Jennifer Cullin

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Indiana U., Bloomington

Grant number

Gr. 9730

Approve Date

October 23, 2018

Project Title

Cullin, Jennifer M., Indiana U., Bloomington, IN - To aid research on 'Biological Normalcy and Fat Bodies: Investigating Eelationships Between Obesity Prevalence, Fat Stigma, and Allostatic Load,' supervised by Dr. Andrea Wiley

JENNIFER M. CULLIN, then a graduate student at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, was awarded funding in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Biological Normalcy and Fat Bodies: Investigating Relationships between Obesity Prevalence, Fat Stigma, and Allostatic Load,’ supervised by Dr. Andrea Wiley. This project used comparative and biocultural approaches to understand how body phenotypes are understood in US cultural context, and how these cultural understandings may contribute to biological disparities among adolescents and young adults. Allostatic load (a measure of low-level chronic stress) was measured to assess biological impacts of perceived weight stigma in various epidemiological contexts. The work addressed complex relationships among phenotypic norms, social stigma, and co-morbidities of obesity in a vulnerable section of the US population, at a time when there is high prevalence of obesity, perceived weight stigma, and weight discrimination. This research used mixed methods (questionnaires, biomarkers, ethnographic interviews) to compare populations across the state of Indiana varying by obesity prevalence. The project was framed around the concept of biological normalcy, which refers to the ways human societies develop understandings of what a ‘normal’ human body is — normal referring to normative ideas about what bodies ‘should’ be as well as statistical distributions of different phenotypic traits. This framework was used to address: 1) how cultural beliefs about what constitutes a ‘normal’ or healthy body are related to statistical biological norms within a population, and 2) how normative beliefs influence the statistical distribution of biological traits in a population.