If you eat the Pollan diet, will it make you thin?

In Weighing In, Julie Guthman questions whether Michael Pollan really persuades people:

Yet, like most missionary work, the message [of alternative food] speaks mainly to the almost or already converted. Just as the audience for the obesity statistics is those who are most invested in upholding bodily norms (the already thin or just slightly “overweight”), the audience for organic local food is those who already have a stake in good eating and status. Although I have no ultimate proof of Michael Pollan’s audience, I have come across many of his fans in classrooms, speaking engagements, and public forums. Without an obvious exception, I’ve noticed that they are white, educated, urbane, and thin–and already quite convinced of alternative food’s goodness. It may be that Pollan’s iconic power has less to do with changing minds than with animating something latent. In a funny way, even Michael Pollan knows this. In Defense of Food is full of appeals to “us.” In other words, it’s not so much that the discourse of good food convinces its subjects; rather, the discourse chooses subjects who are ready to believe it. Think about it: If you eat the Pollan diet, will it make you thin? (It hasn’t worked for me.) Or is it that because you are thin, you are more likely to read about and eat the Pollan diet? (158-159)

To be fair, I can think of a number of Pollan’s fans who are not white, but I’m not sure I’d be able to think of counterexamples to the other three adjectives (educated, urbane, and thin). But in any case, Guthman’s question seems like an important one.


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