Burnt Toast is a twice-a-week newsletter about how we navigate diet culture and fatphobia, especially through parenting. (But non-parents like it too!)
I publish one free essay here every week. They’re usually a mix of answers to the questions you submit (like why are all the Boomers on diets, or but, what about health?), short rants, and reported explorations of how we relate to food, health, and our bodies. I’m also deep into research for my next book, so sometimes you get outtakes, behind-the-scenes peeks, and the little research snippets that I can’t stop thinking about.
I also host the Burnt Toast Podcast. These interviews are often a way to deepen the conversation started by a recent essay, and to introduce you to more of the researchers, healthcare providers, activists and other brilliant folks that I rely on to challenge and shape my own thinking around the questions we explore here. You can listen right here in your email, or subscribe directly to Burnt Toast in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Pocket Casts. Oh — and if you’d rather read, I also include transcripts (lightly edited and condensed for clarity).
Paid subscribers get full access to my monthly Ask Virginia column, subscriber-only bonus podcast episodes, and our weekly Friday Threads. Sometimes we continue a conversation started by a recent essay or audio newsletter; sometimes we talk about navigating diet culture more generally (and especially as a parent). This is a fun, safe, supportive and 100% anti-diet community.
Paid subscribers also have commenting privileges and access to my archives. This support is what enables me to keep Burnt Toast an ad and sponsor-free place where we can dissect diet culture and fight fatphobia without the continual compromise required by corporate media.
Burnt Toast is entirely reader-supported. This ensures that I can keep this space free of ads and sponsors. That’s crucial for journalism about diet culture and weight stigma. Anytime I write for a major media outlet (aka, the primary way I’ve made a living for almost 20 years), I know that my story is like a little boat tacking its way through a great churning ocean of other priorities. It gets stuck in a holding pattern if the hook isn’t newsy enough. It gets chopped in half because the word count is too tight. It gets dropped altogether if a new editor comes in with a different vision. Or it runs, but I’m asked to add caveats and softeners that make everyone more comfortable while making the story less accurate. Or it runs, and then, the next week, the same outlet runs a pro-weight-loss story and I hear from confused readers who feel betrayed by the switch in tone.
I still see the value in publishing journalism that way. I love working with smart editors who tear my words apart and find something so much better buried beneath them. I love writing for outlets with copy editors and fact-checkers and art departments who are all so brilliant at their very essential jobs. And I adore seeing how a story resonates across a broader platform—yes even when it means the comment section goes bananas or the angry men send me emails. We can’t only preach to the choir.
But: I write Burnt Toast because I think we also need a place where to critique diet culture and combat fatphobia, without the continual compromise required by corporate media. Where I don’t have to worry that a sidebar ad for flat tummy tea will run alongside my explanation of why the ob*sity epidemic is over-hyped. A place where I can publish the stories I can’t tell in other outlets because they are too niche or aren’t newsy enough, but still matter deeply to people’s lives.
If that sounds important to you too, I hope you’ll consider subscribing for $5 per month or $50 per year. In addition to the audio newsletters, you’ll also gain commenting privileges and access to my archives, and there are more fun perks to come.
If you are unemployed, under-employed, a student, a gig worker, or otherwise struggling financially, please email me for a comp subscription, no questions asked.
I’m the author of The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America. As a journalist, I’ve reported from kitchen tables and grocery stores, graduated from beauty school, and gone swimming in a mermaid’s tail. My work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Scientific American and many other publications. I’m also a frequent contributor to the New York Times’ Parenting and Well sections, and author of the forthcoming FAT TALK: Parenting In The Age of Diet Culture.