Episode 34. Diet Psychology and Culture
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This was going to be an episode about exercise questions, but it went in a totally different direction. We talked about diet psychology, culture, and the social influences on our food choices and how we think about food. Why do people feel “guilt” about Thanksgiving, while others embrace it? Where do these influences come from, and how is it relevant to dieting?
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Nutrition and Diet Psychology
- Scott began by ranting about nutrition courses that don’t delve into the psychology of food and diet at all.
- “Diet Psychology” is not “willpower” or something like that. It’s about the entire context of influences that dictate how and what we think about food, why people can think about food in terms of “good” foods and “bad” foods, why some people feel differently about meat products, why one generation thinks about food differently than another.
- Mike brought up a book he’s reading (and really likes): Acquired Tastes, which actually interviews Canadian families about precisely these things. From the description: “Magazine articles and self-improvement books tell us that our food choices serve as bold statements about who we are as individuals. Acquired Tastes reveals that they say more about where we come from and who we would like to be. Interviews with Canadian families in both rural and urban settings reveal that age, gender, social class, ethnicity, health concerns, food availability, and political and moral concerns shape the meanings that families attach to food.”
- We all know these things, but the trick is digging into our own beliefs, and how they were formed.
- Scott really likes Anthony Bourdain’s television show, Parts Unknown, because Bourdain travels the world and really gets into the culture and explores how food relates to that culture. Scott notes that Bourdain fully embraces food, but he’s not overweight, and has no weight problems.
- Mike mentioned a well-known joke: Two fish are swimming along, when another fish passes by, saying, “Hey fellas, how’s the water?” The fish smile and pass on by. A moment later, one fish says to the other, “Wait… what the heck is ‘water’?” For everyone in the world, there is a huge part of our life that’s just… water. Stuff we don’t notice or see, stuff that is so ingrained into our day to day life we don’t notice.
- Kevin discussed actually growing up on a farm. This involved taking care of livestock, and preparing it for meals, and yeah, that meant being involved in the slaughtering of animals like chickens. This wasn’t about “eat local.” It was just… life. It was his water.
- By contrast to Kevin, Mike notes there are those who “eat local” in a surprisingly self-indulgent way, where it’s no longer about doing good, but about patting yourself on the back for doing so. (To be fair, this is probably true of just about everything.)
- As an exercise, Scott recommends as a journalling exercise asking yourself what your upbringing taught you about food and how to think about food? (How did your parents talk about food? How did your friends? What was served at school?)
Also: as an experiment, we’re having a Thanksgiving Survey (see below!) to try and get stories and insights about how people feel about food over the holidays. It’s totally anonymous (if you want to leave your name, though, you can), and we think VERY relevant before the holidays!
Fill it out here: