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“Societal Control” Over Food and Weight Gain


Societal control involves the enforcement of specific behavioral standards considered socially acceptable within a community. It regulates an individual’s behavior in agreement with social norms and rules that have been established. In Knapp’s essay, “Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem,” the cultural control over food and women’s body weight is discussed. The paper explains the standard that affects the eating of a woman. It also has the principles that lead to an unhealthy relationship between women with food. Prone views gluttony negatively by showing how gluttons are suffering in hell in the essay “The Wages of Sin.” Society dislikes people who overeat; they believe that overeating is a sin. Due to overeating, “the number of people developing overweight and obesity is increasing, as is the prevalence of eating disorders and weight preoccupation” (Kristensen 473). Obesity is not a vice, and it is a character flaw that results from eating excess food every time; therefore, society should not monitor the obese; instead, they should help them eradicate the condition.

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Some women always struggle to get thin to please men, and at the same time, they have the desire to eat. Some starve to lose weight while others overeat, keeping in mind that they would burn the calories later. Knapp turned to the health club locker room to see the one who looked awful for gaining weight and the other who looked fabulous for losing weight (234). Some women fear that when they take excess calories, they will be stored in their bodies as fats, and hence, they will not be beautiful. As Knapp says, women often complain, “I hate myself when I feel fat. I feel ugly and out of control. I feel un-sexy. I feel unlovable” (Knapp 235). Starving is a painful experience that entails suffering from hunger. Therefore, human beings should not starve themselves in a bid to please society.


People should not allow society to dictate their eating lifestyle. Knapp demonstrated his right to make decisions by giving up starving, although it was after two decades. After she noticed that she was living an unhealthy and unhappy life, women thought men always dominated them. Still, Knapp realized that women are their enemies, and they dominate themselves. Knapp says that the world is moving in male appetite service, and everywhere females are referred to as men’s helpers, so there is no effort put into females’ appetite as that in males (243). But this is not a verity since women are the one who exploits themselves in a bid of being loved.

Obesity as a religious sin

Nevertheless, women have the power to denounce societal control. Knapp highlights a woman’s freedom today, saying, “A woman, today, can be a neurosurgeon, or an astrophysicist; she can marry or not marry, leave her spouse, pack up, and move across the country at will” (243). In the same way, societal control over food and weight gain should not dictate an individual’s eating lifestyle.

Gluttons suffering in hell

Society considers overeating as a vice that results in obesity. Prose discusses weight control, food, and body image in the essay “The Wages of Sin.” She views the debate of whether to judge obese people for their eating disorders or not. She explains the idea using government ignorance, personal guilt, and religious sin. For instance, the Catholic Church officials preach against gluttony, and then, the moment at the end of the sermon, they race to take their lunches before they cool (Prose 46). It is strange for the preacher to go against their words. Some religious leaders are among those who overeat, as Prose says, “Surely, such men of God show us with their actions, with their very bodies, that eating well is not a sin” (47). It is a verity that overeating is no longer a vice; it is a strange illness caused by some factors like hunger, stress, and mindless eating.

The contrast between Knapp’s and Prose’s essays

Gluttons, those who are devoted to eating and drinking to excess, will suffer in hell because consuming excess food is their permanent behavior. Prose pointed out the suffering of gluttons in hell; for instance, they were sitting in front of a dining table that had various food on top, but they could not eat any of them (Prose 44). Gluttons suffer in hell due to their inability to satisfy their greed. Society views gluttony as a sin and a vice, and so people ought not to overeat so that they could conserve their good reputation. Despite gluttons’ suffering in hell, Christians still agree that eating well is not a sin. However, Prose claims that “Once-pious Christians knew what awaited them, as a consequence of overeating, they realized how important it was to watch their diets, how carefully they had to control their appetites” (49). People should watch their diet while eating and even know the quantity of food they consume every day.


Knapp’s essay “Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem” and Prose’s essay “The Wages of Sin” have brought out a similar idea of societal control about weight gain and food. They also have some differences, such as Knapp narrating her own experience while Prose draws her narration out of three entities: government ignorance, religious sin, and personal guilt. There are some common beliefs the society holds about obesity, “including the notion that obese individuals are to blame for their weight, contribute to the disregard of weight stigma and its impact on emotional and physical health” (Puhl and Heuer). The two passages explain the discrimination that the obese undergo in society.

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Obesity is a moral issue and is not considered a sin anymore. It is caused by consuming too many calories, endocrine disruptors such as fructose corn syrup, eating processed food, leading a sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, and medications like some antidepressants (Brazier). The obese should have strong willpower when dealing with the condition. They should have the right people around them to help them stay on track with their weight-management plan. They should also have friends with the same target of diagnosing obesity to motivate each other.


Both Knapp and Prose capture the resemblance of definite food rules in their passages. The food rules are strictly observed by society and have an unhealthy religious obsession, saying that obesity is a sin. The notion of obesity being a vice is nullified, and society ought not to monitor the obese. The obese, on the other hand, should get access to the celestial apparatuses that are put before them, such as rehabilitating themselves spiritually as they attempt to overcome this condition. The obese must understand that no situation lasts forever; therefore, they should allow themselves to question what they want and not what society requires.

Works Cited

Brazier, Yvette. “What Is Obesity, and What Causes It?” MedicalNewsToday, 2021, Web.

Knapp, Caroline. “Add Cake, Subtract Self-Esteem.” Appetites: Why Women Want, edited by Knapp Caroline, Counterpoint, 2004, pp. 232–45.

Kristensen, ST. “Social and Cultural Perspectives on Hunger, Appetite and Satiety.” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 54, no. 6, 2000, pp. 473–78. Crossref.

Prose, Francine. “The Wages of Sin.” Gluttony (The Seven Deadly Sins), 1st ed., Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 43–75.

Puhl, Rebecca M., and Chelsea A. Heuer. “NCBI – WWW Error Blocked Diagnostic.” NCBI, 2010, Web.

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