Telephone: +46 (0)8 16 20 00

Mia Forrest is a PhD student at the Department of Social Anthropology since spring 2010. Her PhD student project deals with the medicalization and treatment of obesity in Swedish medical care. Other areas of interest include gender and fertility.


Lifestyle has become a concept often applied to characterize different modes of living. In biomedicine the concept is used to characterize those modes of living, and choices made by individuals that have had an effect on that person's health, or are understood to have an impairing effect in the future of that person. There is a noticeable moral order to the concept; one may have a healthy lifestyle or an unhealthy one. The very entrance of lifestyle as a concept within the medical realm pays testimony to the fact that there is a new type of “ill health” gripping the populations of the western world, an ill health caused by excess, supply, and choice. This thesis examines what has been described (by medical experts) as the world's most pressing epidemic: obesity. The thesis examines how actors such as scientists, medical professionals and patients have come to view obesity as one of the most troubling health threats of our time. Obesity, as Forrest will argue throughout her thesis, is intricately linked to the processes of our time: economical, colonial and “consumptual”. Forrest aims to explain that obesity is a medical phenomenon intrinsically associated to time and space, specifically the western world in the 21st century. Obesity must also be understood as just one example of the medicalization of lifestyle, which is also in its essence associated with the western world. We live in a time (space) in which lifestyle poses the biggest threat to our existence. People in the western world seldom die of viral epidemics such as outbreaks of cholera as a consequence of climate disasters. They in fact live to such a ripe old age, that what eventually kills them are the excesses that they have permitted themselves as comforts.

The thesis deals with boundaries on different levels: the boundaries that become set up between medicine and the commercial weight-loss industry, the boundaries between weight and health, the boundaries between lifestyle intervention and bariatric surgery, and perhaps most importantly the boundaries between successful and unsuccessful treatment.


  • History of anthropological theory