115 Comments

Yay! Love seeing you ons the NYT but clearly I have FEELINGS about the framing and the lack of nuance or focus on the incredible community you've built here. This is truly one of the most lovely places online and my world is bigger, clearer, and more interesting because of you and all of your invaluable work. HEART EMOJI and BurntToast4Life.

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Apr 23·edited Apr 23

I did feel like they portrayed Virginia's position as "I've chosen happiness and cholesterol over the realistic possibility of becoming thin." And not "I've chosen to divest from diet culture, with all the brownies and broccoli that entails, over the futile, risky and damaging pursuit of thinness." I'm guessing the NYT has a lot of time for Ozempic??

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Is that not what she said, though, regarding cholesterol?

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I think that would be an oversimplification of Virginia's position, having read Fat Talk and lots of BT! And certainly a big part of the argument in Virginia's writing is that weight loss and thinness are frequently thorny, unrealistic and unsustainable in the long term. I think the NYT article flattens her position because its perspective is that weight loss is a realistic function of a purely individual decision. I'd be really interested to know if Virginia has thoughts about how the article represents her, though :)

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Yes! The framing! A master class in being judgey via selective details, oversimplification, pointed word choices. (And I didn’t even read the comments!) But if it brought loads of new subscribers here, then I’ll get over my snit. :)

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Yessss, thank you for articulating this. The tone bothered me so much but I didn't take the time to think carefully about why. Also, a FIVE HOUR interview? Yikes.

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Nailed it!!!!!

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

re the framing: aaaaaaaaagggggggggrrrrrreeeeeeeee. FEELINGS.

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RIIIIIIIIGHT? They left so many worthwhile layers unexamined and focused on....letting Penelope lick a dinner plate?!

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I ….. didn’t love that either. Nor all the quote marks “diet culture” etc. Perfectly put, thank you!

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay

also the quote marks around fat!!!!!!!!

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will never get over the quote marks around fat. Just, why.

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Apr 23·edited Apr 23

And a *plastic* dinner plate at that!! At times I was like, is this what happens when Regina George goes into journalism?

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Yes! I was so infuriated I almost wrote Virginia a thank you/my sympathies note. (To be clear, we’ve never met.) i was rolling my eyes so hard at the subheading “an argument about butter.” And the Penelope gotcha at the end was predictably disappointing. The whole piece was an argument for why this space is needed—it didn’t take seriously that an anti-diet framework is also feminist and anti-racist. I’ll never read an nyt profile with credulity again.

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100% agree. So frustrating. I was scratching my chin when I read this quote: "Sole-Smith does not dispute that in some cases, excess fat may contribute to disease..." Um, actually Virginia wrote a whole best-selling book questioning that premise? Also, this: "Still, decades of research demonstrates a strong association between excess fat and increased risk of five of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States..." Just drop that there and leave completely unexamined the reasons why that research is biased, problematic, and often shoddy? Ugh. Shaking my head. Unfortunately this is what I've come to expect from the NY Times.

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I felt the same way!! Way to flatten years and years of research and writing and engaging with these ideas, NYT.

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Thank you for saving me the experience of actually reading that. Nope!

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

I loved the piece…reading the NYT and running across your article was like running into an old friend in the grocery store. “Oh! I know you!” Damn, though, the comments were a bummer. As a longtime NYT subscriber, I should have expected it. The level of priggish self-congratulation in the comments on anything health related is through the roof. Fatphobe City. Oh, well…screw ‘em. And welcome to the new subscribers!

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Hahaha, ever read the comments in NYT Cooking? I cut out 3/4 the sugar and all the oil and made this with broccoli and my 2-y-o said it was the best chocolate chip cookie she ever had!! When I edited Motherlode, I also had to moderate the comments. It was probably the worst thing possible for my mental health--and I'm pretty solid! The comments, man. They'd turn them off, I think, but they have no idea what makes them $$.

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Apr 24·edited Apr 24

I love THIS comment! Yes yes yes, the comments are almost always a sh*tshow, and so incredibly repetitive. I had an anti-diet piece go up recently and dear friends were aghast at the vitriol and stupidity and rage in the comments, and I was like, guys, yes, it sucks, but this is no surprise. We already know exactly what the comments say, because they always say the exact same things, the exact same way, every time, esp on any piece that values any version of women’s freedom and includes anything about weight. We could recite them at this point. And this is partly why the profile fell so far short of its subject, to my mind: no genuine consciousness of or curiosity about WHY this particular online community is growing, or what’s at stake online and IRL for people living or exploring anti-diet principles, or how rare it is to have a large, safe, online media site and community like Burnt Toast where actual vulnerability and disagreement happen alongside the jeans recs, or how Virginia and Corinne cultivate this place. I think I fell into a manifesto, sorry, KC!! I think you are spot-on about the “does this make us money??” wandering in the dark vibe of big papers!!

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lol. It’s true. People really do post things like your example.

I do read the comments there because inbetween the weirdness there can be good advice. Also: it gives me an indication of how good the recipe might be or what challenges I may face in making it.

My favorite NYT Cooking comment is on a chicken recipe (I think?) where the ingredients list calls for five cloves. Either they were referring back to garlic they talked about in the preamble or it was a typo. (Or maybe it was really whole cloves. 😳)

Anyway, amongst the comments, there was one that was just a short question:

“What is a clove?”

😆 I hope they finally figured it out.

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

I just want to add that you and Corinne give me strength. (Maybe I should have prefaced that with an EW — Earnestness Warning.)

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So here for that EW! 💜

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So much strength!!

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LOL so many of my Burnt Toast comments should include an Earnestness Warning 😂

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I was positive the comments were going to be enraging and so I skipped them. Based on what you said, sounds like I made the right choice. But I'm so glad the piece was there, out and proud! And some of my very favorite first IG stories from Virginia were those of her unapologetically eating "junk" as the ignorant comments scrolled by. Victory lap is right.

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Yes, I knew better, but looked anyway. Like a car crash. I was immediately concerned about Virginia’s feelings, then remembered she no doubt goes through this constantly.

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honestly I cannot imagine, and I'm that much more grateful for her work because of it.

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I have been worried all day about these comments, not only how they might be effecting Virginia, but also what they say about the mindset of Americans. I am so sorry I looked, but it also reminded me how women can never be right--they can never be good enough mothers, workers, wives, daugthers, etc. It's always *our* fault.

If I could, I would blast America Ferrera's Barbie monologue at every one of those awful people.

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I made the mistake of reading the comments, but I also flagged a lot of them for being inflammatory, off topic, and insulting. I don't know if any of them got removed, but I feel like I did my small part.

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

My first thought scanning the NYT comments (why did I do this, I do not know) was wow, the world really hates a woman who is free.

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Don’t feel bad - it’s impossible not to!! I find the advice “don’t read the comments” to be completely unusable. Who doesn’t read the comments ???

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Yes!! I read a lot and love variety, so of course I'm clicking and reading the comments! And really, at this point my Facebook feed is worse than 75% of the comments sections I read.

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I am the child of New York Times People and honestly the comments were better than I expected 😂. Specific ones made me mad, but most were like "I like this lady but I'm not willing to give up any of my health-driven fatphobia." That's exactly who reads and what to expect right now. But with more highlights on people who think this way it will slowly shift.

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

Just want to thank you for doing this work! Wild to read the NYT piece and be reminded of how fatphobic mainstream media still is (insistence that ob*sity is a disease and only the blandest mention that IWL fails). But also so important for your work to be platformed this way! And welcome to new folks!

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

This is one of my favorite places on the internet and it’s been one of my great joys to watch this space expand, flex, and continue to challenge us to let go of diet culture in all the places it manifests. You make me think (a lot!!) every damn week. What a privilege to be here!

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

I'm relatively new here -- Virginia, I found your work a few months ago while grappling with the mortification of realizing I was falling into an eating disorder in my 40s (triggered by my first less than perfect cholesterol panel this year). It's been really helpful. You helped me eat eggs again. At the same time, reading the NYT article this morning helped me see something I hadn't quite put my finger on yet, which is this feeling that maybe I don't quite belong here. The thing that clicked into place for me was reading about the demographics of the followers here which are primarily white, cis, straight, suburban. (I'm white, cis, fiercely urban, lesbian) and I realized it was like when I had a baby and went to a "new moms" group where I was the only lesbian and it was like an anthropological study of straight culture (I went home and told my wife: "I think all these women have a deep rage at their husbands that I didn't realize!") I guess I feel an unease with my struggles with diet culture and my queerness which I feel like should have given me an out from all of this and in some ways gives me a different perspective on things. All this is to say: shout out to other queer people here; thank you, Virginia, and the community here for being welcoming.

(Apologies if this was oversharing. May delete later if I'm feeling too vulnerable.)

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Megan! I feel everything you are saying. I think there is this big misconception that being queer should somehow make us impervious to diet culture because we resist other cultural norms. And I just don't think it's true and certainly hasn't been my experience!! Thank you for being here and thank you for commenting!

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I’m so glad you’re here Meghan! And fwiw, the demographics as reported in the NYT don’t tell the whole story. I’m really proud that we have a growing queer community within Burnt Toast, especially among regular commenters (though yes my own lived experience is as someone who spent decades in a heterosexual relationship).

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

Yeah, I get that! And how are we measuring straightness anyway?!

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Totally different in so many ways, but the underlying feeling you describe is not lost on people of color (even cis). I'm a 65 year old, black, feminist, activist, straight sized, woman, childless by choice, who chose 25 years ago not to pursue an intimate relationship. An anomaly in my community. There are times when I say, "fuck it" to how society perceives and deals with my "otherness." But then there are spaces like the space Virginia has created here where I can bring every single part of me, breathe, and pull a seat up to the table. Thank you for that, Virginia. And thank you, Megan.

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I think this comment was the final death knell for my lack of paid subscription. Thank you for sharing that.

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Apr 24Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Queer/lesbian woman here who has struggled with a lot of the same issues as you have!

IME Virginia does a good job of acknowledging whenever her writing is focused on situations that occur mostly in hetero couples & being inclusive generally when appropriate. Personally I tend to have that not-quite-belonging feeling when people are talking about heteronormative relationships and cultural pressure w/o acknowledging me/queerness, but I don’t when it’s explicitly recognized that it’s not universal, if that makes sense.

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Hey Megan! I love your comment and love that you kept it up! As a queer mom, I really appreciate your reflections

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I value your comment, Megan, please don't delete. I've never felt 'at one' with groups of cis straight women either even though I am one, nominally at any rate.

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Glad you shared this. Thank you.

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Warms my heart that tens of thousands of people are here to learn and unlearn.

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It truly stuns me, honestly. In the best way!

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

YOU made this beautiful place and we’re all so much better for it. Thank you!

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Exactly who would the anti-diet message best come from for these sanctimonious people? Would they really sit down and explore the science, the stories, the capitalism, misogyny, and racism if it was presented by someone completely different than Virginia? Or is it the fact that it is Virginia asking them to take a look at the moral superiority? Over the past years I have found the great majority of people with whom I discuss antidiet, fat phobia visually squirm with avoidance of the self reflection. It’s hard work, and I have nothing but intense gratitude for this site and everyone here.

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Apr 23·edited Apr 23

Sanctimony! Couldn't find the right word, but yes, this describes the tone exactly.

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So my take is that I'm glad I was grounded in anti-fat bias before I read the article. Just one example -- the article says that there is solid scientific evidence that five of the leading causes of mortality are associated with excess weight. What are the other five leading causes? Is there another correlation -- like, I don't know, POVERTY?

But also, reading the comments reminded me of the danger of the personal responsibility narrative. We have a crappy health care system in the U.S. Telling people not to eat Oreos is not going to fix that. People got poisoned by THEIR MUNICIPAL DRINKING WATER. Fixating on what people eat on such a micro level (speaking of the sanctimonious commenters) is akin to telling people to use a clothesline to help reverse climate change. Great, good for you, but that are much larger, systemic problems that are undermining people's health and they require systemic solutions.

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

Can’t wait to read the NYT piece—it looks great! Welcome to all who stumbled into this space—it’s a wonderful, soft place to land after years of the sharp edges of diet culture. And I can’t wait for fat swim week! I’ve been thinking about a 2-piece—excited to see your recs!

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Yesss we will have THOUGHTS.

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Apr 23Liked by Corinne Fay, Virginia Sole-Smith

The NYT photography is dreamy... I'd try intuitive eating purely on the basis that it might make my houseplants that shade of green

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Oh sure, I think that got cut out of Evelyn Tribole’s book but greener houseplants is just science. 😂

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Apr 24Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

1) What kind of bizarro-world rarefied bubble do these NYT commenters live in where Oreo cookies are not just a totally standard thing for families to have in their snack cabinet? Is it really that unusual for educated, middle-class families to buy Oreos?

2) How do you feel about the amount of information she revealed about your financial situation? I mean, I’m sure you gave her permission to share it, but it seems a bit irregular that she shared it in so MUCH detail. As though there’s an ulterior motive for doing so.

3) How can people just flat-out ignore the fact that the Stick of Butter Incident was a one-time mistake on the part of a child who mistook the butter for cheese, and not a standard part of your family’s mealtime repertoire?

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I'd love to see the day when every NYT diet/fitness/wellness article had a "both sides" element by including perspectives from an eating disorder treatment professional, weight stigma researcher, and/or methodology expert, etc. A girl can dream!

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Huge love to you as you manage big publicity and all the good and weird that comes with it. I’m psyched to meet more Burnt Toasties here! As for swimsuits, I am looking forward to hearing what people love for lap & open water swimming. Thanks for all you and Corinne do.

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Thanks Becky!!

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

The title of this post made me smile! “Welcome to where we let you eat…everything” allows my body and mind to relax and that is what you and Corinne do every week! And by allowing myself to relax around food, my toddler relaxes, my family relaxes and for this I am beyond grateful. Thank you Virginia for helping me in so many ways.

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Apr 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I had so many moments of “REALLY?” while reading that. I also had so much admiration and sheer happiness that your strength, beauty, fierce intelligence, joy, house, healthy relationships (I could go on) were on full display.

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Absolutely. That's what I loved. Despite everything, you shine, Virginia.

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