Visceral politics: obesity and children’s embodied experiences of food and hunger

Jessica Gunson, Megan Warin, Vivienne Moore

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    Children have been made a priority in Australian government obesity interventions, with programmes tending to focus on promoting behaviour change in food and exercise practices. This paper reports findings from ethnographic research with a group of Australian children aged 10–14 years living in a low socio-economic suburban setting. We propose that central to these children’s experiences of food and eating is the negotiation and management of hunger. Historically, disadvantage has been embodied and inscribed on children’s bodies in very visible ways, and the coexistence of hunger and obesity is part of this continuum. Despite considerable evidence of food insecurity in our research site, issues of hunger were absent in an obesity intervention underway at the time. We examine how hunger was felt in children’s lives, how it was managed and the ways in which messages about eating less, while eating more ‘healthy foods’, were at odds with the children’s experiences of hunger. Moreover, we argue that hunger and obesity in this context were doubly stigmatised, as children were very aware of how their hunger and their bodies marked them as different and disadvantaged. Attention to both the embodied and social impacts of hunger on children and their everyday relationships is key in formulating more sensitive, contextualised public health interventions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)407-418
    Number of pages12
    JournalCritical Public Health
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2017


    • children
    • disadvantage
    • Hunger
    • obesity
    • shame


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