Burnt Toast is an anti-diet, fat positive community about body liberation.

It’s also a newsletter and a podcast about how we navigate diet culture and fatphobia, especially through parenting. (But non-parents like it too!)

Burnt Toast is a safe space if you’re fat, if you are trying to access non-stigmatizing medical care and clothing, if you are recovering from an eating disorder in any size body, if you are trying to parent your kids differently around food and weight than what you grew up with, if you are trying to re-parent yourself on that stuff, if you have thin privilege and want to understand what that means and how to be a good ally, if you just want to burn diet culture and anti-fat bias to the goddamn ground. 

Burnt Toast is a place where we lead with science, but we also interrogate the anti-fat bias that is rampant in science, especially in the fields of nutrition, public health, and ob*sity research. We believe health doesn’t have a size, but more crucially that health is a right, not a privilege. We also know that in our world right now, “healthy” is very much a matter of resources—not will-power or intelligence. 

Burnt Toast is not a place where we apologize for eating the cupcakes or the cheese plate. It is not a place where we blame or denigrate bodies—our bodies, our kids’ bodies, celebrity bodies, any bodies. We don’t have to earn our food with exercise, we don’t have to perform health, we don’t have to get on the scale. We are open to naming and reckoning with our own biases, because we recognize that fatphobia is the air we breathe and we all have more to unlearn and more work to do.  

Oh and if you are a healthcare provider who prescribes intentional weight loss, have a “lifestyle plan” to promote, are anti-choice/politically conservative, or think your fat friend “has such a pretty face,” Burnt Toast is probably not the place for you.  

What Do We Do Here? 

I publish an essay every Tuesday. They range from longer-form reported pieces on co-parenting in diet culture or Kid Food Influencers and school lunch culture to personal essays about the performance of home organization and family meal planning. These essays are always free to read and share.  

Once a month, I replace the Tuesday essay with Ask Virginia, a Q&A column where I tackle your questions about being a person with a body in a world that makes that so very hard. Sometimes this column is one intensively researched question. Sometimes it’s two or three questions. There is always a paywall midway through Ask Virginia, so if you want to know if you should get rid of your scale, or my response to “What If I Just Don’t Want to be Fat?” you’ll need to be a paid subscriber (More on that in a minute!)  

We release the Burnt Toast Podcast every Thursday. These are weekly conversations about how we can dismantle diet culture and anti-fat bias, especially in the realms of parenting, health and fashion. Sometimes these episodes are a way to go deeper into an essay or conversation already happening on BT. But the podcast is more often where I try to amplify other voices in the anti-diet and fat liberation spaces and have the conversations that I wouldn’t automatically think to explore in my own writing.

Corinne (Fay, of @SellTradePlus, who works with me on just about every part of Burnt Toast!) joins me on the pod once a month for our very fun Ask Us Anything episodes. (ICYMI, here’s the most recent.) 

I also do a monthly paywalled episode. We’ve been switching up the format of these. Sometimes you send me weird diets to dissect for you. Sometimes I bring a guest on. Recently, I’ve been reading a previously published essay and discussing how you all responded, or what I think of the piece now. 

Podcast episodes always come with Butter. These are recommendations for any little thing we just can’t get enough of right now. You can find a master list of all the butter here. 

You can always listen to the Burnt Toast Podcast right in your email, on my Substack, or in the Substack app, where you’ll also find full transcripts (lightly edited and condensed for clarity). But you can also subscribe directly to Burnt Toast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Pocket Casts. (If you like the podcast, please do subscribe on one of these platforms and leave a rating or review!)

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Why Is Burnt Toast Reader-Supported? 

At least once a week, I get an email from a podcast advertising network, promising that they could help grow my audience beyond my wildest dreams. This might be true (it probably isn’t). But I always delete. I want Burnt Toast to remain an ad- and sponsor-free space because this is crucial for journalism about diet culture and anti-fat bias. 

I want to be clear that I don’t think it’s automatically unethical to work with sponsors and advertisers. I continue to write for corporate media outlets, all of which rely on advertising income, and I’m sure there will be other projects in my future with an advertising relationship of some sort because it is the business model upon which all media rests. Also: We need these stories to be told on bigger platforms because that’s how we get conversations about diet culture and anti-fat bias into the mainstream. And 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 whenever I do that, I don’t get to pick the ad that runs at the top or bottom of my story and sometimes that means this happens.

I write Burnt Toast because we need a place to critique diet culture and combat fatphobia, without the continual compromise required by advertisers, sponsors and 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.

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This is where paid subscribers come in. Burnt Toast is my full-time job. Reader subscriptions also enable me to pay Corinne and other contributors a decent rate, and to offer honorariums to podcast guests, which is key to centering marginalized voices in this space. Several podcast guests have requested that I donate their honorariums to the cause of their choice, so your paid subscriptions have also gone to support the National Network of Abortion Funds, Sur Legal Collaborative, World Central Kitchen, and the Burnt Toast Giving Circle.

In return, paid subscribers receive full access to every piece of content I publish here, including the monthly paywalled Ask Virginia columns and bonus podcast episodes. You also get commenting privileges on every post, access to our Friday Threads, where the many smart, resourceful and deeply empathetic members of the BT community come together to chat, vent, share, and problem-solve together. I absolutely love these discussions and learn so much from all of you. 

And I’m always experimenting with other paid subscriber perks, like our Book Club, which is on hold at the moment, because I’m currently investigating how we might turn these into live virtual gatherings. So stay tuned for so much more cool stuff to come.

If that all sounds awesome, I hope you’ll join us!

One other thing I want to make clear: Being a paid Burnt Toast subscriber is much less about accessing a ton of exclusive perks and much more a way to show your support for our shared mission. I keep 75 percent of the content published here free because I want this conversation to feel accessible to anyone. And if you are unemployed, under-employed, a student, a gig worker, or otherwise struggling financially, please email me (virginiasolesmith@substack.com) for a comp subscription, no questions asked.  (There is no limit on these, so don’t worry that you’re taking a comp away from “someone who needs it more!”) 

However you choose to engage with Burnt Toast, I’m so glad you’re here. 

Photo by Tara Moore via Getty Images

For Real Though, Why is the Toast Burnt? 

Because this is a newsletter about rejecting diet culture, and that also means rejecting perfectionism. Because this is a newsletter about parenting, and that also, eternally, means rejecting perfectionism. Because I came up with a newsletter name on a whim back in 2019, before I thought this would ever be what it has become! And because toast tastes best when it is at least a little bit burnt. 

About Virginia

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.

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I live in New York’s Hudson Valley with my family and too many houseplants. You can see more of my writing here, and follow me (and my plants) on Instagram and Twitter.


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Virginia Sole-Smith 
Author of THE EATING INSTINCT and forthcoming FAT TALK. Houseplant enthusiast.