Fat-Positive Comedy, Diet-Culture Recovery, and Native American Representation with Jana Schmieding of Woman of Size Podcast

Food Psych


I'm your host I Christie Harrison and today I'm talking with comedian fat positive activist and fellow podcasters Janisch meeting. You may know from the woman of size podcast. We discuss using comedy to call out Diet Culture why there needs to be more native representation in the media how Western values contribute to who oppression and ill health how diet cultures demonization of emotional eating causes additional distress. And so much more. It's a great episode assode and I can't wait to share it with you and just a moment but first I'll answer this week's listener question which is from a listener named lease who writes as a health at every size psychologists. I appreciate she at your podcast and often encourage my clients to listen to it as well. It seems an oversight however that to my knowledge you never even mentioned how cultural change has led to bigger bodies. I talk with my clients. About how cultural changes moving less. Do to conveniences and more sedentary jobs and easy access to lots of different. Different foods is our reality today. I find that talking about these. Cultural Choices helps decrease shame about being a bigger body for some people. I'm wondering if there's the reason you and your guests don't ever seem to refer to this neutral phenomena so thanks leased for that great question and before I answer just my standard disclaimer. That these answers. There's and this podcast in general our information on educational purposes only and are not a substitute for individual medical or mental health advice. So I'm really glad you asked this question because I think this is one of those really subtle nuances when working to combat diet culture. So I'm sure that some of the folks you've worked with definitely have have had some reduction in shame from hearing these messages that you're speaking about but in my experience it can sometimes actually reinforce shame for people to hear that cultural troll changes have ostensibly lead to bigger bodies. And I say ostensibly here because I don't think it's entirely clear that the cultural changes you're talking about have have led to larger body sizes if anything it's the worry about those cultural changes that contributed to the development of Diet Culture right culture that lead people to start dieting and we do know that dieting in and of itself tends to drive people's weight up over time not that there's anything wrong with weight gain or being in a larger body of course but dieting really does tend to have that effect so the idea that food was more available and that jobs were becoming more sedentary came out of the shift from rural life working on farms to industrial jobs in cities in the mid eighteen hundreds. That's where this idea. I think I started to take root route and there is also industrialization of our food supply. That was happening around the same time and the culture was really a wash in anxiety about what those changes ages quote unquote meant and this was more than one hundred and fifty years ago. Remember well before any arguments about a so called. Obesity epidemic heavy air quotes here right. It came on the scene because that concept was only invented about twenty five years ago after fatness had become thoroughly demonized in the culture and and people have been dieting and trying to lose weight and increasingly large numbers for a hundred years so in other words I think if the average body size in the US has has indeed crept up over the years. which is debatable? Depending on the years that we're talking about probably has a lot more to do with Diet. Culture and the rampant rates of our efforts to shrink ourselves than it does with the nature of our work or the convenience of our food and of course good nutrition and having food available definitely could to help people achieve the body size that they were genetically determined to achieve in a situation of food access. But there's nothing inherently wrong with that and what's more if you look back to the mid eighteen hundreds it's really clear that worries about sedentary jobs and industrial food were not about body size or health per se so much as they were about morality the supposed effect of industrialization on moral character on the moral character of the American people people that was being questioned and debated at the time. And of course. That's ridiculous right. Because there's no moral difference between rural dwellers and city-dwellers or people people who farm and people who buy their food from a store or work in office jobs right. There's no moral virtue and working on a farm as opposed to working in a factory or an office but the belief that there was the belief that there there was some sort of moral difference. There really comes out of puritanical ideas about morality and also so is really tied up with racism xenophobia because a lot of the fears about industrialization and urban were actually fears about immigration and the a big wave of immigrants that were moving to the US and moving into US cities specifically because of the opportunity to work in the factories. That were springing up there. So I talk about all of this in the first chapter of my book. So if you're curious to know more about this history or read the references you can check it out there but I bring up all this history just to point out here that a the people have been worrying about the effects of sedentary work and convenient food Everson's industrialization began and from the very start. Those worries were tied up with arguments about morality and be because of that history. It really isn't neutral to say that sedentary work and convenient food quote unquote caused ause more people to be larger body. That argument comes with baggage in the form of beliefs that we really quote unquote should be working more physical labor intensive jobs and cooking all our food from scratch all that stuff and I think that often that's what people take from conversations about how these kinds of cultural factors have have affected body size. They take it as a mandate to start exercising more and eating less or eating differently and of course. Those are dieting behaviors the so really arguments about sedentary jobs and the food environment are often just triggers for dieting behaviors especially in the twenty first century. When we've had almost was twenty years of people like Michael Pollen and Marion Nestle and quote unquote wellness influencers giving out diet tips under the guise of cultural analysis alice's or wellness advised which is basically what chapter two of my book is all about? Is this insidious shift from overt diets to covert diets from diets calling themselves diets to die. It's by another name and too often conversations about food. Politics are full of very thinly veiled fat hat phobia and food phobia which are harmful to people's health. No matter their body size but especially harmful to people in larger bodies who've had to endure repeated the incidents of fat phobia and diet culture trauma throughout their lives and so often have a heightened awareness of it and a heightened sensitivity to it for that reason and so that that is why. I don't use that argument and of course I can't speak for my guests on the podcast but I imagine that might be part of why they don't either because of all this baggage that comes comes with that argument in the form of morality in the form of the history of this argument and in the form of a modern manifestation of this argument as leading leading people to Diet right leading people to engage in dieting behaviors like trying to eat less and move more and do all the things that Dia Culture tells us to do except up now it's under the guise of correcting for the problems of the ills of modern life instead of under the guise of weight loss for aesthetics. Or whatever it might have been even before the twenty first century so to lease who asked the question. I in no way want to shame you for discussing those cultural factors with your clients. I can totally understand understand why it would seem innocuous neutral and even freeing to mention these things and you know some of your clients might truly feel like it takes the the pressure off of them as individuals to be responsible for their body size. But we're all always learning even as Hayes professionals and I know I myself refused to talk about the food environment and sedentary jobs and all that stuff to before I started to reflect on how problematic these food activists type arguments really can and be how. They're not really rooted in fact so much as beliefs about what body size means or what certain behaviors mean and how these arguments can unintentionally trigger. Shame in the very people that were trying to help heal from shame and I also want to say that I'm by no means some perfect clinician. Here I I just happened to have given a lot of thought to this particular nexus of food politics and diet culture because of my own background and my lived experiences because I it was so bought into the food activist Movement for years and it did me tremendous harm it really worse than my disordered eating and so I think that makes me more suspicious of food activist arguments now and more willing to sort of take a critical eye towards

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