Eating in the Panopticon: Surveillance of Food and Weight before and after Bariatric Surgery

Sarah Trainer, Amber Wutich, Alexandra Slade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


In this article, we explore the processes by which surveillance of eating and weight is coupled with popular and medical ideas about discipline, responsibility, and moral worth for individuals identified as fat/obese. We then follow these individuals through bariatric surgery and weight loss, paying attention to what discourses and practices shift and what remain unchanged. We argue that weight loss does not temper the intensity and constancy of surveillance, because it is at the core of ideas concerning good citizenship and personal responsibility. Accompanying judgments do shift, however, as the perceptions of failure at disciplined “healthy” eating associated with fatness give way to more diverse attitudes post surgery. This analysis also highlights the fact that public and clinical perceptions of “troubled eating” often rely not on eating practices but on the types of bodies that are doing the consuming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
StateAccepted/In press - Mar 24 2017


  • Bariatric surgery
  • eating
  • fat
  • food
  • obesity
  • surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology


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