Food Psych #156: Breaking Free from Diet Culture with Joy Cox

Joy Cox.jpg

Researcher and activist Joy Cox joins us to talk about how we can fight back against internalized weight stigma and body shame, how intersecting identities can affect body image, why refusing to conform to cultural and societal expectations can help change the world, the racist roots of diet culture and why fighting it is an important part of creating a more inclusive society, the problems with framing larger body size as “obesity” and labeling it a disease, and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about intuitive eating for athletes.

Joy is current doctoral candidate and self-professed fatty in the Department of Communication at Rutgers University using her dissertation to study the impacts of identity and social change within the Fat Liberation Movement. Through interviews and content analysis, Joy has been able to unearth answers to questions around member identification, micro and macro discourse, and political action outcomes for movement members. When not conducting research, Joy serves as the Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion team for ASDAH, and hosts her own podcast, Fresh Out the Cocoon, which highlights the lived experiences of Black fat women. She is an avid lover of justice and a fierce defender of those who cannot defend themselves. Find her on Instagram.


We Discuss:

  • Joy’s relationship with food growing up, including how coming from a black family created a culture of community and celebration around food, and how her family instilled a sense of body acceptance and body diversity from a young age

  • Joy’s process of learning self-advocacy and facing body shame from her doctor at a young age

  • The role of race in the development of Joy’s body image, and how her intersectional identities placed pressure on her to adhere to diet culture

  • Joy’s experience with weight stigma and medical fatphobia

  • The toxic nature of weight-loss related compliments

  • Joy’s experience going to culinary school, how it contributed to yo-yo dieting, and her struggle navigating the male-dominated restaurant industry

  • The pressure that Joy felt to stay at her suppressed weight and to maintain her extreme weight loss

  • Joy’s move to go back to university in West Virginia, and her realization that there was systemic oppression around her and affecting her experience

  • Joy’s experience with the Atkins diet, and how it reinforced her desire to be in a smaller body

  • Joy’s re-discovery of joyful movement

  • How so-called “obesity” being categorized as a disease led to Joy’s exposure to Health at Every Size and fat liberation

  • The power of research and literature in fighting against fatphobia and weight stigma

  • Why we need to move away from beauty standards and cultural norms

  • How Joy’s intersecting identities of being a black and being a woman and being fat informs her research and doctoral work

  • Why not conforming to cultural and societal expectations is a political act

  • The structural ways in which society excludes people in marginalized bodies

  • What it means to truly be committed to diversity and inclusion

  • Joy’s research into organization communication styles and how they perpetuate structural inequality

  • The ways in which society minimizes the trauma we as a culture inflict on larger bodies

  • Why shame and personal responsibility don’t lead to long-term change

  • Navigating the struggles around fat acceptance

  • The racist roots of diet culture, and why studying history is so important in the fight for social justice

  • How we can combat internalized fatphobia and other internalized oppressions through education and visibility

Resources Mentioned

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Listener Question of the Week

How do we combine intuitive eating with competitive sports? What does intuitive eating tell us about “healthy” vs “unhealthy” foods? How does diet culture sever the connection between our brain and our bodies? What does “health” even mean? How do we recognize and break down the diet mentality? Are there ways to alleviate compulsive behaviors around movement?

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