Episode 52. Krista Scott Dixon on Power vs. Empowerment in the Fitness Industry
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Today we were joined by Krista Scott-Dixon, who shared her wisdom, advice, and expertise regarding food, body image issues, and fitness, especially as it relates to women’s issues and gender. Discussions got pretty theory-heavy, but it was all excellent, relevant stuff if you’re involved in body or physique transformation in any way.
Krista is Program Developer and Coaching Coordinator for Precision Nutrition. She also has a PhD in Women’s Studies, and taught at York University until 2008, when she left academia altogether. She is published both inside and outside of academia; for instance, you can read lots of really good stuff over at stumptuous.com, where you can find articles with titles like, “Stop being a dick to yourself,” and “F*** exercise, try this instead.”
You can also check out her book Consumed: A Memoir, which chronicles a peanut butter binge, but also addresses body image, dieting, Krista’s choice to leave academia, and more.
Krista’s NEW Book:
Why Me Want Eat
(When we were emailing Krista links to the shownotes, she let us know that her new book is actually available now. We didn’t discuss it in the show much, but I’m putting it in anyway. – M)
Power and Beauty
What began our discussion going was a quotation from Krista’s book, Consumed:
Because here is the big lie: that beauty brings power. The truth is that beauty attracts power, but only as the smell of week-old squirrel carcass invariably attracts the family dog, who rolls in it and then covered in the stink, consumes it with its canine teeth and front-facing eyes before forgetting about its ex-squirrelly existence.
Real power is hidden. The less you need to display it, the more you have.
Starlets or stage-strutters like Diana are steam-belching, coal-fired contraptions of 18th century hobbyists, creaking along before collapsing under their shitfaced coked-up silicone-slushy cast iron weight. Conversely, the corporate-industrial entertainment complex is a sleek engine powered by dancing atoms. You will rarely see it except for the odd supernova fart; it is woven into the fabric of the cosmos. Like the corpulent matriarch figure on which Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy are puzzlingly fixated, power’s hegemonic embrace in folds of moneymaking flabulosity is stifling, all-encompassing, and largely inescapable.
So you think you are winning by doing power’s bidding. By getting beautiful. By steeling your buns and raspberry-swirling your lips.
But the illusory “choice” that real power offers us, like a bone to a begging dog, is still bullshit.
Coke or Pepsi, Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera. Diana or Marlene. Or for my teenage self, Debbie Gibson or Madonna. Crotchgrabbing or bootywiggling. Strutting on stage or folding other people’s sweat socks. Too thin. Too fat. Too goody-goody. Too slutty.
Those are our choices. If we play by the rules. Except the game is rigged, and we’ll never win.
“Empowerment” in Fitness
- Once you realize that the choice between Coke or Pepsi isn’t really much of a choice, you can realize you’re in a story, and that is itself a form of power.
- If you want to find where the power is, take a look at who’s making the money and who’s cleaning the toilets.
- Sometimes “taking control” of your body is marketed as a form of empowerment, but in many ways, it can be an exact opposite kind of situation, where you actually relinquish control: you lose touch with hunger, with what satisfaction is, with having “full energy” is.
- In terms of self-connection, Krista really likes George Beinhorn’s book, The Joyful Athlete.
- One of the dangers is that these things really do feel empowering at first, and they give us access to stories we can tell ourselves about ourselves (e.g., “I am a badass,” “I am super committed,” etc.) but it’s only much further on that you realize what’s really going on, and the toll its taking.
- In Scott’s parlance, ask the question: really, deep down, what is fitness doing for my life, and what is it doing to my life?
Sliding Into Disordered Eating, and Unhealthy Thinking… and Climbing Out Again
- How do you move past it? Part of it is accepting that there is some kind of secondary gain, somewhere.
- This doesn’t happen in an instant; it’s a process.
- You don’t diet your way out of it. More nutritional knowledge doesn’t help, and it often makes it worse.
- Look for instances where your story doesn’t allow you to be a whole, complete, complex person. If you tell yourself you’re a “badass,” but you’re “weak” because one day you ate something that wasn’t on the “badass” shopping list, there’s a problem.
- Be careful, you can be a very smart, mature person — except for this one single, compartmentalized element of your life.
- Krista quoted John Berger: “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. “
- Women’s bodies, women’s selves, are a kind of commodity. They are taught from a young age that the to-be-looked-at-ness of their selves is one of their most important commodities. I.e., they “should” worry about it.
- Also, it’s a zero sum game, meaning your value is dependent on others. To rise in the market someone must fall; if someone else rises, well…
- Krista did suggest that men are actually starting to feel similarly in terms of body image and comparison, but don’t yet have the language to express it. (Mike agrees.)
Find out more about our guest today,
Krista’s blog. Lots of articles. Lots of honesty. Good jokes. Good stuff. A+++ would read again.
Krista’s currently released book. This one details, chapter by chapter, a binge on peanut butter. But it’s about much more than that. Scott’s advice: read it.
Many listeners will be familiar with Precision Nutrition. It offers real-world fitness and weight loss coaching, certification for coaches and trainers, and more.