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Obesity, Eating Disorders, and the Media

The rising global prevalence of obesity and eating disorders can be considered one of the top public health challenges of the 21st century. With the large volume of recent scientific research on these conditions, and the increasing number of public health policies directed at their prevention, significant new information concerning obesity and eating disorders is emerging with great frequency. Only a small selection of this new information, however, crosses from the science and policy realms into the public sphere. Here, the news media play a crucial role. Lay concepts regarding the prevention, causation, and management of obesity and eating disorders are now largely informed by news media sources, where health information is communicated to the public with ever-growing immediacy, accessibility, and ubiquity.

Considering the news media’s potential influence on people’s health behaviours and lifestyle choices, the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity is exploring the rationale and modes of representation guiding the media’s reporting on obesity and eating disorders.


Obesity, eating disorders, and the media: an interdisciplinary workshop

Wednesday 9 November 2011
St Anne’s College, University of Oxford

This workshop aimed to establish the state of the science and define best practices in utilizing digital methods to research the news media. Bringing together leading national and international experts on obesity, eating disorders, and media studies, this workshop was the first to offer a comprehensive examination of the media’s representations of obesity and eating disorders, as well as the first to explore the application of new digital humanities research methods to this field. It engendered innovative and collaborative research, and produced substantial new analyses of the media’s role in bridging science and the public.


Professor Stanley Ulijaszek, Dr Karin Eli, Professor David Zeitlyn
School of Anthropology, University of Oxford


A complete programme and abstract book for the event can be downloaded here. Click on the presentation titles for slides.


Stanley Ulijaszek & Karin Eli
(University of Oxford)

Obesity, eating disorders, and the media



Clive Seale 
(Queen Mary, University of London)

Eating disorders in the media: the changing nature of UK   newspaper reports and a comparison with US media


Anna Lavis
(Goldsmiths, University of London)

Dangerous engagements? Exploring pro-anorexia websites and/in the media


Paula Saukko
(Loughborough University)

Constructing the archetypal anorectic: trends in media   representations of eating disordered celebrities


Helen Malson 
(University of the West of England)

The discursive regulation of ‘too fat’ and ‘too thin’   bodies


Stella Bruzzi
(University of Warwick)



Megan Warin
(University of Adelaide)

Biological postcards: the popularisation of Barker’s hypothesis


Natalie Boero
(San Jose State University)

Obesity in the US media, 1990-2010


Helene Shugart
(University of Utah)

Competing contemporary discourses of obesity


Vivienne Parry, OBE
(Science writer and broadcaster)

Media representations of UK obesity policy


Tanja Schneider
(University of Oxford)





David Zeitlyn
(University of Oxford)

Analytical approaches to media representations


John McNaught
(National Centre for Text Mining [NaCTeM], Manchester)

Text mining techniques

Daphna Carmeli
(University of Haifa, Israel)

Prevalence scores: an evolving tool for database analysis


James Thomas
(University of London)

How can we find relevant research more quickly in systematic reviews?

Annamaria Carusi
(University of Oxford)



Eli, K. and Ulijaszek, S.J. (2014). Obesity, Eating Disorders and the Media. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited. 

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Clive Seale discusses his analyses of newspaper reports on obesity

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Megan Warin


Helen Malson talks about ‘too fat’ and ‘too thin’ bodies

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Panel discussion, left to right - Clive Seale, Helen Malson, Paula Saukko, Anna Lavis

Paula Saukko and Anna Lavis (a UBVO Associate) discuss their work

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Stella Bruzzi discusses eating disorders in the media


Natalie Boero presents data on obesity reporting the the United States media


Helene Shugart presents on competing discourses of obesity

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Karin Eli

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Stella Bruzzi addresses the panel

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Helen Shugart and Tanja Schneider

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