“We all eat for emotional reasons. That’s normal. Food is flavored with complex meaning. It connects us with our culture and our ancestry and heritage. We eat to celebrate. We eat to grieve. Food is an emotional thing for human beings. When we dumb it down to its nutritional components and see it only as a vehicle to give us nutrients, we are missing so much.”
– Dana Sturtevant
If you haven’t yet considered weight stigma as a social justice issue, today is the day you begin. Diet culture is an insidious arm of white supremacy culture that has removed us from our bodies, from pleasure, from our connection to our heritage. It has caused untold suffering to folks in fat bodies, impacting access to health care services, to opportunities, and access to simply feeling good moving about in the world without shame and blame.
This conversation between Nicole and Dana Sturtevant and Hilary Kinavey, part one of a two-part episode, is one that lifts the lid on grief and loss.We have been fed so many lies.
Diet culture shape shifts when we start to catch onto its oppression. We may have given up on counting calories and tracking points, but we strive to “eat clean” and “make healthy lifestyle changes” or go paleo or do intermittent fasting…whatever the latest trend to make our own bodies more acceptable or to weaponize against folks in larger bodies.
We learn early on that our bodies are problems to be solved, and that restricting food or eating just the right combination of nutrients will solve the problem. We are taught that there are right and wrong ways to live in a body.
Hilary shares, “People who occupy [fat bodies] are not able to function in the culture or pursue their joys, their lives, their bliss in the culture because fatness is considered something they have to resolve before they can get access to what they need.”
As Dana and Hilary share, the healthcare industry has centered “health care” around the Body Mass Index, the creation of a white statistician and founder of phrenology, a racist pseudoscience. The BMI was created not as a measurement of individual health, but as a tool to track populations for the insurance industry. The Body Mass Index has now been used for years in doctors offices, in the field of dietetics, by the diet industry and by professional trainers as a tool to measure health by means of body size. It’s bogus. It’s racist.
One alternative to the conventional paradigm of food, body image and weight centered health care is Body Trust, a process by which we can all learn to live more peacefully and compassionately in our bodies.
As with all our social justice work, in the work of fat liberation, we must center the voices, work and lived experiences of the most marginalized, namely fat Black queer femmes.
We encourage you to disrupt diet culture and weight stigma in your own life by listening to the folks most harmed and developing an analysis so you can see the ways in which diet culture is expressing itself in your relationship with your body and other bodies.
It is time to divest. As a community, let’s hold one another in generous accountability for doing this work.
This Conversation Also Includes:
- The origin story of Be Nourished
- “Healthy lifestyle” behavior is dieting behavior
- The empty promises of weight loss
- What happens when we compliment someone’s body after weight loss
- The racist roots of the BMI (see sources below for further reading)
- Our indoctrination into diet culture
- Diet culture’s focus on pathologizing foods of Black and Brown people
- White dominance in dietetics
- Weight stigma as a social justice issue
- Reclaiming “fat” as a neutral descriptor
- Beginning the journey of body trust
About Dana and Hilary:
Dana Sturtevant is the co-founder of Be Nourished, LLC and co-creator of Body Trust®. She is a registered dietitian, educator, and trainer whose work focuses on humanizing health care, advancing health equity, and advocating for body sovereignty and food justice. A member of the Motivational Interviewing Network of Trainers since 2002, Dana travels around the country training helping professionals in communication and engagement strategies that lead to positive change. As a sought after speaker and writer, Dana is a champion for compassionate, weight-inclusive models of care and offers supervision, training, and consultation for helping professionals and health care organizations. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Scientific American, Self, Real Simple, Huffington Post, and on the TEDx stage. Learn more at benourished.org.
Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is the co-founder of Be Nourished, LLC and co-creator of Body Trust®. Her work as a licensed professional counselor, coach, educator and writer is informed by a relational, systemic and social justice lens. Her career has been a study of what interrupts our sense of wholeness and how we can return to ourselves in a culture that profits from fragmentation. She is a sought-after speaker and facilitator on topics such as weight-inclusive approaches, weight bias, Body Trust® and the intersections of activism and therapy. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Scientific American, Huffington Post, and on the TEDx stage. Learn more at benourished.org.
Connect with Dana and Hilary:
Fearing the Black Body: the Racialized Origins of Fat Phobia by Sabrina Strings
Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness by Da’Shaun Harrison
Research article evaluating the evidence for a weight inclusive approach to health:
Podcast episodes for further investigation: