Well, not so fast. Did eating disorders (the kind leading to starvation and binge/purge, not the over-eating kind) go away because people were educated about eating more and/or lost their money in market crash? Sidenote: Julie Guthman has written an amazing book in "Weighing In," but it's not at all about eating disorders. I picked up the book, though, because of the way the back of the book (yes, I judge books by their covers) manged to say both "obesity" and "obesity epidemic" in quotes in three sentences. And I was not disappointed. Well, a little, because I do feel like there is a connection that Guthman left unmade between the anorexia decade and the obesity decade, but I understand why she left that alone: "Weighing In" takes on (and conquers) much bigger topics, and if you understand and apply Guthman's arguments, eating disorders can be explained, as well. Guthman takes on a lot- Pollan is a formidable foe with lots of influence- so I forgive her for not getting to this detail. After all, eating disorders are my hangup, and this book is about a lot more: the subtitle reads "Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism." Yeah, that's a big one.
I am not going to be able to sum up Julie Guthman's very big, very cogent, and very persuasive take on why Pollan et al's tactic falls short and perhaps even is dangerous. It's too multifaceted, and she's an expert. I've tried, and failed to explain to my family, avid foodies and Pollan fans (remember, was one of them till last week), though in my defense, I hadn't finished the book. This short piece from 2008 gives a sense of some of Guthman's main points (though not all): Pollan's critique of corn subsidies is great, but his argument fails dangerously when the discussion turns from farm policy to fat bodies. First, the evidence between food consumption and size is weak. Second, discussion of weight serves as "admonishment" and creates anxiety about weight, leading to obesity. (Guthman drops this argument in the book and picks up a much more solid argument about the missionary zeal with which the Pollan-ites go about their health mantra in a new form of the white man's civilizing project.) Third, authors like Pollan, Jane Goddall and Marion Nestle along with Morgan Spurlock of Supersize me take on a holier-than-thou position: if they can control themselves around the enemy (HFCS) and fast food, surely obese people must be of a weaker strain.
At best, fat people are seen as victims of food, genetic codes, or metabolism; at worst, they are slovenly, stupid, or without resolve. Meanwhile, she notes, many thin people can indulge in all manner of unhealthy behaviors without being called to account for their body size. In other words, fat people are imbued with little subjectivity no matter what they do, while thin people are imbued with heightened subjectivity no matter what they do.