No one wants to admit to dieting anymore, preferring to discuss instead gut healing, sugar cravings, or liver cleanses. But these healthy sounding initiatives are often only covering up the ultimate goal of weight loss. In this article, Virginia Sole-Smith, the author of The Eating Instinct – Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America, reflects on the thin white men who have been working behind the scenes to rebrand dieting as wellness.
Our current thinking about weight—and the belief that we need to control it by eating “clean,” home-cooked, restrictive meals—originates from a less glamorous but far more influential group of people: The mostly white, mostly male, mostly thin food writers and chefs who have been setting the agenda of what they call the “good food movement” for the past couple of decades. And in the process, they’ve turned being thin—and eating in the labor-intensive way they think guarantees thinness—into a moral imperative.
In the article she address multiple important points about the difference in weight perception between men and women, and how women have been conditioned to not trust our bodies.
It is a revelation to exactly nobody that a thin, white man can eat whatever he wants and not hear anything beyond some gentle “maybe try a salad sometime!” joshing from loved ones, restaurant staff, doctors, and strangers. In contrast, women—especially if they’re middle-aged, not white, or less educated—experience weight stigma much more frequently than their male peers, and at lower body weights, says Rebecca Puhl, PhD, who studies the implications of weight bias at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity. We can’t “just eat whatever we want” because we’ve been conditioned since childhood to view our bodies as unruly, undisciplined, and in need of constant vigilance. And so we blend smoothies, cut out gluten, and start January diets because we long ago internalized that whatever we’re really hungry for is wrong.
The process of stopping dieting and embracing intuitive eating requires body trust. This thought provoking article brought me new insights.