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Virginia Sole-Smith
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The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt in America

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  477 ratings  ·  96 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
ebook, 336 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by Henry Holt and Co.
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Diane S ☔
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lor-2019, 5000-2019
"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
roxi Net
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
I'm so glad I read this book. It spoke to me a lot as 1) someone who struggled with food and found a lot of solace in intuitive eating and 2) someone working towards a speech pathology license. It was a really interesting take on the medical end of feeding, the social aspects of food, toxic diet culture... just, really an interesting meandering of different topics. It felt like a long-form journal piece, stylistically. There aren't a lot of books on food that really mesh with Intuitive Eating ...more
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some parts of this book were fascinating--Sole-Smith takes a tour of modern eating disorders and what they reveal about society and our relationship to food. It's not the standard eating disorders she discusses that are the most interesting, but those where people only eat white foods or can only eat like 3 acceptable foods. She also has a small section on race and class and diet culture, which I found to be interesting. Ultimately, I wanted more analysis, but I do think there's a nub of further ...more
Mes Valatie
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan Lynch
An informative, engaging book that examines American attitudes toward food, diet, health, and body size. Particularly interesting are the discussions of the Health at Every Size movement, social justice issues around diet, and weight stigma. I imagine that most American eaters could find their attitudes or habits illustrated somewhere in these pages. For anyone interested in reading about eating, The Eating Instinct is a good pick.
Erin Ching
Jan 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Feb 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Shayna Brown
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I LOVED this book! It explores how early trauma impacts people's attitude/relationship toward food; the impact of culture, socioeconomic status, and race on food choice and body acceptance; and what are we really trying to accomplish when we set food rules for ourselves.

A very positive book that leads readers to dig deeper into their choices and opinions around food choices, and in doing so, maybe help them to release some fear and judgement.
Sep 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
K.J. Dell'Antonia
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.
Dec 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, msw
" ... the ideal woman's body went from merely thin, to thin and impossibly toned, capable of running marathons, pretzeling into complex yoga positions, and breast-feeding a baby all at the same time."

"We are now so certain that every aspect of our health can be improved through diet, we can only blame ourselves when those diets fail. When cutting out gluten doesn't work, we move on to dairy, then soy. When we still don't feel better, we start reading about the evils of nightshade vegetables or
3.5 out of 5. I heard about this book on a talk show, and was immediately intrigued by it.

Growing up being told I needed to lose weight while at the same time being shown that I was loved by being fed, I've developed a complicated relationship with food, which some may be able to relate to. My relationship with food consisted of all kinds of feelings and motivations (eating for pleasure, eating for energy, eating to impress, eating to connect, eating to protect, eating to procrastinate/avoid, or
Jan 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rogers Smith
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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 ...more
Mar 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
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  ·  review of another edition
A must-read for anyone who eats.
Alex Templeton
Apr 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recently I've been intrigued by our (as in Americans') relationship to food - in particular, American womens' relationship to food. It seems as if it is a topic that all women must talk about. It would be one thing if they were sharing recipes and culinary techniques, but the talk tends to be about moral issues - food is seen as "good" and "bad". I also feel like I have a "bad" body because of my liking for "bad" food - it makes me rather self-conscious around the lunch table. Now I have a ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I read most of this book before putting it down. Despite it's title leading one to believe it's about the majority of American society, it makes statements about the general society, but the individual stories it focuses on are more extreme situations. The strongest part was the very first section, which deals with the author's own situation of her daughter who required a feeding tube for the first two years of her life. The other sections weren't as good, and I got increasingly disinterested in ...more
Jo Resciniti
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  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Health food. Junk food. Comfort food. Fast food. Whole food.

America today is steeped in food culture, and eating has become a national obsession. Each of us possesses a particular set of eating habits that stem from a combination of nature and nurture. But for many folks, eating is a difficult and emotionally fraught necessity. You may be vegan, paleo, fast-food addicted, or a conflicted clean-eater. Yet, regardless of the factors that inform your food choices, have you ever stopped to ask
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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 ...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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