This thesis studies the relationship between the visual and the personal in a group of female students at Oslo University in Norway. The fieldwork took place in 1999, and the focus was that of cultural concepts of food, eating and body shape, and what relevance this had for my informants.
Living in a culture that places much importance on external appearances, my informants showed great concern with how they looked, specifically with their weights. Rather than a focus on beauty, my informants' concerns were with body size and weight, in particular body "tone". The importance of the latter was brought home to me when one of the informants in this study claimed that "Body maintenance is whatever it takes to look and feel good". This suggested that body size had direct implications for feelings of self-worth. In effect, they had moral overtones; body size and texture are "read" as indicators of personal qualities by my informants.
As well as discussing "the ideal body" as according to the informants and the techniques they employ in the quest for this ideal, I describe the main social network my informants have, namely each other.
Important as background for this thesis is the topic of eating disorders, long seen as "typical" of young Western women. By studying women who are high-risk but not actually have such problems, I hope to show that eating disorders may be influenced by the society you live in but that it is too easy to "blame it on the fashion world". The relations behind it are more complex than so, building on long traditions of duality and fear of the ambiguous.