My dog is overweight, the vet tells me. I need to put him on a diet. I alternate between feeling guilty and asking myself how this happened. I know the answer, of course: I cannot say no. More treats equal a happier dog. Who wouldn’t want that?

As the contributors to this big fat issue of InTheFray reveal, my dog and I are not alone in our struggle to cut the flab. This month we get the skinny on our culture’s problems with fat, in its many manifestations. We begin with Eric Chang’s look at how our big fat stupid genes — The invisible enemy — influence body type and hinder us from willing to be skinnier. Sometimes, extra weight comes from pregnancy, which leaves some people asking, “Is pregnant fat?” as Karen Walasek’s visual essay does.

Of course, as Sarah M. Seltzer points out in Knocking the weight, sometimes neither genes not willpower nor reproduction determine the shape our bodies take — or other people’s perceptions of our physiques. Other times, as Katherine Roff suggests in her review of Wally Lamb’s novel She’s Come Undone, shouldering The weight of the world can make eating seem like our only means of survival. But often, as Pris Campbell suggests in her poem Runway, few things are as seductive as the possibility of emaciation.

Our bodies aren’t the only things many of us wish were skinnier. Summer Batte dreams of slimming down her home but finds her love of “stuff” keeps getting in the way. And, in Cutting down to size, David A. Zimmerman struggles with the allure of being larger than life and the egotistical behaviors it manifests.

Rounding out this month’s stories is Lights, camera, action, ITF Board member Randy Klein’s profile of the Global Action Project, a youth media and leadership organization for New York City teens.

Thanks for reading. We hope you enjoy devouring this month’s issue as much as we indulged in putting it together!

Laura Nathan

In The Fray is a nonprofit staffed by volunteers. If you liked this piece, could you please donate $10?