Biological Anthropology Section
Central States Anthropological Society
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Body fat is an often highly visible aspect of human biological variation both within and between populations. The observable phenotype of a body with a high proportion of fat has been and continues to be evaluated largely in a cultural context, where it may be viewed as either positive or negative, depending on place, time, and localized histories. In the US, those falling in the “overweight” and “obese” BMI categories are largely assumed to be in worse health compared to their counterparts falling in the “normal” BMI category, and responsibility for poorer health outcomes is often placed on the individual. This paper employs the conceptual framework of biological normalcy to explore the relationships between normative views and statistical norms relating to body weight using a case study of adolescents and young adults in Indiana. This work exposes variation in implicit fat bias between two populations varying by obesity prevalence, suggesting that observations of body fat in a population may influence perceptions of what a “good” or “bad” level of body fat should be. This case study also examines the relationships between obesity prevalence, perceived fat stigma, and allostatic load to understand how perceptions and normative views relate to both fat stigma and, subsequently, the distribution of health outcomes in a population.