cover image The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America

The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America

Virginia Sole-Smith. Holt, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-25012-098-4

In this deeply personal and well-researched indictment of American diet culture, parenting and food writer Sole-Smith explores hunger, satiation, and the myriad other reasons humans eat, or don’t. After a medical trauma left her month-old daughter Violet unable to eat and reliant on a feeding tube, the author realized that the primal instinct to self-nourish is “also surprisingly fragile,” easily influenced by vegetable-pushing parents or the sugar-fearing wellness industry (“These twin anxieties about obesity and about the eco-health implications of our modern food system have transformed American food and diet culture”). In retraining her child to obey hunger cues, Sole-Smith found that most adults also need “a set of rules to follow, a literal recipe for how to develop this basic life skill.” She profiles self-styled health gurus who have secretly suffered from eating disorders (such as Christy Harrison, host of the Food Psych podcast), and tracks how patients who have undergone bariatric surgery learn to love and listen to their bodies even “after having a part cut out of it because a doctor told them it couldn’t be trusted.” Sole-Smith argues that “nutrition has become a permanently unsolvable Rubik’s Cube,” but by looking beyond willpower and nutrition fads she helps readers examine their own relationships with food. (Nov.)