Why do we eat? Is it instinct? Despite the necessity of food, anxieties about what and how to eat are widespread and persistent. In Appetite and Its Discontents, Elizabeth A. Williams explores contemporary worries about eating through the lens of science and medicine to show us how appetite&;once a matter of personal inclination&;became an object of science.   Williams charts the history of inquiry into appetite between 1750 and 1950, as scientific and medical concepts of appetite shifted alongside developments in physiology, natural history, psychology, and ethology. She shows how, in the eighteenth century, trust in appetite was undermined when researchers who investigated ingestion and digestion began claiming that science alone could say which ways of eating were healthy and which were not. She goes on to trace nineteenth- and twentieth-century conflicts over the nature of appetite between mechanists and vitalists, experimentalists and bedside physicians, and localists and holists, illuminating struggles that have never been resolved. By exploring the core disciplines in investigations in appetite and eating, Williams reframes the way we think about food, nutrition, and the nature of health itself..
"Williams has written a fascinating and comprehensive history of the efforts of Western science and medicine to elucidate the functions and dysfunctions of appetite from the eighteenth century to the present. Her analysis of the myriad disciplinary and clinical studies on this elusive entity yields new and important insights into the evolution of methods and experiments on hunger and eating in medical and scientific practice against the background of the dramatic changes in the food supply over time. This deeply learned history has lessons galore for all us contemporary eaters."--Robert A. Nye, Oregon State University "There is no equivalent scientific history of appetite available today. This book is the product of immense and extraordinarily wide-ranging research and it provides an important public service: it shows the narrow historical limits of current frames for thinking about appetite and obesity, and vividly brings alive other ways of thinking which once held sway. I strongly recommend it."--Dana Simmons, University of California, Riverside