Are our great-grandparents to blame for our bodily obsessions?

Exeter professor suggests our self-obsession with physique dates back to the Victorian period

diet exeter university Food health the tab the tab exeter victorians

Pathological Bodies, a new book written by University of Exeter’s Dr. Corinna Wagner has provided insight into the world of body-consciousness and diet regulation.

Arguing such awareness has been a prevalent aspect topic in society since the 19th century, Dr. Wagner suggests Victorians hotly debated over-indulgence, obesity and body shape after the decadence of the Georgian era.

Divided by over 100 years; united by the same concerns

The book demonstrates how political turmoil, the rise of the middle classes and new medical knowledge about obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and related disorders (like gout) resulted in a greater emphasis being placed on self-discipline.

By the mid-Victorian period, the health trend had spread to the middle-class urban-dwellers with office jobs. Since then, moderating food and alcohol intake has been an accepted sign of personal credibility.

Drynuary, another modern-day, health-related phenomena

The Exeter professor also describes how people have profited from this craze since the early Victorian period when, in 1780, James Graham opened a ‘Temple of Health’ for celebrity clients, a modern-day Tracy Anderson.

Dr Wagner explained: “We are defined and regulated by modern definitions of the normal and the abnormal, the natural and the unnatural, the healthy and the pathological. To a large extent, we owe those definitions to the Victorians.”