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,…

» Read More

“I know you’re sick. It’s all that whiteman junk food we eat,” the elderly Aboriginal protagonist Charlie remarks towards his terminally ill friend. The Australian drama Charlie’s Country (directed by Rolf de Heer), which had its world premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival in October 2013, presents a fictional engagement with community life in the Northern Territory after the implementation of the Intervention. De Heer’s film emphatically addresses Indigenous people’s disadvantages—especially in relation to food and health issues. Since healthier options are inaccessible, Charlie and his community rely on the unhealthy food they can buy from the general store of their community and are consequently made ill by their diet. Charlie would prefer to hunt rather than consume the “whiteman…

» Read More

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…

» Read More

In 1899, in one of the most influential speeches of his career, Theodore Roosevelt called on his fellow citizens to live a “strenuous life.” Roosevelt praised a life of restless movement, always active, always seeking to improve one’s strength and the strength of the nation, always trying to get ahead and to succeed in an endless struggle for survival. In the wake of Darwin and in the age of Social Darwinism, competition, personal responsibility, and constant improvement had become natural laws, considered as governing any interaction between individuals, groups, and nations. Roosevelt preached the gospel of fitness, and its message and tone sound familiar to us, even if we have never heard of his “strenuous life”-speech before. In this blog…

» Read More

In spring 2016 Cameron Diaz published The Longevity Book, the long-awaited sequel to The Body Book, a number-one bestseller in 2014. In her books the Hollywood star promises healthier, more fulfilled lives and more beautiful selves to those who follow her guidance. Diaz’s publications are recent additions to a growing corpus of advice literature published by actresses claiming expertise over the female body. Often this advice comes wrapped in a language of empowerment. In The Body Book, Diaz writes: “…nutrition and fitness…are not just words they are tools. They are power. They are ways to care for yourself that empower you to be stronger…and truer to yourself” (2). “Love Your Amazing Body,” the book’s back cover exhorts its readers. The…

» Read More