Advertisement

Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 353–364 | Cite as

Identity and the Ethics of Eating Interventions

  • Megan A. DeanEmail author
Original Research

Abstract

Although “you are what you eat” is a well-worn cliché, personal identity does not figure prominently in many debates about the ethics of eating interventions. This paper contributes to a growing philosophical literature theorizing the connection between eating and identity and exploring its implications for eating interventions. I explore how “identity-policing,” a key mechanism for the social constitution and maintenance of identity, applies to eating and trace its ethical implications for eating interventions. I argue that identity policing can be harmful and that eating interventions can subject people to these harms by invoking identity policing qua intervention strategy or by encouraging people to eat in ways that subject them to policing from others. While these harms may be outweighed by the benefits of the intervention being promoted, they should nonetheless be acknowledged and accounted for. To aid in these evaluations, I consider factors that modulate the presence and severity of identity-policing and discuss strategies for developing less harmful eating interventions. I conclude by considering the relationship between identity-policing and identity loss caused by long-term diet change. This paper contributes to the centering of identity in food ethics and to a more comprehensive picture of identity’s ethical importance for eating interventions.

Keywords

Eating interventions Public health Identity Food ethics Food activism Eating Food Personal identity 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Anne Barnhill, Kate Withy, Rebecca Kukla, Trip Glazer, Keith Underkoffler, and Cressida Heyes, and to audiences at the Canadian Bioethics Society and the Canadian Society for Women and Philosophy for their comments on earlier versions of this paper. Special thanks to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions, and to the University of Pennsylvania Bioethics Bootcamp and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for their financial support of my research.

References

  1. Abu-Odeh, D. 2014. Fat stigma and public health: A theoretical framework and ethical analysis. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 24(3): 247–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, C.J. 2015. The sexual politics of meat: A feminist-vegetarian critical theory, Bloomsbury Revelations ed. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing USA.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alcoff, L.M. 2005. Visible identities: Race, gender, and the self. USA: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Arseneault, L., L. Bowes, and S. Shakoor. 2010. Bullying victimization in youths and mental health problems: “Much ado about nothing”? Psychological Medicine 40(5): 717–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bailey, C. 2007. We are what we eat: Feminist vegetarianism and the reproduction of racial identity. Hypatia 22(2): 39–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Barnhill, A., K.F. King, N. Kass, and R. Faden. 2014. The value of unhealthy eating and the ethics of healthy eating policies. Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 24(3): 187–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bartky, S. L. 1990. Femininity and domination: Studies in the phenomenology of oppression. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Berger, J., and L. Rand. 2008. Shifting Signals to Help Health: Using Identity Signaling to Reduce Risky Health Behaviors. Journal of Consumer Research 35(3): 509-518.Google Scholar
  9. Biltekoff, C. 2013. Eating right in America: The cultural politics of food and health. Durham, SC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bisogni, C.A., M. Connors, C.M. Devine, and J. Sobal. 2002. Who we are and how we eat: A qualitative study of identities in food choice. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior 34(3): 128–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Chan, S. 2009. New York City campaigns against Coke and other sugary drinks. The New York Times, August 31. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/nyregion/01fat.html. Accessed October 5, 2017.
  12. Conly, S. 2018. Paternalism, food, and personal freedom. In The Oxford handbook of food ethics, edited by A. Barnhill, M. Budolfson, and T. Doggett, 449–469. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Courtenay, W.H. 2000. Constructions of masculinity and their influence on men’s well-being: A theory of gender and health. Social Science & Medicine 50(10): 1385–1401.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Coveney, J. 2006. Food, morals and meaning: The pleasure and anxiety of eating. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crawford, R. 1994. The boundaries of the self and the unhealthy other: Reflections on health, culture and AIDS. Social Science & Medicine 38(10): 1347–1365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Durand, F. 2012. The most challenging dinner guest ever: And 5 delicious meals to feed them. Kitchn. http://www.thekitchn.com/the-most-difficult-dinner-guest-ever-and-5-delicious-meals-to-feed-them-169102. Accessed February 23, 2017.
  17. de Solier, I. 2013. Food and the self: Consumption, production and material culture. New York: Bloomsbury Academic.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library. 2002. Physiologie du goût. http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/food/gastronomy/Physiologie_du_Gout_L.htm. Accessed November 16, 2017.
  19. Fisher, H.L., T.E. Moffitt, R.M. Houts, D.W. Belsky, L. Arseneault, and A. Caspi. 2012. Bullying victimisation and risk of self harm in early adolescence: Longitudinal cohort study. BMJ 344(April): e2683.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gough, B. 2007. “Real men don’t diet”: An analysis of contemporary newspaper representations of men, food and health. Social Science & Medicine 64(2): 326–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Guthman, J. 2008. “If they only knew”: Color blindness and universalism in California alternative food institutions. The Professional Geographer 60(3): 387–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hall, J.M., and K. Carlson. 2016. Marginalization: A revisitation with integration of scholarship on globalization, intersectionality, privilege, microaggressions, and implicit biases. Advances in Nursing Science 39(3): 200–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harper, A. Breeze, ed. 2010. Sistah vegan: Black female vegans speak on food, identity, health, and society. New York: Lantern Books.Google Scholar
  24. Kaufman, L., and A. Karpati. 2007. Understanding the sociocultural roots of childhood obesity: Food practices among Latino families of Bushwick, Brooklyn. Social Science & Medicine 64(11): 2177–2188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kelly, D., and N. Morar. 2018. I eat, therefore I am: Disgust and the intersection of food and identity. In The Oxford handbook of food ethics, edited by A. Barnhill, M. Budolfson, and T. Doggett, 637–657. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Kukla, R. 2018. Shame, seduction, and character in food messaging. In The Oxford handbook of food ethics, edited by A. Barnhill, M. Budolfson, and T. Doggett, 593–613. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lindemann, H. 2014. Holding and letting go: The social practice of personal identities. Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lindemann Nelson, H. 2001. Identity and free agency. In Feminists doing ethics, edited by P. DesAutels and J. Waugh, 45–62. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.Google Scholar
  29. Link, B.G., and J.C. Phelan. 2006. Stigma and its public health implications. The Lancet London 367(9509): 528–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Luo, M. 2004. Excuse me. May I have your seat? The New York Times, September 14, 2004. http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/14/nyregion/excuse-me-may-i-have-your-seat.html. Accessed November 23, 2016.
  31. Lupton, D. 2015. The pedagogy of disgust: The ethical, moral and political implications of using disgust in public health campaigns. Critical Public Health 25(1): 4–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mulvaney-Day, N. and C.A. Womack. 2009. Obesity, identity and community: Leveraging social networks for behavior change in public health. Public Health Ethics 2(3): 250–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Olsson, C., P. Lyon, A. Hörnell, A. Ivarsson, and Y. Mattsson Sydner. 2009. Food that makes you different: The stigma experienced by adolescents with celiac disease. Qualitative Health Research 19(7): 976–984.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. O’Neill, M., D. Rebane, and C. Lester. 2004. Barriers to healthier eating in a disadvantaged community. Health Education Journal 63(3): 220–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Oyserman, D., G.C. Smith, and K. Elmore. 2014. Identity-based motivation: Implications for health and health disparities. Journal of Social Issues 70(2): 206–225.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Pearl, R.L. 2018. Weight bias and stigma: Public health implications and structural solutions. Social Issues and Policy Review 12(1): 146–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Reiheld, A. 2015. With all due caution: Global anti-obesity campaigns and the individualization of responsibility. IJFAB: International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics 8(2): 226-249.Google Scholar
  38. Rothgerber, H. 2013. Real men don’t eat (vegetable) quiche: Masculinity and the justification of meat consumption. Psychology of Men & Masculinity 14(4):363–375.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Ruby, M.B., and S.J. Heine. 2011. Meat, morals, and masculinity. Appetite 56(2): 447–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Schroeder, R.D., and T.J. Mowen. 2014. “You can’t eat WHAT?” Managing the stigma of celiac disease. Deviant Behavior 35(6): 456–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scrinis, G. 2013. Nutritionism: The science and politics of dietary advice. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Stead, M., L. McDermott, A.M. MacKintosh, and A. Adamson. 2011. Why healthy eating is bad for young people’s health: Identity, belonging and food. Social Science & Medicine 72(7): 1131–1139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Takizawa, R., B. Maughan, and L. Arseneault. 2014. Adult health outcomes of childhood bullying victimization: Evidence from a five-decade longitudinal British birth cohort. American Journal of Psychiatry 171(7): 777–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Taylor, C. 2010. Foucault and the ethics of eating. Foucault Studies 9: 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Trachtenberg, J. 2009. Rip says real men live on plants, not meat. Interview with Rip Esselstyn. Wall Street Journal video, February 24. http://www.wsj.com/video/rip-says-real-men-live-on-plants-not-meat/CAEBE3B9-BFFF-494F-B02C-0FC33BFAA7EC.html. Accessed February 23, 2017.
  46. Vartanian, L.R., and J.M. Smyth. 2013. Primum non nocere: Obesity stigma and public health. Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 10(1): 49–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Warde, A. 2015. The practice of eating. Malden, MA: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  48. Williams-Forson, P.A. 2006. Building houses out of chicken legs: Black women, food, and power. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Pty Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations