History of Science 58 (2):216-242 (2020)

How do cultures of self-quantification intersect with the modern state, particularly in relation to medical provision and health promotion? Here I explore the ways in which British practices and representations of body weight and weight management ignored or interacted with the National Health Service between 1948 and 2004. Through the lens of overweight, I examine health citizenship in the context of universal health provision funded from general taxation, and track attitudes toward “overweight” once its health implications and medical costs affected a public service as well as individual bodies and households. Looking at professional and popular discourses of overweight and obesity, I map the persistence of a highly individual culture of dietary and weight self-management in postwar Britain, and assess the degree to which it was challenged by a new measure of “obesity” – the body mass index – and by visions of an NHS burdened and even threatened by the increasing overweight of the citizens it was created to serve.
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DOI 10.1177/0073275319842965
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