Episode One: Deconstructing Diet Culture – WUNC
In this episode, Anita unpacks the science that props up diet culture with a registered dietician and certified internal medicine physician. They trace diet culture’s history as far back as ancient Greece and talk through some of society’s moralistic arguments against fatness. Anita also learns from an historian, an ultrarunner in a larger body and a transmasculine physical trainer’s assistant who’s working to make fitness spaces more inclusive.
Does diet culture affect me?
From the pressure to hit the gym to diets that promise a beach-ready body, we are constantly inundated with messages about our weight and the ways it supposedly determines our worth and health. Diet culture is omnipresent, so it’s no wonder that it influences our beliefs — even when we make a conscious effort to challenge its messages: “It seeps into my own home from media, from social media, the athletic world,” says ultrarunner Mirna Valerio, as she recounts a situation when diet culture’s messaging infiltrated her home life despite her efforts to eat and move in a more intuitive way. Both Valerio and physical therapist assistant Ilya Parker describe times they’ve encountered diet culture in the doctor’s office and the ways this prevented them from receiving comprehensive healthcare. Natalia Petrzela, professor of American culture and history at the New School, points out the overlap of diet culture with American politics, with notable examples including JFK’s claim that the “soft American” is a national liability.
Let’s dig deeper:
- What were some of the earliest messages you heard about the size and shape of your body?
- How did those messages shape your beliefs about body size, whether your own or those of others?
- In what context(s) do you encounter diet culture in your daily life?
- In what ways have you internalized, questioned, or resisted this messaging?
How do diet culture and fatphobia perpetuate other forms of oppression?
Diet culture is built on a concept that’s been around for thousands of years: it is moral and virtuous to maintain a lower body weight. “This was because of the belief system that ancient Greeks had about balance and moderation in all things being seen as a virtue,” says dietician and author Christy Harrison. “And so fatness was seen as an imbalance to be ‘corrected.’” The idea that our body weight has moral or ethical implications persists in our language today — from diets that classify certain foods as good or bad, to the use of “fat” as a slur, to …….