A recent study about body image and eating behaviors of almost 900 young adults in the U.S. conducted by the Center for Body Image Research and Policy at the University of Missouri concluded that “40% of women and 46% of men agreed that it would be worse to gain 25 pounds during social distancing than to become infected with COVID-19.” From this follows that weight gain through less movement and more emotional eating due to stay-at-home regulations is currently seen as more life-threatening than the Coronavirus by a large portion of individuals because of the ways body size determines social survival and cultural acceptance. Diet Culture in 2020: COVID-19 and Instagram Trends In the early months of 2020, social media…

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In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, hikers, backpackers, and mountain climbers on the United States’ east and west coasts spoke as excitedly about campfire food as they did about the continent’s ‘pristine’ wilderness. In hiking accounts and articles in outdoors magazines, early recreationalists explored what food meant to them. For many, trail fare and campfire cooking were about more than sustenance; they provided a means to transcend contemporary society’s gendered expectations about food and its consumption. The early hiking clubs of the United States were not overtly exclusionary in the ways that their European contemporaries were, but resistance to women’s inclusion was evident. In their early years, Massachusetts’s Appalachian Mountain Club (est. 1876), California’s Sierra Club…

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In Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, exercising is now all the rage. Scores of joggers take to the streets before sunrise, or just after sunset, while others gather in parks and roundabouts to exercise together, often to the commands of an instructor. Some use public staircases for sprints and jump-squats, and benches for triceps dips. The practice of physical activity in this part of the world is, of course, not entirely new, and the colonial histories of sports and leisure offer an important historical backdrop against which to understand current trends. But fitness, as a pursuit driven by a combination of health and aesthetic concerns is a novel and increasingly popular phenomenon. Only a few years ago, gyms and joggers…

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In the 1970s, Christmas Eve was divided between extremes. First, we had Toast Hawaii, like many other Germans in the Federal Republic: take a slice of sandwich bread, cover it with ham and a wheel of canned pineapple, top it with a slice of gleaming yellow processed cheese, bake it, and stick a bright red maraschino cherry in the resulting crusty indentation. Arranged on bread that, according to ‘low-food biographer’ Carolyn Wyman, was “tamed to be more palatable to a broader range of people from … the small kid to the adult,” Toast Hawaii was the stringy glue that held our nation together. An exotic feast for eyes and palate, it created a sense of belonging against all odds, even for a ten-year-old like myself.…

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Popular culture produced, circulated, and challenged ideals of the female body in the 19th century as much as in the 21st century. Serials, novels published in installments, and short stories in fashionable literary magazines were as popular and religiously followed as Netflix original series today. As romance was one of the most important genres, what made women attractive was defined in these stories and nationally distributed as normative beauty and gender ideals. The fascination with female body weight at the end of the 19th century is a case in point: it reflected a broader shift in what constituted ideal femininity and how it was to be embodied.  In 1863 a small pamphlet, A Letter on Corpulence, triggered the first dieting craze in the United…

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