How Big Food is co-opting the anti-diet movement

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Published in
4 min readApr 17, 2024

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Also today: Julian Assange, an AI music experiment, not your same-old Wordle starter words, and the power of bracing for the worst
By
Jon Gluck

The anti-diet movement is a welcome and long-overdue effort to combat fat-shaming and promote body positivity, right? Well, yes. But it’s also an initiative that’s being exploited by Big Food to peddle high-calorie, low-nutrition products to increase profits, writes Cory Doctorow in “General Mills and cheaply bought ‘dietitians’ co-opted the anti-diet movement.” Here’s the money quote: “The anti-diet movement — again, a legitimate movement aimed at fighting the dangerous junk science behind dieting — has been co-opted by the food industry, who are paying dietitian influencers to say things like ‘all foods have value’ while brandishing packages of Twix and Reese’s.” It’s an eye-opening, and infuriating, read.

Writing in The Conversation, Fady Shanouda and Michael Orsini strike a similarly sobering note about the so-called diet wonder drug. In “Ozempic, the ‘miracle drug,’ and the harmful idea of a future without fat,” they note that drugs like Ozempic “can be understood as a form of ‘pre-emptive obesity biopolitics,’” a term used to describe policy interventions that seek in the present to prevent “fat futures.” By creating new markets of consumers obsessed with their weight, “everyone can hop on the bandwagon that tramples over fat people in the pursuit of wealth and market share, even if it means pushing unrealistic and unattainable beauty and size ideals.”

In “I Was On Ozempic Before The Celebs Were — Don’t Fall For Its Sheer Hype,” meanwhile, Ellen "Jelly" McRae relates her personal experience with the popular weight-loss drug. Taking the medication, she argues, is much more complicated than many accounts would have you believe. In her case, she suffered from severe nausea and fatigue so intense that “walking felt like I was dragging a palette of concrete cinder blocks behind me.” Her intent isn’t to demonize the drug; the decision to take it, she stresses, is between people and their doctors. What she’s hoping to do is add nuance to people’s understanding of the experience. “Just remember how complicated taking this medication is and how hard it can be for a person to take it and include it in their life,” she writes. “Less judgment about weight loss would help, too.”

What else we’re reading

  • President Joe Biden’s comment last week that he is “considering” dropping the United States’ prosecution of Julian Assange reignited the long-running debate about the controversial Wikileaks founder. In “Yes, we should care about Julian Assange,” former journalist Jeremy Wagstaff makes the case for Assange’s release, calling it “a moral requirement.” The prime example Wagstaff cites is the 39-minute video, released by Wikileaks, of a Baghdad street shot from an Apache helicopter gun-sight on July 12, 2007, which in Wikileaks’ words, “clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers.” (Wagstaff is a former Reuters employee.) The video, and the accompanying radio-chatter, Wagstaff writes, are a critical piece of investigative journalism that “combine to engrave a chilling episode in the history of warfare.”
  • From the moment generative AI broke into the collective consciousness, people have been experimenting with the technology with strange and surprising results. Who can forget this piece, in which Bing’s chatbot declared its love for New York Times technology columnist Kevin Roose? In “I Asked Generative AI Music Platform Suno to Write a Podcast Theme…Things Got Weird,” former professional drummer Jeffrey Anthony discovers another AI oddity: It writes uniquely weird songs. After asking the generative AI music platform Suno to write a theme song for a fictional podcast, Anthony analyzes the results with a musicologist’s eye for detail. I won’t give away his final verdict, except to say it involves the word “unfortunate.”
  • Here’s a fun one. In “Wordle Starter Words for Dangerous Troublemakers,” Jack Shepherd, a former BuzzFeed editor who writes a newsletter about crossword puzzles, offers anyone who seeks to escape the dull tyranny of widely recommended Wordle starter words like CRANE, SLATE, and CRATE some creative alternatives. NIXIE, anyone? ZYGAL? SNASH? If you know what any of those three words means, your vocabulary is at least one word larger than mine.

Your daily dose of practical wisdom (about premeditatio malorum)

The Stoics believed premeditatio malorum, or expecting the worst, helps people respond to potential problems more effectively. To do it best, Christie Sausa writes in “Life Gets Better When You Expect the Worst,” brainstorm worst-case scenarios and possible responses in a journal, talk them out with a friend or family member, or simply visualize them.

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Edited and produced by Scott Lamb, Harris Sockel, & Carly Rose Gillis

Questions, feedback, or story suggestions? Email us: tips@medium.com

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