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In her illuminating new narrative on the daily onslaught of body shame that kids face from peers, school, diet culture, and parents themselves, journalist Virginia Sole-Smith offers a compelling reported look at how families can change the conversation around weight, health, and self-worth. This spring, Sole-Smith comes to the Museum for a special evening of dialogue celebrating the release of Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture.
By the time they reach kindergarten, most kids have learned that “fat” is bad. As they get older, kids learn to pursue thinness in order to survive in a world that ties our body size to our value. Multibillion-dollar industries thrive on consumers believing that we don’t want to be fat. Our weight-centric medical system pushes “weight loss” as a prescription, while ignoring social determinants of health and reinforcing negative stereotypes about the motives and morals of people in larger bodies. And parents today, having themselves grown up in the confusion of modern diet culture, worry equally about the risks of our kids caring too much about being “thin” and about what happens if our kids are fat. Sole-Smith shows how the reverberations of this messaging and social pressure on young bodies continue well into adulthood — and what we can do to fight them.
Fat Talk argues for a reclaiming of “fat,” which is not synonymous with “unhealthy,” “inactive,” or “lazy.” Talking to researchers and activists, as well as parents and kids across a broad swath of the country, Sole-Smith lays bare how America’s focus on solving the “childhood obesity epidemic” has perpetuated a second crisis of disordered eating and body hatred for kids of all sizes. She exposes our society’s internalized fatphobia and elucidates how and why we need to stop “preventing obesity” and start supporting kids in the bodies they have.
Fat Talk is a stirring, deeply researched, and groundbreaking book that will help parents learn to reckon with their own body biases, identify diet culture messaging, and ultimately empower their kids to navigate this challenging landscape. Sole-Smith offers an alternative framework for parenting around food and bodies, and a way for us all to work toward a more weight-inclusive world — because it’s not our kids, or their bodies, who need fixing.
Book signing to follow; copies of Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture for sale on-site.
This program is free, thanks to the generosity of the Lowell Institute.
Separate tickets required
Cost: Free with Pre-Registration
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Wednesday, May 10 | 7:00 pm
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Recommended for: Visitors 18 years of age and older
As a journalist, Virginia Sole-Smith has reported from kitchen tables and grocery stores, graduated from beauty school, and gone swimming in a mermaid’s tail. Sole-Smith’s latest book, Fat Talk: Parenting in the Age of Diet Culture, investigates how the “war on childhood obesity” has caused kids of all ages to absorb a daily onslaught of body shame from peers, school, diet culture, and parents themselves. It offers research-based strategies to help parents name and navigate the anti-fat bias that infiltrates our schools, doctor’s offices, and family dinner tables.
In her first book, The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image and Guilt in America, she explored how we can reconnect to our bodies, and our own innate understanding of how to eat, in a culture that’s constantly giving all of us, but especially women, so many mixed messages about both those things.
Sole-Smith is a frequent contributor to The New York Times. Her work also appears in the New York Times Magazine, Scientific American, and many other publications. She writes the newsletter Burnt Toast, where she explores fatphobia, diet culture, parenting, and health, and hosts the Burnt Toast podcast. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, two daughters, a cat, a dog, and too many houseplants.