Capsule

From scarcity to plenty since Colonial days

A Yale medical historian studies how famine and feast influence our bodies and how we view them.

Living as we do in the “low-carb nation”—where, despite the gospel according to Atkins, obesity rates are escalating—it’s easy to forget that as recently as the 1930s many Americans worried about eating too little, not too much.Yale medical historian Susan E. Lederer, Ph.D., sees the end of World War II as a turning point. Until then, scarcity dominated people’s anxieties. Now, we worry about the effects of abundance on our bodies. Given her scholarly perspective, you’d think Lederer might have anticipated that even her daughter might be affected by “an ideal [of thinness] that virtually no one can achieve.” But when five-year-old Emma declined to sample a Flintstones vitamin after seeing a picture of a chubby...

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