Weight Watchers first launched an online program “customized just for guys” in 2007, one of their advertisements proclaimed, “Real men don’t diet.” This counterintuitive declaration evoked the questions that animate my current research. I’m analyzing how the consumer culture constructs notions of “real men” through depictions of food and the body, particularly during moments of intense social change and anxiety. As you might have guessed, commercial weight loss programs, developed for men in the early decades of the new millennium, provide ample evidence. Men have made up a small but consistent 10 percent of the Weight Watchers membership since the company’s founding in 1963. Throughout the decades, program materials, cookbooks, and magazines have each addressed men. For example, the 1973…

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The heated debate on the European “Nutella divide” that hit the news in 2017 only corroborated long-established East European beliefs: After the fall of the Socialist regimes, people did not get the much longed-for western quality products. Instead, substandard goods were shipped eastwards: Adidas trainers that would not sell, Swiss knives with dull blades, expired foods with new sell-by dates. Finally there was official proof that in the East, Nutella was less creamy (smooth), Coca Cola tasted flatter and fish fingers held less fish. The offended Visegrad states complained that they were abused as European dumping ground. The manufacturers first attributed this to adjusting recipes to regional taste preferences, and also – after some probing – to lower spending power.…

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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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For lunch Hillary Clinton ingested 840 calories, 1.270 milligrams of sodium and 11.5 grams of saturated fat. This was on Monday, April 13, 2015. She had takeout from a Chipotle outside of Toledo, Ohio. A surveillance camera recorded her visit. One day before, she had launched her campaign for the US Presidency. Where did we get the nutritional data? New York Times writer Kevin Quealy did the research for us. His piece claims that Clinton had the “chicken bowl, white rice, black beans, fresh garden salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce and guacamole.” Using a Chipotle calorie calculator, the journalist computed how Clinton’s order at the slightly upscale fast food restaurant compares to the national average. Apparently, Quealy states, her lunch “was…

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