what’s microfilm got to do with nutrition?

This term, I’m working away on an independent study course that led me to a lot of reading on gender in Canada over the ages. I basically did a survey course to try to get a lay of the land and while it was overwhelmingly interesting–and overwhelming, at times–I have really enjoyed letting myself get pulled in all kinds of directions by reading. The downside to this being a course and not just free nerd-wheeling is that now I have to try to put all of the stuff I’ve learned into a term paper–or at least some of it!

I’ve decided to do a little research into representations of women’s fitness back in the 1960s or so and as such have just started dabbling in the old copies of magazines like Chatelaine in the library’s microfilm collection. After I got over the embarrassment of needing the librarian to show me how to look at the films, I’ve been getting totally into the process of digging up what was going on in terms of the messages women received about their bodies back in the day.

I’m particularly intrigued by the diet ads, the recipes, and the lifestyle advice women get. I don’t know exactly which themes are emerging just yet, but there’s certainly something interesting that I’m seeing: that “nutrition” (diet is more accurate, I think) advice has come full circle. Back then, carbs were what people knew made them fat. Fat was less of the villain and it was sort of a taken for granted given that if you overdid it on sugar and carbs, your weight would reflect it. Nowadays, people are scared of carbs again. Knowing that the diet industry just cycles through these trends and ideas makes the irony of the OMGluten situation and the popularity of low carb approaches even more frustrating for someone who just wishes that “healthy” was something we could all get back to without people trying to confuse us with messages of what’s the best for us that serve other agendas besides our health.

Along this same vein, I read a blog post that did a good job of pointing out what’s problematic about one of today’s biggest carb-villifying, dogmatic diets–the Paleo Diet–earlier this week. You should check out what Tommy had to say about it, but if you want the summarized version, here it is:

“I’m not saying that there aren’t great aspects of the paleo diet, because there are. Avoiding processed foods and eating real food as much as possible is a great thing- but why don’t we just say ‘eat real food and avoid processed food’ instead of making up all of these ridiculous rules and justifications for dieting a certain way?
Adding a label to a logical way of eating only allows companies to profit from food fads, which you can now see with low carb, gluten free, and other shitty paleo spin off foods.”

Another post from a while back from the National Post made a similar point: the dogma’s not helping us in our pursuit of healthy living! 

The point of this post was to serve as a reminder to myself and my readers that just because the magazines, the media, or the people around us say that ____ is for sure the reason we’re fat/unhealthy/unhappy/whatever does not make it fact–it makes it a trend, an ideology, a whatever–but it’s still a matter of opinion. That being said, I think it’s a safe bet to say that eating mostly unprocessed diet made up of foods that you enjoy and that you get from the best sources that you can will be the safest, most sustainable way to go about “getting healthy.” Trust me on that one!

If you still want food rules, I would refer you to two people I trust:

1. Michael Pollan – plants

2. Geneen Roth –

eat rules geneen

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to my nerdiness research.

bonus: This (timely) post came up this week on Sociological Images (one of my favourite spots to nerd things up!): Is Sugar a Diet Aid? The Answer Depends on the Decade is what I’m talking about!

What do you think about the diet industry trends coming full circle?
Do you have a stance on the Paleo Diet?
What food rules do you agree with, if any? 


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