How Food Media Talk About Health and Wellness Matters

Why does it often feel so fraught and judgy?

Alicia Kennedy
Heated
Published in
8 min readOct 5, 2020

--

Two .5 kg dumbbells, measuring tape, and a salad on a rustic wooden table.
Photo: boonchai wedmakawand/Moment/Getty Images

This was first posted as the October 5 “From the Desk of Alicia Kennedy” newsletter. You can sign up here.

The first time I saw the word “fat” used as a descriptor without a whiff of judgment was when the show Two Fat Ladies was playing on Food Network. It was a BBC show from the late ’90s, and the cartoon of them driving around in a motorcycle with a sidecar is burned in my brain. These were two broads who knew how to live, the introduction implied, and Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright did indeed do some living.

Their knowing, confident banter around travel and ingredients suggested extensive experience in the world; they would never use yogurt where cream would do. There is just so much humor and pleasure demonstrated on this show. It was and is absolutely delightful.

Eating has always been central to my happiness. My grandma fed me lobster and lamb chops, goes the story I’ve told or typed a million times; we watched Julia Child and The Frugal Gourmet. Food was my first love, and it’s my most sustaining love — literally, emotionally, intellectually. When I was a kid, my appetite was considered impressive. And because I’ve remained more or less thin throughout my life, it has never (or rarely) been viewed as a problem. If anyone ever made note of how much I was eating, I have always been feminist enough to make a mental note that they should go fuck themselves.

If anyone ever made note of how much I was eating, I have always been feminist enough to make a mental note that they should go fuck themselves.

Why are weight and appetite feminist issues? They shouldn’t be, of course, but they are feminized, and women bear the brunt of fatphobia and also struggle disproportionately with disordered eating. When at Bloodroot, a feminist vegetarian restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut, I was taken with their sign about not mentioning the richness of food or dieting while in the space “out of respect for women of size.”

Just like in drinks writing, where talking about drunkenness is verboten, in food writing, we…

--

--

Alicia Kennedy
Heated

I’m a food writer from Long Island based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter on food issues: aliciakennedy.substack.com