examine themes of blame and felt responsibility for weight and “fat” in four distinct geographic and cultural locations: peri‐urban Georgia, United States; suburban Osaka, Japan; urban Encarnación, Paraguay; and urban Apia, Samoa. Use of a novel metatheme approach that compares and contrasts these four distinct places characterized by different population‐level prevalences of obesity and by specific cultural histories relevant to body norms and ideals provides a flexible toolkit for comparative cross‐cultural/multi‐sited ethnographic research. We show that self‐blame, marked by an articulated sense of individual responsibility for weight and a sense of failing in this responsibility, is present in every field site, but to varying degrees and expressed in different ways. [fat, obesity, metatheme, stigma, self‐blame]