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

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  223 ratings  ·  60 reviews
An exploration, both personal and deeply reported, of how we learn to eat in today's toxic food culture.

Food is supposed to sustain and nourish us. Eating well, any doctor will tell you, is the best way to take care of yourself. Feeding well, any human will tell you, is the most important job a mother has. But for too many of us, food now feels dangerous. We parse every bi
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Henry Holt & Company
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really liked it 4.00  · 
Rating details
 ·  223 ratings  ·  60 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 5000-2019, lor-2019
"Food is supposed to sustain and nurture us. Eaing well, any doctor will tell you, is the most important thing you can do to take care of yourself. Feeding well, any human will tell you is the most important job a mother has, especially in the first months of her child's life. But right now, in America, we no longer think of food as sustenance or nourishment. For many of us food feels dangerous. We fear it, We regret it. And we categorize everything we eat as good or bad."

When her daughter was b
roxi Net
Oct 16, 2018 added it
Shelves: roxiown
This was at times a heart-breaking book to read with emotional stories that mention issues of eating that had never crossed my mind. In truth, I was expecting a much different book than what I read. This was much more personal rather than numbers and facts. It's made me think about eating in other contexts outside of health and body image -- to the very core of what it means to be a live human being.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book really covered a different way a lot of people eat. It was a bit complicated, but certainly interesting.

Thanks to author, publisher, and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
Mes Valatie
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant discussion of how our relationship with food is so fragile in the current toxic diet culture and the importance of coming to a healthy understanding of this relationship for ourselves and our families. The prose is fine and resonates both intellectually and emotionally. Couldn’t put it down
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The Eating Instinct by Virginia Sole-Smith is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early November.

Against the framework of Sole-Smith's daughter Violet's initial medical reluctance to eat/drink by mouth at 1 month old, a reader begins to understand the difference between reluctance to eat and being finnicky, the urge to implement eating behaviors and timing, as well as the hope for our child's inheritability of a love for food and the ritual of cooking. It rings true to another book I greatly e
Erin Ching
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed the chapters on clean eating and breastfeeding because these conversations come up in my world all the time, and the chapters on low-income eating and bypass surgery because it was good to learn some new perspectives. I enjoyed the discussions on how we equate food with morality, and how closely food is tied to emotions (and questioning whether this is a bad thing).

But what i really LOVED about this book was the tube feeding and picky eating chapters. I also have a child with a backgro
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, food
This book came to me at the perfect time. It explores what it means to raise an eater (and be an eater) in modern society. Food is complicated, culture is complicated, and how do we help our children successfully navigate all of that when so many of us are struggling ourselves? I loved how her personal narrative of her daughter's challenges was woven in with research. She doesn't shy away from big topics, with chapters on food and race, picky eating in adults, weight loss surgery, and more. High ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
Uff! A really enjoyable read that covers a vast array of topics regarding how we eat, why we eat what we do, and what food means to us culturally and psycho socially. Plus, it didn’t complete bypass the topic of privileged eating and what disadvantages people face. Ya girl LOVES a well rounded, intersectional book 🤘🤘🤘
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author, began to re-evaluate her ideas about food when her baby daughter suffered a medical trauma that made her stop eating for two years due to oral aversion. The work of getting her child to feel safe and happy with food again, and her own responses to that process, led her to research US food culture, particularly the disordered diet and wellness cultures that rely on restrictive external rules for eating, rather than internal cues related to pleasure, comfort, and satiety. She finds tha ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 I'm a foodie and that I actually have to think about my food/eating in a different way as I age (i.e. think at about it in a negative way) is almost painful. I wanted this book to address my issues, and they did briefly, but there were lots of anecdotes that were of very different scenarios. The child scenarios were definitely ones parents may find more interesting than I did. But the food morality bit was good & thought-provoking and the last chapter was pretty powerful.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An interesting read. Very thought-provoking. Would have loved a solution at the end, but I know if there was an easy one, we'd already have heard it. Clearly a complicated issue, which is why hoping for a simple solution is probably in vain. Still gives you a lot of insight into different food issues and a lot to mull over.
K.J. Dell'Antonia
Nov 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book was so satisfying. For me, it ticked all the boxes: a) is fascinating and readable and b) will make you think about why you’re about to eat what you’re about to eat in a whole new way. Here's what it won't do--help you lose weight, specifically. It will give you amazing new insight into how you became the eater you are, though--and how you influence your kids. I loved it.
Rogers Smith
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
How many of us have been in restaurants with people who worry endlessly about what they can and cannot, should and shouldn't eat, taking forever to order, sending food back? How often have we seen parents haranguing their kids not to eat this, eat more of that, until meals become ordeals? Everyone is well intended, some concerns are justified; but food worries often get out of hand, in part because there are so many conflicting, anxiety-inducing messages about food in our society. Building on so ...more
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
There was a lot that I liked about this book, and if GoodReads allowed 3.5 star ratings, I'd give it the extra half star. First, though, I want to talk about why it isn't a 5-star book:

The author decided to write this because she had a baby who couldn’t eat for most of her first two years—she was afraid of food due to a medical issue and had to be taught how to eat. So, unsurprisingly, there is a lot of focus on new parents and pregnant people and the pressures they face re: food. That isn't wha
Nov 27, 2018 marked it as to-read
Kirkus Reviews: "Though Sole-Smith's observations are more thought-provoking than prescriptive, her narrative leads readers toward a better understanding and acceptance of individual instincts. "We must decide for ourselves what we like and dislike," she writes, "and how different foods make us feel when we aren't prejudging every bite we take. It takes its own kind of relentless vigilance to screen out all that noise. It requires accepting that the weight you most want to be may not be compatib ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Sole-Smith examines the various forces, mostly external, that damage our ability to listen to our bodies and eat intuitively. A few of the forces she discusses include surgeries (both weight-loss related and not), trauma, eating disorders, and racism. Some issues received a bit more attention than others, but everything is solidly researched and well-written, and the more basic chapters act as a jumping off point for more research. She doesn’t spend a lot of time on restrictive eating disorders, ...more
Jan 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, non-fiction
Pretty interesting. For some reason, I'm always interested in reading about picky eating, body issues, etc., and this was an insightful book for that. I was personally less interested in children's eating habits and learned behaviors, but that's just me.
Sue Davis
Nov 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nutrition
I especially liked chapter 5, Eating while Black. Insightful and informative. Wonderful gifted writing.
Alden Winters
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A must-read for anyone who eats.
Dec 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was truly excellent. Full of personal stories (including the author's own) and science, it really tells a story about eating in America today. It doesn't ever try to tell YOU how you should eat, but lays out some different ideas about how people are eating and should eat. I don't know, I really loved it.

YMMV, depending on how much you think about food and eating.
Joey Resciniti
Mar 16, 2019 rated it liked it
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.

Rating: 2.5 stars

This book isn’t for me. Still, in the early chapters I appreciated that it was well written and gave insight into parenting a child with feeding issues. I felt very empathetic toward the author as she described her daughter’s early years.

The part about the LEAP diet bothered me. It provided the opinion and experience of one women (a registered dietitian even) and dismissed the very specific blood test supported elimination
Jan 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book gave me a lot to chew on...pun intended. Our culture has become obsessed with the ideal body image, and each new diet promises to deliver that, but despite the low-fat, Atkins, Paleo, Keto, Gluten-free, vegan, Whole 30, etc. varieties, we are no closer to finding the Holy Grail of eating right. Sole-Smith's book begins with the struggles that her daughter had eating from birth due to a heart defect. The author had to rethink how she approached feeding her child in order for her daughte ...more
Jan 11, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: public-health
This was an interesting book understanding the relationship between food and eating among several groups including: those who can't eat due to lack of biological indicators, those within the alternative-food movement or "healthy eating", those with eating disorders, those who diet, those who have bariatric surgery, African-Americans, and folks who are overweight and or obese. This book was written from a layman's perspective to share experiences from these groups in hand with supporting research ...more
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I guess this book is technically non-fiction, but it is not the non-fiction book that makes a well argued thesis it robustly supports with well curated studies. Rather, this is the kind of non-fiction that asks a question it doesn't really know the answer to itself: what does it mean to eat?

The author is a journalist, and the tone of the book often seems on par with any women's magazine. The focus is always on a non-representative individual; the health experts cited run the gamut from charlatan
Joanna Marple
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think most of us at some time in our lives have had a less than optimal relationship to food. This book was fascinating, thought-provoking, sad, emotional, educational and raw.... what a great read. It was very well written and demonstrates how our relationship with food is so fragile and often so screwed up. I wish I had had something like this years ago on my own food-related journey, as I could relate to aspects of so many stories here. It is indeed full of personal stories (including the a ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I liked this book more than I thought I would when I picked it up. The author is very intimate with serious eating issues due to her daughter's medical issues and needing to be fed through tubes. I really like that she doesn't demonize any foods but rather talks about how we feel about foods/guilt about foods. After reading this book, I feel like I am encouraged to continue to eat as healthy as possible to fuel my body in a healthy way, but also to not feel guilty about eating some chocolate (ev ...more
Cat C
Feb 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
I received a copy of this in a Goodreads giveaway and it has not affected my review.

This book is fascinating, and each of the chapters held me spellbound as the story unfolded. I suspect that for each person, a different chapter will resonate with them even if their personal experiences and circumstances aren't quite as extreme (for me, it was "Fear of Food"). It's immensely thought-provoking; this is a book that functions mostly to raise questions and make connections across widely disparate pa
Nov 23, 2018 rated it liked it
I won an advanced copy of this book on Goodreads. A very interesting book on how people view food. I especially liked the chapters on ARFID and on Violet, the author's daughter. I learned a lot on the topic of the fear of food. The chapter on Eating while Black fell flat with me. I don't see the connection with race and food. I understand how different cultures will eat different food and how their socioeconomic status can play a part in the cost of obtaining healthy vs junk food also, I get how ...more
Feb 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
I spend a significant chunk of my life thinking about, reading about, planning out and dreaming about food. This book examines food and our relationship with it from a perspective rarely heard: that there is nothing good or bad, there is just what you prefer and what satisfies you. The US (and much of the West) moralizes every food and eating scenario, and places incredible judgement on eating habits -- and the "wellness" movement is only the latest diet masquerade. With a chapter on the added l ...more
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Virginia Sole-Smith has reported from kitchen tables and grocery stores, graduated from beauty school, and gone swimming in a mermaid’s tail. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Harper’s, Elle and others. She’s also a contributing editor with Parents Magazine. The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund and the Economic Hardship Reporting Project has supported several of her pro ...more
“food became something to categorize—whole or processed, real or fake, clean or dirty—and to fear.” 0 likes
“Our eating instincts are disrupted by modern diet culture, in which food is supposed to be fuel, not therapy. Just as the PICU doctors and dietitians think of nutrition as a prescription they can write and then tweak for optimal results, we’re taught that a “healthy” relationship with food means that you only ever eat for sustenance. Enjoyment is allowed only when you’re eating certain kinds of foods blessed with the right kind of packaging, or better yet, no packaging at all. Otherwise, we’re supposed to ignore the sheer existence of food unless we’re hungry, and then eat only what we need to feel full, but never a bite more. You shouldn’t eat to combat depression, or stress, or just because something tastes good, if you are not also physically hungry. And yet—the physical sensation of hunger is emotional. Hunger triggers a huge range of feelings, depending on its severity—excitement, irritability, weepiness, confusion. And eating brings more: pleasure, contentment, satisfaction, bliss. We cannot separate these things. I’m not sure that we should try.” 0 likes
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