Vincent makes sure his voice carries far enough for me to understand that I need to push through thirty seconds longer, even with all the background noise. In fact, I am hardly aware of my environment. Or was, until I identified a moving object in the corner of my eye. When I strain my head to look left, I see a toddler watching me with a strange expression on his face. I am focused on the burning sensation in my abdominal area and my mind telling me that I should just give up. But Vincent’s reference to time gives me a new surge of willpower and I manage to uphold my body in plank position, supporting my rigid body on…

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The decision, whether taking stairs or the escalator is the better choice, has been charged with a new socio-political dimension lately. Both speed and convenience do hardly matter, yet it has turned into a question of fitness and health. As the Fitbit advertisement points out, “fitness is the sum of your life.” It can be found between beginnings and endings or between high and low ends of the exercise spectrum. Gone are the times when physical activity was confined to particular spaces reserved for heavy exercise—like gyms. Today we live in an almost endless sea of fitness opportunities, called: your daily life. Of major importance in this change is the popular trend of logging one’s activities with digital tracking devices,…

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On Sunday, April 30th 2017, Oprah Winfrey, probably America’s best known talk show host,  sat down for that day’s episode of her weekly talk series SuperSoul Sunday.  She met Geneen Roth, author of several self-help books on eating, dieting and women’s spiritual life. Geneen and Oprah talked about a topic seemingly accompanying both middle-aged women for almost their whole lifetime, their long lasting “struggles” with food, dieting and their body—leading to life-changing insights Roth digested in her best-selling book “Women, Food and God.” I will, first, explore that show as a gateway to think about how food and body are dealt with in popular media. The show stands as a powerful example for how food and eating have become an…

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In recent years, the concept “neoliberalism” has emerged to represent everything that is bad, or at least nothing good. Some have questioned whether the concept is so overused to the point of being meaningless. In public health, there has been an explosion of neoliberal analyses. In an editorial for Critical Public Health, Kirsten Bell and Judith Green lament the ”reductive ways neoliberalism often tends to be used.” One such reduction is the characterization of the beneficent welfare state as under-attack from maleficent neoliberalism. This characterization is not only simplistic, but it misunderstands the effects of neoliberalism on the provision of welfare. I suggest that the proliferation of “lifestyle” practices and policies can better help us understand the relationship between neoliberalism…

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Through my research on black women’s exercise and fitness culture from 1900 to the 1930s, I discovered a little-known history of black fat shaming. While I expected to find that black women engaged in exercise for general health, I never imagined that some black women would craft their exercise programs for weight loss and at the same time participate in fat stigmatization. My surprise stemmed from common-sense assumptions about black people’s fat acceptance and flexible standards of beauty. Popular culture, academic studies on body image, and news outlets help to perpetuate these assumptions. R&B and Hip Hop is known for celebrating black women’s voluptuous bodies, including Drake who rapped famously he likes women “so thick that everybody else in the…

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