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The Metamorphoses of FatA History of Obesity$
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Georges Vigarello

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780231159760

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231159760.001.0001

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Constraining the Flesh

Constraining the Flesh

(p.64) 8. Constraining the Flesh
The Metamorphoses of Fat

Georges Vigarello

, C. Jon Delogu
Columbia University Press

This chapter describes the emergence of original treatments in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There were the very first steps toward an evaluation of weight based on physical signs: the tightness of clothes provoked by fatness and the tightness of rings and various other points of tension. There were diets, now more frequently mentioned in letters, customs, and stories, with their simple recommendation of the smallest nutritive quantities and drying substances all designed to restrain bigness—a condition still principally viewed as one of excess liquid. There were also the imagined drying agents: vinegars, lemons, and chalks that were thought to tighten the skin by dissolving the fatty waters. Finally there were “compression” techniques: circles, belts, and corsets whose use becomes more systematic in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Their deployment was pursued with the particular certainty of exerting a direct physical constraint so as to better “mold” forms and features with the expectation that they conformed to the desired shape.

Keywords:   fat, fat people, treatment, evaluation, body size, diets, drying agents, compression techniques

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