Food Psych #159: How Diet Culture Harms Your Health with Joanne Ikeda


Pioneering Health at Every Size dietitian Joanne Ikeda joins us to discuss the history of the HAES movement, how the dietetics field and the role of the dietitian has changed over time, the effects of dieting on weight gain and weight cycling, and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about the food industry and diet soda.

Joanne Ikeda has been a trailblazer in the development of the Health at Every Size® paradigm and the fight against weight stigma. As founding co-director of the Center for Weight and Health in the College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, Ikeda has been a leader in efforts to refine approaches to childhood wellness at the local, state and national levels. She is author or coauthor of research publications as well as pamphlets, books, and training kits designed to help health professionals, paraprofessionals and parents instill healthy eating habits and encourage physical activity in children and adolescents. Her most recent effort involves empowering community coalitions to change local environments so they are more supportive of healthy lifestyles in families. She is dedicated to protecting children from becoming casualties in the “war on obesity” by promoting a Health at Every Size approach.

She has also conducted extensive community collaborative research on the food habits and dietary quality of California’s low-income, immigrant and ethnic populations. Her findings are used to develop culturally sensitive and relevant educational programs for these groups, which have included Hmong families in the Central Valley; Vietnamese-American communities in Northern and Southern California; Native Americans in rural areas; and African American women in urban areas of the state.

Ikeda has served as president of the 8,000-member California Dietetic Association. She has chaired the American Dietetic Association’s Nutrition Education for the Public Practice Group and more recently chaired the pediatric subunit of the Weight Management Practice Group. She helped establish the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH), and served as its secretary for two years. She recently finished a 3-year term as President of the Society for Nutrition Education & Behavior. She has been active on many advisory boards and committees and received numerous awards and honors, including the Society of Nutrition Education Weight Realities Achievement Award; the Ethel Austin Martin Nutrition Education Distinguished Lecturer Award from South Dakota State University; the University of California Outreach Award for service to minority communities; and more.

In 2003, Ikeda received the Community Awareness Award from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) for her dissemination of the message of size acceptance. In 2008, NAAFA gave Ikeda its highest honor for her efforts towards ending size discrimination. She is also the primary author of NAAFA’s Child Advocacy Toolkit.  

She retired from the University of California, Berkeley, on January 1, 2007, and has been awarded the title of Nutritionist Emeritus. She currently is the Nutrition Consultant for the Cartoon Network, and a nutrition expert for ABC News and NAAFA.

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We Discuss:

  • Joanne’s relationship with food growing up, including her lack of cooking skills as a college student

  • How the dietetics career and the role of the dietitian has changed over time

  • Joanne’s experience with old-school weight-loss groups and developing weight-loss programs, and her realization that the weight-loss paradigm is ineffective

  • The role of food insecurity in weight gain and hunger

  • Joanne’s exploration of weight science, and her discovery that health is not dependent on weight

  • How the fat-acceptance movement opened Joanne’s eyes to the realities of weight stigma

  • The effects of dieting on weight gain and weight cycling

  • Joanne’s experience getting her research published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association

  • The creation of the Health at Every Size principles and guidelines, and the reticence of the current dietetics community to embrace HAES

  • Why there isn’t enough HAES research out there, and why we need to fund more HAES projects

  • The value in and importance of weight stigma research and the negative impacts of long-term weight cycling

  • Why the calories-in-calories-out model is ludicrous

  • Why individuals are so invested in diet culture, and why we as a culture resist embracing a weight-inclusive perspective

  • What a weight-inclusive, fat-accepting world would look like

  • The problems with the National Weight Registry data

Resources Mentioned

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Listener Question of the Week

How do we find a balance between knowing that the food industry is problematic, but not falling down the disordered-eating-rabbit-hole by demonizing foods? How does diet soda tie in with disordered eating? What role does restriction play in feeling out of control around high-sugar or high-carb foods?

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