Our EQ: What is diet culture, why is it so insidious, and how is it related to white privilege and the patriarchy?
Sponsor: Talking About Your Body Weight
Guest: Stephanie Skaggs, high school Humanities educator from Tacoma and woman of thiccness. She’s a third generation Tacoman and has a BA and Master’s in Teaching from Western Washington University.
This episode is inspired by the yearly conversation about “wellness” (aka diet and weight loss) that creeps up around the holidays. Topics include:
Our history of dieting, including the heritability of diet culture (we’re looking at you, moms and grandmas). Cabbage soup, French Women Don’t Get Fat, Atkins. The WORKS.
Diet trends - see this handy graph.
The relationship between wellness and wealth (and thinness as a status symbol).
The coded and secret language women use to talk about their bodies.
The changing conversation around obesity, including shifting definitions of health.
Stephanie’s extremely compelling primary source document - 1972 edition of The Joy of Sex and particularly the section entitled “Problems,” that is both fat-shaming and racist.
Double standards about male and female bodies and how they’re treated (Stephanie brings some insight about growing up with brothers, including how wonderful and supportive her family was. Hope talks about growing up with sisters). We figure out that even in supportive homes, there is intense pressure from society.
Sara Upson, doctor and registered dietitian. She has a blog called My Signature Nutrition and a post called Diet Culture 101 that is incredibly informative. She says:
“Diet culture is a society that focuses on and values weight, shape, and size over health and well-being. Variations of diet culture also include rigid eating patterns that on the surface are in the name of health, but in reality are about weight shape or size. Diet culture is really tricky because as we have learned that diets don’t work, they (diet culture) have transformed their message to say that they are all about health. Their definition of health though, is one that is synonymous with weight- that when you lose weight (by any means necessary) then you will be healthier. By restricting your eating and eliminating food groups you will feel better and be happier. This isn’t reality. The reality is- people do crazy, unhealthy, even dangerous diet behaviors in the name of health to lose weight. That isn’t health.”
How people equate thinness with happiness and use food to protect from trauma (read Roxanne Gay’s Hunger).
The crossover between diet culture and multi-level marketing and diet culture in schools.
Working with youth and modeling self-care for them in the classroom (including avoiding negative self-talk and body talk).
Taking apart the toxic crap:
The Anti-Diet Movement - comes in different forms on the internet, but the basic idea is to stop dieting and accept your body.
Focusing on goals that aren’t related to weight loss, but are for your health - like daily walks with the intention of clearing your head, not racking up steps or torching calories.
Studying diet culture and learn how to avoid its pitfalls. Check yourself when you’re talking about it.
Being intentional about body positivity and avoiding negative language. Give more genuine compliments.
Queer culture - outside the patriarchal male gaze?
Annie: Riverdale - delicious trash. Body positive actors on the show!
Hope: reheated leftover coffee with sugar free hot cocoa mix.
Stephanie: following body-positive Instagram accounts (gabifresh! Nabela Noor!)
Do Your Fudging Homework:
Annie: Read an article on the Frisky called “Girl Talk: I’m Sick of Women Talking About Weight” by Wendy Stokes. The author talks about those social situations in which women reinforce negative talk about weight with each other. The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams.
Hope: a super awesome book about body types - Body Drama by Nancy Amanda
Stephanie: Roxanne Gay - articles and books. She’s great.