In May this year, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced new labels that will have to be printed on most packaged food products by July 2018. In a presentation at the White House, Michelle Obama praised the label as making “a real difference in providing families across the country the information they need to make healthy choices.” Recent posts on this blog have discussed notions of transparency and choice. Today, I want to add some remarks on the history and politics of the gauge on which a lot of today’s food talk is based: on calories. The new food label includes a line on added sugars as well as changes in serving sizes. Its most visible change, however,…

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It is a contradiction to work for social justice and perpetuate fatphobia at the same time. This should be obvious, and yet many people with strong commitments to social justice often use rhetoric that entrenches the oppression of fat people. A popular, but pernicious, set of fatphobic assertions takes the form of what some scholars refer to as the “foodscape argument.” On its surface, the foodscape argument (which is also known as the “obesogenic environment” thesis, or the “environmental” theory of fatness) seems progressive. The theory postulates that western industrial societies are experiencing an “epidemic” of “obesity,” which is driven in large part by economic inequality. According to the foodscape argument, low-income people lack access to nutritious foods and are…

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“We have done it – This city has gone on a diet. Together we have reached our goal of losing 1,000,000 pounds! (…) Hopefully, we are a healthier, more vibrant, and progressive community. I would like to thank each and every person and organization who has contributed to the OKC Million program, and I encourage all to stay active, stay healthy, and stay involved. This is the beginning of a brighter future.” The “OKC Million-pound-program,” which was initiated by Mayor Mick Cornett in Oklahoma City in 2007, was a massive campaign aimed at the city’s population and the weight of their bodies. Mayor Cornett boasted in 2013 that his successful effort to bring the state’s capital into shape through restraining and disciplining…

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In the era of the “obesity epidemic,” fat has become a politically charged topic. It thus often provokes an overtly politicized response from writers of fiction. One such novelist is Sarai Walker, whose 2015 book Dietland links cultural attitudes toward women’s eating and body size to other feminist political concerns ranging from rape culture to domestic violence to gender gaps in employment. In Dietland, the restrictions on the amount of space that women take up become a metonymy for all of the restrictions placed on women’s lives in a patriarchal culture. When the main character, Alicia (nicknamed Plum), begins to understand the connection between diet culture and other forms of patriarchal oppression, she is able to let go of her…

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The United States is in the midst of a contemporary civil rights movement that heightens the cry for understanding “Black Lives Matter.” Daily, debates surge around whose lives matter most, all the while missing the point that black lives, lifeways, and existences are important enough to be labeled Black. Black Lives Matter is a phrase that emerged in the aftermath of the recent series of racial unrests occurring in the United States. Specifically, the slogan of #BlackLivesMatter came to define the incidents in Orlando, Florida and Ferguson, Missouri where unarmed African American teenagers, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, respectively, were shot and killed by white representatives of law enforcement. This movement is dedicated to exposing the myriad African American—men, women,…

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