Confessing Excess

Women and the Politics of Body Reduction

By Carole Spitzack

Subjects: Women's Studies, Psychology
Series: SUNY series in Gender and Society
Paperback : 9780791402726, 200 pages, July 1990
Hardcover : 9780791402719, 200 pages, July 1990

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Table of contents



Part I: Transgressions and Cures

Chapter 1 Curative Voices: Anti-Diets and Expects

Chapter 2 The Aesthetics of Women's Health: "Watching Yourself Until You're Sixty-Five"

Chapter 3 Speaking Transgressions: "Making a Believer of Me"

Part II: Others in Relation to Bodies

Chapter 4 Family Relationships: "Mother Criticizes, Father Compliments"

Chapter 5 Women's Friendships: "Going Down to the Depths of You"

Chapter 6 Romantic Relationships: "Getting Him to See Me"

Part III: Wisdom from the Margins

Chapter 7 Seeing the Mythology of Resolution: "I Could Write a Book About This"

Chapter 8 Political Solutions: "Wait a Minute, This is Crazy"






Looking at the discourse on female weight reduction in American culture, Confessing Excess analyzes contemporary dieting and the weight loss literature by taking up the themes of confession and surveillance. Spitzack argues that dieting is characterized by confession (of "excess") which women internalize and which necessitates ongoing surveillance or monitoring of the body. Informal conversations and in-depth interviews also juxtapose women's everyday dieting experiences with the discourse of dieting texts. By evaluating the cultural construction of women in this manner, the author illuminates the power strategies that offer self-acceptance at the price of self-condemnation.

Carole Spitzack is Associate Professor of Communication at Tulane University. She is co-editor of Studying Women's Communication: Perspectives in Theory and Method.


"Dr. Spitzack has employed and clarified the works of some of the primary thinkers of our time, especially Michel Foucault. Distinctions between reality and reality structures are particularly difficult to write about meaningfully, and Spitzack has done that. I especially like the extent to which she offers women's own words as text.

"The best testament to a book is that it makes the reader think. I feel that Spitzack has enlightened my thinking, forcing me to reconsider my assumptions and challenge my own conclusions. " — Elizabeth Jean Nelson, University of Minnesota, Duluth

"I like the methodological orientation to analyzing discourse that combines strong theoretical discussion with empirical data. The sophisticated analysis results in an original application of Foucault's confession to a particular dimension of women's experience—an application that articulates both the power of discourse and the resistance of women's body talk. " — Kristin Langellier, University of Maine, Orono