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


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

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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

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