Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why put a sociologist on a diet?

Weight log: 228lb (that is what I was on Monday so…)
I’m not claiming to be a sociologist (I believe a certain secret handshake must be learned before that is the case) but the title is another way of asking why we should look at the issue of weight loss, food and diet from a sociological perspective. While I’m sure it requires little thought to imagine why sociological investigation might be useful in this field, it is also plainly obvious that this field has been managed almost every other field and discipline. Beardsworth and Keil lay out a pretty good basis for investigation. Sociologists may have overlooked (and this is likely overstated since people like Levi-Strauss have been engaged in this type of investigation for a while) this field since the focus has been largely on posing social questions that resist natural phenomenon as being able to explain social nuances (p.171). They also affirm that the field has belonged to other ‘disciplines’
much of the writing about dieting, fat and body image appears in popular magazines and other media out put. Where these images emerge in the academic literature, they are discussed by nutritionists, medical researchers, psychologists… (p. 175)
I think this is an important distinction because I am interested in uncovering a discursive analysis of the objects in this field of study – so knowing who owns the right to talk about this topic is an important starting point. The authors suggest four puzzles that might be useful to investigate for sociologists…
the first is the knowledge that, as food supplies become both more secure and more plentiful, a substantial proportion of the population is on a diet with the aim of achieving weight loss and so are trying to avoid eating the range and variety of foods now available…
This makes me think of one of my regular customers who I had a conversation with this morning at market. She told me that she was dieting and was using our Saskatoon juice as a vital supplement to her dieting strategy. She was using a protein powder of some expense apparently and was adding our juice to it – for flavour but also because she believed that the juice was nutritionally beneficial. Our juice is not exactly cheap. I couldn’t help thinking that while there could be many options she could choose from to construct a weight loss diet she was using especially expensive products to achieve her goals. I couldn’t help thinking for the same amount of money that she was spending monthly on supplements and our juice – my wife and I were sponsoring four children through World Vision. We walk through supermarkets and turn down slightly bruised apples because we can while other people in the world would find that produce perfectly fine. But not only that we CAN choose rare and exotic (okay so Saskatoon juice is not exactly exotic (but then again watch this (35:00)…)) food products but we can use them to make ourselves less obese. There is something peculiar about that and worth investigation.
As I pulled through the McDick’s drive through sucking with all my might on my milkshake, I grew incredibly disappointed. That milkshake consisted of 1/3 of my caloric intake for the day. I spent 16 minutes in line waiting for what proved to be a lot less satisfying than I would have wanted. But then I reflected on how unconventional my weight loss program has been. I certainly have eaten a lot less than I used to but I have not really anything exotic – except perhaps for that little banned pill I am taking…
the second is the awareness that, as the average body weight increases in the general population, the preferred (perhaps even ‘ideal’) body image (or shape)…emphasizes the slim, the slender and the underweight.
Could there be some valuable class analysis lurking behind this – hmmmm?
the third is the fact that the second half of the twentieth century is associated with a rise in eating ‘disorders’…The fourth puzzle is highlighted by the data which show that most if not all. of those involved in dieting…are women, that is, the people who are normally responsible…for the selection, preparation and serving of food. (p.174)
So this is a gender issue. Of course it is. I should be so lucky as to have chosen an issue that is after all a women’s issue. Right? I mean come on. Do you think it is easy exploring this femininity? I mean I thought I would become more of a man by losing weight? Now I find out that taking over the cooking/shopping duties and losing weight at the same time is actually a woman’s problem. Well what’s next – hot flashes….I’m jesting okay…

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