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Food Psych #193: Feminism, Marketing, and Breaking Free from Diet Culture with Kelly Diels

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Writer and feminist marketing consultant Kelly Diels joins us to discuss the links between diet culture, patriarchy, and anti-feminist marketing practices (aka The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand); the role of abundance in healing from diet culture; how to reclaim your life from The Life Thief; understanding and healing our relationship with money; and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about what to do if you’re one of those weight-loss “success stories” who’s actually just in the throes of disordered eating.

Kelly Diels (she/her) is a writer and feminist marketing consultant. She writes about a phenomenon that she calls "The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand," which she does not think is a good thing for women or our world. Kelly believes, instead, that we are culture makers and can create the culture we want to live in, right now. Kelly is also the Director of Marketing and Communications for SheEO (all opinions are her own). Find her writing and online workshops at KellyDiels.com.

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We Discuss:

  • Kelly’s fraught relationship with food growing up

  • The societal messages about femininity that contributed to her eating disorder as a teenager

  • Kelly and Christy’s experiences as outspoken children growing up

  • The links between diet culture and patriarchy

  • Why adolescence is a high-risk time for eating disorders, especially for femme-identifying teens

  • How breaking free from diet culture has changed Kelly’s parenting

  • Why adolescence is a good time to introduce systemic analysis

  • The role of the Health At Every Size® and fat acceptance movements in Kelly’s recovery from anorexia and bulimia

  • Taking your life back from The Life Thief that is diet culture

  • How experiencing fatphobia can give people a heightened ability to recognize systemic oppression

  • Signs of a cultural shift toward increased fat acceptance

  • Community, including virtual communities, and their importance in recovering from diet culture

  • The “contagious” nature of cultural change

  • How Kelly was introduced to feminism, and how it helped her recover from the trauma of sexual abuse

  • The many anti-feminist practices in marketing today, and how it led her to her current work as a feminist marketing consultant

  • The meaning behind her motto, “We are the culture makers”

  • Why our friends and family can influence us more than big brands

  • The Female Lifestyle Empowerment Brand (FLEB) and how to divest from it

  • The men’s-rights activist lineage behind many FLEB marketing techniques

  • Why money and resources are important in divesting from FLEB

  • The parallels between the traumas of diet culture and poverty

  • Abundance, and its role in healing from diet culture

  • Creativity and ingenuity as survival tools

  • The creativity inherent in many of the coping mechanisms that are demonized by our society, such as binge eating and addiction

  • Media and resources as a form of community

  • Kelly’s work with SheEO

  • The difference between how women and men spend their income

  • Understanding and healing our relationship with money

  • The importance of having money and resources for survival, especially for marginalized people

 

Resources Mentioned

Some of the links below are affiliate links. Affiliates or not, we only recommend products and services that align with our values.

Listener Question of the Week

Where does the “95-98% of diets fail” statistic come from? Is it true that of the small percentage of people who are able to maintain long-term weight loss, most are struggling with some form of disordered eating? What is the true meaning of “body positivity?” How can a person be happier in a larger body when they know that they are engaging in unhealthy habits that are contributing to weight gain? What does Health At Every Size actually entail? How is HAES a holistic approach? Why are higher body weights generally considered unhealthy? What are some factors that could lead to people in larger bodies having more negative health outcomes? Why is it important to recover from disordered eating? How can weight stigma and other forms of discrimination contribute to poor health? Are there any health conditions that can only be managed with weight loss?

(Resources Mentioned (TW for all research papers mentioned for specific weight numbers, o-words, fatphobic language, and/or description of disordered eating behaviors):

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Food Psych #191: Stopping a Lifetime of Dieting with Savala Trepczynski

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Writer and social-justice lawyer Savala Trepczynski joins us to discuss how she stopped a lifetime of dieting and started decolonizing her relationship with food, why pathologizing emotional eating is problematic, how fatphobia shows up even in social-justice-oriented communities, why there’s so little legal protection for discrimination based on body size, and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about food planning for long hiking trips and how calorie counting can contribute to bingeing.

Savala Trepczynski is a writer, teacher, and social justice attorney. She is the Executive Director of the Thelton E. Henderson Center for Social Justice at UC Berkeley School of Law, convening scholars, activists, lawyers, and community members at the best public law school in the country to tackle social justice problems.

Savala and her writing about race, gender, bodies and culture have been featured in/on NPR, Forbes, Bust, The Nation, Detroit Free Press, San Francisco Chronicle, and more. She is a regular keynote speaker and panelist on social justice issues, including body-based bias, implicit bias, structural racism, and understanding Whiteness.

She has practiced law in San Francisco and Detroit, MI, and was a law clerk in the Obama Administration’s Office of White House Counsel, where she focused on constitutional law. Before becoming a lawyer, Trepczynski worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy.

She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner and child. Find her online at SavalaT.com.

We Discuss:

  • How Savala started dieting at a very young age

  • Generational fatphobia

  • How bodies can be viewed differently by different cultures

  • Savala’s journey to “diet rock bottom,” and how she started to “decolonize” her relationship with food

  • How it’s common to circle around intuitive eating before being fully ready

  • How intuitive eating is often twisted in the service of diet culture

  • Why viewing fatness as a problem is so harmful

  • Eating as a coping mechanism, and how it is pathologized by diet culture

  • The history of the problematization of emotional eating

  • The connections between racism and fatphobia

  • Social media, and its pros and cons

  • How body liberation has helped Savala be a better parent

  • Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibility model

  • Creating a diet-free zone for children

  • Diet culture as The Life Thief

  • The power of community in breaking down oppressive systems

  • Fatphobia in woke spaces

  • How different forms of oppression are all connected

  • Savala’s experiences with oppression in her work as a lawyer

  • Why there is little legal protection for discrimination based on body size

  • The compounding nature of marginalized identities

 

Resources Mentioned

Some of the links below are affiliate links. Affiliates or not, we only recommend products and services that align with our values.

Listener Question of the Week

Is it possible to food plan for long trips in a way that binge eating can be avoided? Why might a person still binge despite ensuring that they’re having a certain amount of calories worth of food? How does diet culture reinforce deprivation and bingeing? What are some ways that a person can prevent bingeing during/after a long hiking trip? What are some next steps for someone who still keeps binge-eating after allowing themselves more food? How might diet culture and disordered eating influence a person’s career choice?

(Resources Mentioned:

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Food Psych #174: How to Make Peace with Your Body in Pregnancy & Beyond with Angela Garbes

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Angela Garbes, author of Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy, joins us to discuss how pregnancy changed her relationship with her body, how writing her book helped her develop greater body acceptance, how our society dismisses body diversity and encourages body hatred, the importance of self-compassion, the lack of diversity in science and medicine, and so much more! Plus, Christy answers a listener question about whether eating dessert every day is a sign of “sugar addiction.”

Angela Garbes is a Seattle-based writer specializing in food, bodies, women’s health, and issues of racial equity and diversity. Garbes began writing for The Stranger in 2006, and became a staff writer in 2014. Her piece The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am is the publication’s most-read piece in its 24-year history, and the inspiration for her book, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy. Garbes is an experienced public speaker, frequent radio and podcast guest, and event moderator. She grew up in a food-obsessed, immigrant Filipino household and now lives in Seattle with her husband and two children. Find her online at AngelaGarbes.com.

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We Discuss:

  • How growing up in an immigrant Filipino household affected Angela’s relationship with food

  • How being a person of color influenced her relationship with her body

  • Some of the contradictory messaging around food and bodies in Filipino culture

  • Christy’s relationship with food and her body, and how her careers in journalism and dietetics helped her in her recovery

  • Pregnancy, and how it changed Angela’s relationship with her body

  • Realizing that the problem is not with our bodies, but with societal ideals

  • The judgment that often comes with parenting

  • Having generosity and compassion for ourselves and others

  • Acknowledging the strength it takes to survive and stay alive

  • Angela’s book, Like a Mother: A Feminist Journey through the Science and Culture of Pregnancy

  • Her path to becoming a food writer and author

  • How she almost had a career in public health and nutrition

  • Breastfeeding her daughter, and how it inspired her to write her popular piece, The More I Learn About Breast Milk, the More Amazed I Am

  • How the process of researching and writing her book helped her own body acceptance

  • Wishing that we’d heard more positive messaging around bodies growing up

  • Appreciating body diversity

  • Why Angela included parts of her own story and beliefs in her book

  • The lack of diversity in depictions of pregnancy

  • Our society’s policing of pregnant bodies

  • Intuitive eating in pregnancy

  • The surprising lack of evidence behind many of the recommendations for pregnancy

  • How intuitive eating can help with fertility

  • The non-inclusive history of science and medicine, and how that affects our understanding of bodies today

 

Resources Mentioned

Some of the links below are affiliate links. Affiliates or not, we only recommend products and services that align with our values.

Listener Question of the Week

Is having dessert every day a sign of “sugar addiction?” Am I not getting intuitive eating in some way? Is it possible to be addicted to sugar? How do diet culture and the Wellness Diet reinforce the idea of “sugar addiction?” Is it possible to eat sugar every day and still be healthy? What are some of the benefits of eating sugar? What is the difference between intuitive eating and the diet mentality? What does “unconditional permission” mean

(Resources Mentioned: Food Psych® Podcast episode #80 with Marci Evans, Food Psych® Podcast episode #139 with Lisa DuBreuil, Sugar Addiction: The State of the Science (TW: weight/BMI numbers), etc.)

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Food Psych #172: The Wellness Diet and Feeding Kids with Virginia Sole-Smith

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Journalist and author Virginia Sole-Smith joins us to discuss why The Wellness Diet is really diet culture in disguise, how journalists like her and Christy played unwitting roles in creating this new manifestation of diet culture, how her daughter’s experience with significant medical issues affected her relationship with food, how to help kids navigate diet-culture messaging in different stages of life, how to teach children about nutrition and health in a non-diet way, and so much more! Plus, Christy shares an excerpt from her "HAES vs. weight management" debate at FNCE (the national dietitians’ conference).

Virginia Sole-Smith is the author of The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America. She's also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Slate, and Elle, as well as a contributing editor with Parents Magazine. She lives with her husband and two daughters in the Hudson Valley. Find her online at VirginiaSoleSmith.com.

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We Discuss:

  • Growing up as a picky eater, and what motivated her to try more foods

  • How her relationship with food and with her body shifted in college

  • The subtle ways fatphobia showed up in Virginia’s childhood

  • Third-wave feminism, and trying to marry feminist values with societal expectations of femininity

  • Virginia’s career in the magazine industry, and what sparked her interest in reporting on health and nutrition

  • Being a part of the cultural shift toward The Wellness Diet, and not realizing at the time that it is still a form of diet culture

  • How the so-called “obesity epidemic” was invented in the late ’90s

  • Privilege, and its role in spreading diet messaging in our society

  • How being a mother helped Virginia to see that The Wellness Diet and the alternative food movement are really diet culture in disguise

  • The trauma of having a young child with major health concerns

  • Virginia’s daughter Violet’s journey with a congenital heart condition and its required medical interventions, including being fed with a feeding tube and being on a medically required diet

  • The available research on treating feeding disorders in children: the behavioral approach versus the child-led approach

  • How current feeding therapies mirror diet culture

  • Our society’s reliance on external experts to tell us what and how to eat

  • Using Ellyn Satter’s Division of Responsibilities (DOR) model to help rebuild Violet’s relationship with food and her feeding cues

  • Diet-culture messaging in schools and elsewhere outside the home

  • Violet’s current relationship with food, and how she is sharing that with her younger sister

  • How parenting advice often reinforces diet culture

  • Sharing the anti-diet message with other parents

  • Accepting kids’ eating habits and helping them attune to their own cues in a helpful way

  • The demonization of sugar amongst parents and kids

  • Helping kids navigate diet culture at different stages in life

  • How to talk to children about food and health in a non-diet way

  • Having compassion for people who are still stuck in diet culture

 

Resources Mentioned

Some of the links below are affiliate links. Affiliates or not, we only recommend products and services that align with our values.

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