Accepted Paper:

Healthy eating and obesity management: biopedagogies of food  
Lavinia Bertini (Brighton and Sussex Medical School)

Paper short abstract:

Using ethnographic data, I illustrate how the promotion of "healthy eating" in weight-loss groups utilises biopodegogies of food as "enabling practices" that reproduce normative ideas of biocitizenship and consumer choice through nutritional knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

The authoritative knowledge around the "obesity epidemic" identifies caloric imbalance as the main cause of weight gain and promote weight-loss diets as the most effective form of treatment. Within this discourse, food is biomedically constructed as the cause of and treatment to excessive weight, defined as "fuel" and measured in calories.

Weight-loss programmes play a central role in obesity management and represent biosocial realities where knowledge around food and health is originally produced.

In this paper, I suggest that in these contexts, losing weight to restore health involves a resocialisation of participants, their body and self, into responsible biocitizenship and educated consumers through biopedagogies of food and taste. Drawing on my fieldwork in a free weight-loss programme in the UK, I highlight how this resocialisation passes through a discursive shift from diet to healthy eating.

I illustrate how this shift questions the therapeutic efficacy of calories counting and promote nutritional knowledge as a long-term strategy to restore and maintain a healthy weight and suggest that it enables the different actors negotiate "food as medicine" and lived experiences of "food as commensality".

Moreover, I suggest that nutritional knowledge is promoted through biopedagogies of food, eating and cooking, such as meal planning, mindful eating and label reading. And that these biopedagogies are perceived as "enabling practices" through which groups' participants feel empowered and able to work not only on their physical health, but also on their general wellbeing as well as on their identity as informed consumers and citizens.

Panel Med03
Food as medicine: biosocialities of eating in health and illness