57 Comments
founding

I keep thinking about how gendered WaPo's outrage is. As you point out, the vast majority of dietitians are women, and the process of getting an RD is incredibly expensive so it really takes a lot of privilege or a lot of sacrifice/support to get there (would men readily enter a field that requires thousands of hours of *unpaid* internship time?).

Expectations around women's unpaid labor continue into the social media/influencer world where I guess WaPo believes professionals who've built large followings can continue putting out high-quality content for free? Where's the WaPo reporting on white male podcasters who get paid handily to promote unregulated supplements? (I'm looking at you, Smartless and Huberman.)

Then again, as you point out, they don't seem interested in investigating influencers of any gender who are pushing dangerous weight-loss content...

Also really enjoyed your description of FNCE. I presented there last year, and the exhibit hall was truly a diet culture house of horrors (but I did enjoy some free snacks!).

Expand full comment
author

YES, I didn't even get into the gendering of this because that essay is already 900 years long but this has been on my mind too!

Expand full comment
founding

I knew it would be! This whole thing brings out so many of the intersecting layers within diet culture (e.g., sexism, racism, anti-fatness, ableism....)

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I finally read this article earlier today after side eyeing it in my inbox for days. It was... oddly desperate? I knew you had said you were going to write about it, which made me really happy after reading about it, and of course, your take lived up to my expectations.

The funny part about them demonizing Cinnamon Toast Crunch is that I was a kid on a strict diet when that cereal came out, and my aunt (the one who was restricting my food choices) decided it was too high in calories for me to eat. I was probably in my teens before I had an actual bowl of it, and it remains one of my favorite cereals.

But like so many foods that were once verboten to me, if I hadn't worked with an IE trained therapist who specialized in eating disorders (and who was herself very thin, white and upper middle class), I would not be able to just eat a bowl. I would either still be never allowing myself to have it, or I'd buy a box and eat it all in a few days, if that. Currently, I have one pouch that's been open for months and is probably stale sitting in my pantry.

I incredible oversimplification of IE in this piece was really irritating to me. Also, as you said, diet foods have been marketed to us so heavily for decades, so why is this some big news? Just because there's a fear of accepting fatness?

Anyway, thank you for taking this on. It was such a misinformed essay, but so badly done I found it almost hard to be mad. Almost.

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Thank you! I keep finding it so enraging in these articles how they only talk to a few people for whom it “failed.” And don’t even probe what they actually did to learn to eat intuitively, and whether the support they got would even help them do it successfully. So basically they are interviewing people who googled a thing, rather than experts. It’s such lazy journalism. Interview fat activists and IE teachers. It’s not hard! Rely on expertise to explain the thing! Then present that to the masses!

Expand full comment
author

Yes, casting your sources is such lazy journalism.

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

What the Wash Post article really is, is an anti-anti-diet essay,.

Let's put the fear of god into everyone tempted to join the anti-diet 'camp'. Do this and you will be fat, let's just say it's anti-diet folks who push processed foods, which makes something bad doubly bad. Anti-diet becomes a double negative. Nice try to destroy an enemy to diet culture.

Expand full comment
author

well said!

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I learned so much from you over time💥

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

My entire reaction to that piece, starting in the opening paragraphs and sustained throughout its rousing nonconclusion, was: “wow, they really thought they did something there.”

Expand full comment

Yes!! They kept using the words "investigation" and "analysis" for, like, some lazy biased searches they ran on Insta.

Expand full comment
founding

Yes! And then it just abruptly ends!

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Beautifully said. It also shouldn't surprise anyone that good concepts and tools can be coopted for bad or suspect ends. In other words, the attempt to discredit anti-diet practices in this way was major guilt by association/cooption on the part of WashPo. Anyway, brava!

Expand full comment
author

Who, I'm sure, has accepted advertising from General Mills, probably even for Cocoa Puffs! It's exhausting out here...

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9·edited Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Indeed. Btw when I wrote for them recently, they were so befuddled by the notion that "moderately obese" (blech) people had no higher mortality on average than "normal weight" people (ditto) that they changed it in copyediting. Despite the evidence I'd linked RIGHT THERE that this is in fact the case.

Expand full comment
author

Oh that's maddening. And yet, unsurprising.

Expand full comment
founding

infuriating!—that changes the whole meaning of your sentence(s)

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I was so angry about the anti-fat bias in that WaPo story that I cancelled my subscription. The whole reason I subscribed in the first place was because I expected in-depth investigative reporting and wanted to support that. Instead, what I got was one of the most slanted, poorly researched, and one-sided pieces of journalism I've ever had the misfortune of reading.

Expand full comment
author

Like all prestige media outlets, they do some absolutely amazing work and then...also this.

Expand full comment

Which is also part of the reason I cancelled my sub. Between this and all the trans panic the New York Times is stoking, I'm done watching what should be trustworthy outlets provide ammunition for those attacking the most vulnerable and marginalized among us.

Expand full comment

I did the same for both WaPo and NYT a couple years ago after finding many instances of unethical journalism (as Kate Manne indicated above). The energy of slamming my head on the table was exhausting.

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Thank you for this piece and acknowledging the nuance in a way that article did not, Virginia. I appreciate you pointing out that dietitians salaries are not great. Many RDs have student debt from either an expensive internship we had to pay for and/or grad school that did not improve salary at all. This does not excuse the RDs who choose these partnerships, but it helps to understand why they may choose it. Know that many RDs share your perspective about the Academy (AND). I find FNCE to be an absolute waste of time & money. I laughed at your accurate description of the expo with it's sugar free, grain free, etc foods. Instead of making deals with food companies, it would be great if AND could advocate for issues we really care about, like not having to pay to be licensed in every state to do telework, improving insurance coverage to see a dietitian, and stepping away from harmful narratives around weight.

Expand full comment
author

YES. There is a much bigger story here about the hurdles of this profession (and how they are often created or made worse by folks with the most power within the profession...). Thanks for sharing!

Expand full comment
founding

Exactly. I hope to read that story one day!

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Exquisite commentary and exactly what I needed after reading the WaPo article. Thank you!!!

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Corinne Fay

I am a couple months pregnant and experiencing much more nausea than I did with my first pregnancy, and I am *this close* to fist fighting the people complaining about crackers and cereal and what not. (Or just throwing up on them bc I am also tired.)

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Thank you for this insightful article. Sometimes I just feel tired about it all

Expand full comment
Apr 10Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Virginia, your essay made me realize again, but for the first time in a while, admittedly, how steeped in this you all are and how exhausting it must sometimes be. And I just want to say thanks for all the work you do.

Expand full comment
author

Oh I appreciate this! I was thinking, as I slogged through that piece, "this is why sometimes I write about shopping instead." The fat liberation work matters most, but I gotta pace myself...

Expand full comment
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I know I sound naive, but I would think that WaPo would be more incentivized to attempt to be more neutral, or if anything to slant the other way, given how many more of us there are ("us" doing a lot of work here to refer to anyone not straight-sized) out there, reading articles, buying subscriptions, responding to advertising, etc. This is also sort of how I feel about the appalling lack of clothing options for non-straight-sized folks. We live in a capitalist society - doesn't it make sense to cater to the majority of it? Just on top of the rest of the excellent points that you and others have made, it always makes my head explode at the idea that these industries might be leaving money on the table by ignoring our existence (or acknowledging but attacking it), because anti-fatness is so incredibly ingrained in our society.

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Mic drop, thank you for articulating perfectly all the complicated feelings I had when reading that article.

Expand full comment
founding
Apr 9Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Sorry to comment off topic. Brilliant post, though.

A dear friend is, for the 3rd time, doing 75 Hard and it's flooding my social media. Can someone remind me which post covered this scourge of a "lifestyle change."

Expand full comment
author
founding

Thanks so much. Even more helpful the 2nd time.

Expand full comment

"This article wasn’t about health and it wasn’t about Big Food. It was just four reporters ordering salads and splitting one dessert for the table, unable to imagine there might be another way." Yes, thank you, I felt such a swirl of general irritation after reading the WaPo article and it's so nice to have someone put it into eloquent words.

Expand full comment