Volume Eight, Issue 1
Jacqui R. Gingras and Jennifer L. Brady [*
Relational-cultural theory (RCT) proposes that relationships are
central to healing and growth (Miller and Stiver, 1997).
(defined by mutual
involvement and commitment to relationship), authenticity (the process
of feeling free and genuine in relationship), and empowerment or zest
(the feeling of personal strength and the inspiration to take action in
relationship) (Nakash, Williams, and Jordan,
authenticity, and empowerment present in a therapeutic context role
model what is possible in relationships outside of therapy.
Within growth-fostering relationships, authentic interactions can lead
to experiences of connection and disconnection. All relationships will
experience disconnections periodically, but it is the manner in which
these disconnections are negotiated that influences the relational
outcome. That relationships are central to movement in therapy is not a
particularly radical view. What we do contend is that the relationships
dietitians have with their own bodies and the bodies of those who seek
their services are constituted and constrained by a control discourse,
which marginalizes bodily difference. Control discourse constitutes
individuals’ eating patterns as a series of reasoned, discrete, and
quantifiable choices (i. e. weigh, measure, limit, and avoid) in direct
contrast to views that eating is determined by emotion, hunger,
appetite, and sociality.
Instruments of nutrition science (body weight, body mass index, and
hip-to-waist circumference ratio as three common examples) are used to
define the marginalized Other’s body as too fat or too thin and justify
its need for nutrition management in the name of individual and public
health. Concomitantly, dietitians’ worth as professionals is signified
by their cognitive and embodied mastery of these instruments. For
the dietitian, to be Other signifies her moral and professional
failings to relinquish her innate hungers in favour of control
discourse. This discourse inherently delimits possibilities for
authenticity and connection in dietitians’ relationships with theirs
and Others’ bodies. It is an ethical imperative to make visible this
route to bodily difference that has dramatic potential to exacerbate
feelings of body shame and hatred.
We evoke a wisdom discourse that subverts the isolation and
disconnection inherent in control discourse. In this paper, we share
the findings of research into the suitability of relational-cultural
theory to call forth a wisdom discourse in nutrition counselling. It is
our intention to demonstrate the relational possibilities that may
exist for our profession and our professional practice. We explore the
tensions that dietitians may experience as students and practitioners
when their professional beings are constituted by control discourse.
Using recent data collected during an exploration of
relational-cultural approaches to nutrition counselling, we illustrate
how control and wisdom discourses serve to position the concerns of
those seeking dietetic services.
Dietetics’ Professional Bodies
In North America today, the dietetics profession is dominated by a
discourse of bodily self control that denies the importance of the
socio-economic context in shaping dietitians’ clinical work and
experiences of their own bodies as well as the eating habits and
choices of individuals they serve. Dietitians’ formal initiation to
this control discourse begins during their studentship in undergraduate
nutrition education. Austin (1999a; 1999b) describes this discourse as
that which enables the diet food industry its promotional shrewdness
since dietitians willingly use the control imperative to promote the
food industry’s low-fat and diet food products. According to Travers
(1995), the control discourse
perpetuates nutritional inequities by
placing responsibility for food choices solely on individuals. This
frequently reinforces economic, racial, educational, cultural, and body
size divides between those in the profession and clients who seek
support with food and weight concerns. What their training does not
prepare dietitians for, however, is the inherent emotional and
political nature of their food work. Dietitians’ bodies as well as the
possibilities for the ways in which dietitians may relate to others are
confined by the scripts of nutrition science that grant them their
status as professionals.
DeVault (1999) contends that, through
become enamored and armored with the “promises of professionalism;” the
view that with newfound knowledge and authority, dietitians can make a
difference in the nutritional lives of others. “Inadequate [health care
professional] preparation could lead to disrupted expectations or even
ongoing cognitive dissonance regarding practice situations” (Sprang,
Clark, and Whitt-Woosley, 2007, p. 274-275). These disturbances can
have detrimental effects on dietitians, but tend to be felt most
acutely as burnout, a phenomenon currently under exploration by the
Dietitians’ professional role typically has been that of a weight
manager, working to reduce differences among people’s body weights. The
dietitian relies on “clients’” compliance with dietary advice to recast
bodies that fit within a narrow range of possibilities. Given the
extraordinary will of the body to resist such manipulations, weight
change is not a given. Yet, dietitians may continue to expect
compliance and promote the virtues of restraint, determination, and
denial in the ongoing efforts to promote “healthy weights. ”
Thus, a disconnect is borne between dietitian and others. Out of “good
dietetic practice” emerges a major empathic rupture.
In a promotional flyer created by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and
Dietitians of Canada appearing in the Canadian
Research in the summer of 2005, “good dietetic
is demonstrated by an image of a dietitian balancing on one end of a
teeter-totter while opposite an array of appropriately healthful foods
holds her suspended in perfect and harmonious balance. The image is
noteworthy as a vivid illustration of this control discourse and for
what it suggests about dietitian identity. The accompanying text reads
“Registered dietitians are an essential part of a balanced eating plan
. . . just like the four food groups” and in small print, “You can
trust Registered Dietitians to give you good advice on nutrition. Their
university training has given them the technical knowledge needed to
master this most complex science. ” Of note, permission for the image
to appear in this article was denied.
What is most compelling about this image in the particular context of
this paper, is the “coercive appeal to the authoritative status of (a
biased) science…[which] seeds insecurity by casting suspicion on the
value of existing forms of women’s nutritional know-how” (Aphramor and
Additionally, the dietitian’s identity is
constituted as distant and removed from food. The dietitian’s own
weight is a measure of her credibility. The image implies everything in
moderation and eat a variety of foods, but don’t tip the balance. The
image normalizes an already rampant distrust of hunger, appetite, and
desire. These contradictory yet, ubiquitous nutrition messages
(everything in moderation, eat a variety of foods, and maintain
balance) are evidence of the ways in which the dietetic profession
manifests a paradoxical reliance on bodily distrust.
This manifestation, a long-standing tradition within the profession,
stands in radical relief to what we support as a move into relational
connection. We believe that a renegotiation of what counts as dietetic
knowledge is required. We contend that standing at a scientized
arms-length from food escalates food and body dread and this can’t help
but have very real and gendered penalties for those who engage in the
work needed to eat (Aphramor
Coming to Know and Be Known as
As students are formally educated “into established paradigms, gain
competencies associated with the field, and become practitioners of a
craft with its own canons and traditions” (DeVault,
1999, p. 168), they
grapple with their own identities and how those identities are
reconciled or not with becoming a professional (Clouder, 2003; Wilson,
2001). Students experience a self-alienation and a transformation
their relationships with their bodies, with food, and with
family/friends as they become versed in the control discourse of
science of nutrition and professional dietetics (Atkins and Gingras, 2009).
marked emphasis on a science that sanctions
narrow range of healthy foods and weights coupled with the demands of a
highly competitive program and career, trust of self and Others begins
to slowly erode until finally, distrust becomes the norm. As the
dominant nutrition discourse does not allow space for critical
appraisal, students carry their wounds silently and invisibly, still
intending to fulfill the promises of professionalism. Becoming a
professional promises authority and legitimacy, but only if the
professional body fits into the weight ideal quantified by the
instruments of nutrition science and reified in the poster described
As authors of this paper, we know intimately the wounds associated with
coming to know and be known as dietitian. We know that in order to be
seen, we must conform, we must hold our bodies in abeyance, and remain
a little bit hungry. In the name of learning to be dietitians, we have
had our bodies callipered, our intakes codified, and our tongues tied.
We have made deliberate choices about what to eat in whose company as
some foods were deemed unacceptable and humiliating to consume with our
colleagues and professors. We have obediently re-enacted scripts
written in the language of control discourse to excuse any perceived
inappropriateness in satisfying our hunger. We have sought to achieve
extraordinary academic and personal standards in order to be granted
coveted internship positions at the end of our undergraduate education;
positions that will enable us to secure our “registered” status,
authenticate our expertise, and validate our efforts. What this
competition holds for us are the wounds of exclusion, wounds that take
a long time (if ever) to heal. In all, we learn disconnection, negative
social esteem, and inauthentic interactions. We experience relational
paradoxes such that the connection we desire is made unavailable if we
risk being authentic. As we contemplate entering practice, we learn
what it means not to care.
Methods - Relational Inquiry in
To date, there has been no inquiry regarding relational-cultural
approaches to nutrition counselling. During eight months (January to
April 2007 and September to December 2007), I (JG) engaged in nutrition
counselling with students seeking support regarding their eating and
weight concerns. This service was provided to students referred from
Student Counselling and Health Services at a mid-sized urban
university. Students were also invited to participate in the research
and 50% of students (8/16) elected to have their sessions audio-taped
for the purposes of evaluating the effectiveness of a
relational-cultural approach to nutrition counselling. Of those who
participated, a purposive sample of three women was included for
analysis given the range of issues raised in these women’s sessions and
the backgrounds of the participants. The following elaborates on the
findings of this study and the implications for how dietitians engage
with others on matters related to food, eating, and body weight
The three female participants were all current students at the
university. Their average age was 21 years. They self-identified as
white women from upper-middle class family backgrounds. One had been
previously admitted to an eating disorders clinic and was currently
seeking “maintenance” support for her eating. The other two had never
before sought support from a dietitian and were doing so at this time
to address their concerns about “non-healthy attempts to lose weight.”
Two also had established relationships with a counsellor at the
university and one had no other sources of allied health care support.
All participants were provided with pseudonyms.
Participants provided consent to have their sessions audio-taped,
transcribed, and analyzed using a constant comparative method. NVIVO 7.
0 (QSR International) was used to organize the transcriptions for
analysis. This study was approved by the university’s ethics review
Results - The Relational Possibilities
The three emergent themes of trust, relationship with food, and control
were the primary findings of our inquiry. The themes were inter-related
and reciprocally shape each student’s experience as well as the
relational encounter with JG.
Resonating throughout women’s narratives is their increasing sense of
disconnection from friends, partners, parents, and other family
members. Moments of trauma imposed by dietitians and other health care
staff punctuate their stories as they remember having their
social-worth measured up by the size and shape of their bodies. Their
narratives recount an underlying lesson; distrust in their bodies means
not measuring up, it means being Othered, and it means having to “take
the consequences” incumbent upon having a body that is different.
Melanie shares an account of the relational
disconnection from her mother and dietitians who were concerned about
I was a very overweight child and I got
up to a very high weight of
about 200 pounds to the point where I did have to go see dietitians.
That started I guess, like, the diet mentality. Reflecting back now I'm
a believer that eating disorders stem from dieting and that’s just the
way that I see it. … so they would suggest and kind of put into my mind
you know, “No eating after 8 o'clock, eat on a smaller plate to
restrict your meal size, have smaller more frequent meals throughout
the day. ” Then ‘cause my mom felt like she was overweight, the
dietitian encouraged that we do this together, make it a
mother-daughter thing and that would help the process of us doing, of
me, losing the weight. . . there was encouragement of the food guide
but, it was more of those kind of, the wives tales sort of things. . .
It got to the point where there was no junk food in our house and if I
was hungry,…I would go stand in front of the fridge and if I was you
know, indecisive about something that I'd want, she would say to me,
“Well, if you don't know what you want then obviously you're not
hungry” and tell me things like that. And to this day she’ll still say
things like that. Very very heart-breaking.
Rachel reveals the social import of losing weight and sacrificing her
body’s needs in the following exchange:
JG: How has that experience with Ben
[Rachel’s boyfriend] over the last
week, how has that translated into your eating and your body
Rachel: Um, I notice it more I think, like what we talked about last
week, putting the words like you know? Associating them with when
you’re starting to eat and stuff. Definitely like rejection is like
huge and I’ve been eating. I just get this urge to just eat all the
time and then it’s countered by, “No, I gotta lose weight to look good”
cause like, prove him wrong you know? But definitely yeah, I’ve
been, I’ve been thrown off and I’ve been eating really bad.
Relationships with Food
The anguish of being Othered triggers the women’s attempts to reshape
and control their bodies. A relational paradox ensues for these women
whereby maintaining access to their relationships means disconnecting
from their bodies’ knowledge and denying insistent hungers. The lesson
is quickly learned; controlling bodies and rejecting desire for
physical nourishment affords access to relationships. This lesson
resounds in Melanie’s retelling of her response to being Othered:
I guess I was around 170 pounds and I
became very very sick, I got the
stomach flu for a week and when I started losing all this weight all,
all I got was positive comments that I looked really good, and “If only
you could just keep going, look how good you look, look how much better
you look than what you did before” and all these positive comments just
kept feeding and feeding into me…and then I became really really sick
one week. . . 5 pounds went in that one week because I was sick because
I didn’t eat and because I was throwing up all week. As soon as that
happened I was like “Whoa, that worked”. . . in February, I went from
170, 160 to the end of June I was down to 125 and it went right off of
me, and the thing that upset me the most was my mum knew what was going
on but she didn’t say anything. . . I know what I was doing was so
wrong but everyone was like “Oh! Mel, you look so awesome. ”
Julianne speaks of her growing self-doubt and disengagement from food
as her body changes with her new role as a full-time university student
living away from home for the first time:
I’m usually hungry all morning so I was
thinking about where I was on
the [hunger meter] scale, and I usually wake up hungry and have
breakfast and then a couple hours later I am hungry again and then um,
so I was kind of rating that on the hunger meter and then, I found it
harder to judge after I had eaten than before I had eaten cause after I
had eaten it was kinda more of a grey area about how full I was. . .
like in the afternoon and night when I am less hungry it’s harder for
me to figure out when to eat [scoffs] cause I am not like ravished like
I am in the morning so… and I still usually eat by the time but I am
really trying not to though so…I am trying to eat when I am hungry.
Rachel shares similar feelings of self-doubt and denial of her innate
cues to nourish her body:
I wanna lose weight obviously and so I
feel like I am kinda at a stand
still where I haven’t been able to lose weight; not that any attempts
have been like, really serious but I was using bad methods like I’ve
tried laxatives and like, and like bulimia and stuff. So like obviously
that, like I mentally know what that, I was doing to my body but, I
don’t know. You, like always just you know like I always thought that I
was smarter than that but it just felt almost like, like, hopeless,
like, I don’t, you know?
Having learned that their bodies and appetites are unreliable and
untrustworthy, Rachel’s connection and ability to respond to her
natural hunger cues is diminished:
I don't trust myself, like totally
which is like a huge part of it I
think. . . cause I can't be trusted to do like do the right thing when
it comes to like food you know like eat right, or you know exercise. .
. I couldn’t trust myself to go and work out or eat just the right
things so it was like I could eat the bad things that somehow I want to
This lack of trust to nourish their own bodies extends to other aspects
of the women’s lives including their relationships.
Rachel: And so in my email [to Ben] I
even said “I don’t want to be
that person who is demanding you change or be something else. I don't,
I don't think anybody should change for somebody else so,… if I don’t
inspire you to be that way then we shouldn’t be together. ” So I guess,
I just never asked for things for me. I guess I was just like “If that
is who you are and you can’t be the way that I am then that’s fine then
well just go our separate ways. ”
JG: Do you fee like you need to ask more directly?
Rachel: I feel like if I demand things, from especially men that
they'll just leave or get tired of it.
JG: So that’s a relational image, that’s a very clear relational image,
a very important one, a very significant one and the reason why I stop
and point it out is it can, it can say a lot about trust and about
assertion. Asserting your needs, even if you're just doing it to
yourself saying this is what I need right now. I need to go out for
Chinese food with my best friend and I need to just eat and talk.
Melanie likewise reveals her sense of lost connection with her body and
nourishing relationship with food:
JG: What kind of relationship do you
want to have with yourself with
Melanie: A good one.
JG: So what would a good relationship look like?
Melanie: I don’t know cause. … I don't even feel like I know what
Literally and figuratively, “fitting-in” requires doing the “right
thing” as Rachel describes it. This means representing an inauthentic
body made-over in the image of patriarchal ideals of women’s body size
and shape. Appropriate body size is spoken of in terms of being thin
and being perceived as healthy. To this end, connection and trust in
these women’s bodies is replaced with external directives of what,
when, with whom, and how much is appropriate to eat. It is throughout
this process of externalizing their relationship with food and hunger
that these women’s stories most notably echo the control discourse of
Julianne’s telling of her effort to offer support to a friend also
experiencing body disconnection echoes the connection made by the tools
of nutritional science between small (but not too small) body size and
I am probably in better shape than she
is, but like, she is thinner
than I am and so when she like, talks down about herself it does makes
me feel bad but I am like, “No we are both healthy. ” So I tell her
“No, she looks great” and stuff.
The connection Julianne makes between being healthy and being thin is
further reflected in how she describes the relationship with food that
she wants to have; she feels that she eats healthfully but still feels
necessary to restrict herself:
Right, like I want to be healthy still,
like, I am a healthy person, I
think I eat healthy food and stuff but I just want it to come, like I
don’t want to be obsessed with it and I don’t, I don’t wanna. . . like
I find it hard to eat healthy without restricting myself. . . .
Held up by dietetics as the canon of healthy eating, Canada's Food
Guide routinizes control discourse as it functions as a tool for
regulation of body size and weight. It marks out categories of
restraint and of sanctioned quantities and types of food; a schema that
fundamentally denies hunger and desire in order to manage bodies. This
language reverberates through Melanie’s self-talk after an encounter
with a colleague who refuses Melanie’s offer to share some potato chips
because she is on a diet.
I thought “Well, that's OK, you know,
they're baked, but THEY’RE
CHIPS,” which was that old side of me “But their baked, so it's gonna
be OK. But they’re chips and that’s bad. But they're baked so it’s OK…”
Rachel similarly described the relationship with food she would like to
have through control discourse which repudiates the emotional
experience of food and eating:
I think, I just need like a coping,
like a different way to look at
food. . . cause I just, right now I just don’t think of it in, I want
to think of it as like a fuel you know, like something I have to do to
keep my body functioning, I just don’t know how to get my head there
cause right now it’s like, you know emotional or like, just, it’s just
not good . . .
These narratives illuminate the absence of wisdom discourse and the
effects of such on these women’s relationships with food and trust in
Relational Approaches to Acknowledging
Rigid standards of “normal” that are informed by control discourse may
prevent an authentic connection between dietitians and those seeking
dietitians’ services. The scripts of dietetic practice, internalized
through their becoming registered professionals, set out boundaries
which define who the Other can reveal herself to be in this
relationship. Both become actors, their bodies subjugated, performing
and reinforcing the use of control discourse that place them as trusted
expert and passive patient in a power-over relationship. Connection in
this context is constituted by and thus, limited to the professional
dietetic lexicon that denies an embodied understanding of food and
eating and therein, does not acknowledge the emotional experience of
this exchange. The following experience shared by Julianne demonstrates
the power of these scripts to delimit the possibilities for
professionals and those seeking their services to be in relation:
When I first came to university I guess
‘cause I stopped dancing and
stuff ‘cause that’s like 10 hours of exercise a week, I gained like 30
pounds, or like 20 pounds, and I didn’t really know what to do about it
and I was like, I have to change this and I became really depressed and
it seemed like nothing worked to get me back where I was . . . in
first-year and second-year I just became really obsessed, and I’d think
about food all the time and so, that was basically, I was like you know
obsessed and I was just trying to get rid of the obsession thing cause
I know I am actually like really healthy and in first-year I um, I went
to one of the nutritional, she was a nutrition student and she was like
um “you eat perfectly, you’re fine” and I was like “Oh!”
The dietitian identity is validated and yet fragmented by control
discourse; dietitians’ mastery of their nutrition knowledge is made
visible by the degree to which their bodies conform to this script.
Dietitians’ bodies are an outward manifestation of the legitimacy of
their professionalism. Thus, claims to authority made by nutrition
science and the extinguishing of difference are mutually-reinforcing.
Questioning the authority of science to reshape dissenting bodies is to
invalidate oneself as a professional and risk becoming Other; to risk
The project to conform differently shaped bodies surely changes the
relationship between the client and her body as well as the
relationship between the client and the practitioner. Control discourse
locks the relationship into old structures where the client is unable
to move the practitioner. Instead, the client and the practitioner can
easily perform their respective roles of professional demonstrating
power-over client in the all-important body project to keep women’s
(and increasingly men’s) weight and eating under control.
These familiar scripts influence the women’s relationships with JG, the
dietitian, the trusted food and nutrition “expert.” The internalized
role expectations and body control discourses explored above are
reenacted through their conversation with JG. There appears to be
significant vulnerability in how the women are in their relationship
with JG, but also in how JG attempts to resist the control discourse
while at the same time attempting to remain mutually empathic.
JG: What would happen if you were
working from a meal plan right now?
Melanie: I think that would help. . .
JG: OK, do you want to try it? Do you have an idea from previous meal
plans about what numbers have worked?
Melanie: I've never been on a meal plan before.
JG: OK, can you think of any way a meal plan might sabotage you this
Melanie: Yes and no, cause it may get me back to that diet sort of
JG: Yeah, yeah, it’s tricky isn’t it?
Melanie: That's why I'm just, I just don't know but in the same sort of
way I need that; guidelines. I need some one to be like, “No, like you
need to eat this much. ”
In inviting Melanie to consider a meal plan, JG is able to engage
critically with the disembodiment that a meal plan perpetuates.
Although providing meal plans has been a mainstay in the dietetics
training that JG received, her experience has taught her otherwise in
terms of their usefulness. This is another example of the wisdom
discourse that can be made more prominent as a disruptive force in the
dietitian’s efforts at reinforcing bodily difference.
Towards a Political Ideal for Dietetics
In this paper, we have made visible the ways in which control discourse
constitutes dietetic practice and the implications of that discourse to
engender disconnection within the dietetic practitioner and between the
practitioner and those seeking the dietitian’s professional services.
We claim that the root of this relationally-disconnecting practice
resides in dietetic educational regimes that overemphasize technical
knowledge and objective skill development (Dall'Alba,
2009). Yet, the
process of “becoming” a professional tends not to be held up for
critique by educators. Throughout their training students come to
understand that becoming a dietitian involves disregarding bodies,
emotions, and being. In other words, students learn to negate a
wisdom discourse leaving the dietetic practitioner with very little
language for what s/he then experiences in practice. We offer that this
has a devastating impact on dietitians and those they work with in
public health, clinical, and administrative settings.
We proposed a redressing of the relational aspects of learning,
teaching, and practicing dietetics. As relational-cultural theorists
have illuminated elsewhere (Walker and Rosen,
2004), the culture-bound
“story” of professional education is intractable from scientific
objectivity. Given that trust, relationships with food, and control are
subjective elements of being, the training that dietitians receive
needs to engage and reflect relationality in order to prepare
dietitians for the human dimensions of their practice. Dietetic
educators and preceptors can not ignore the sociopolitical realities
that have dietitians disappearing their bodies and the bodies of
In an effort to foreground issues of embodiment, trust, and
relationality, we are aware of the double bind that results. In
resisting and denouncing the effect of individualism and self-reliance,
we reiterate a power dichotomy typical of traditional approaches to
nutrition therapy whereby the dietitian is responsible to remedy the
situation. This is simply a reenactment of binary approaches to
establishing trust and caring whereby rational, privileged, and
autonomous individuals are responsible for heightening their
trustworthiness. To negate this double bind is to consider “mutual
reliance and social flesh” as new vocabularies for reducing social
inequities (Beasley and
Bacchi, 2007). Beasley and Bacchi (2007)
challenge the assumption that caring learned in the context of an
interpersonal relationship will effect wide scale transformation of all
other interpersonal and social relationships since Others are not
dependent on more privileged groups, but are embodied and fleshy
citizens situated within complex sociopolitical contexts. That is, by
bringing together the fleshy body with sociopolitics, a new vision for
embodied inter/subjectivity emerges (privileging relationships as ways
of knowing). Communities are groups of people with mutual needs for
trust and caring that are connected to each other within the realm of
social hierarchies while together possessing mutual reliance and social
How might the notion of mutual reliance and social flesh respond to the
“ethos of atomistic individualism” (Beasley and Bacchi, 2007, p.
that is evidenced in dietetic education and practice? What can
relational-cultural theory and critical feminist appraisals of the body
(Gingras, 2005a) add to addressing the
issues of mistrust inherent in
the narratives of women struggling with food and body relationships as
well as the dietitians that reinforce this mistrust? These are ethical
questions for the dietetic profession; a profession that often extorts
individual self-responsibility for “healthy eating” to resolve
nutrition and health inequities. This approach lacks an acknowledgement
of how knowledge about food and eating emerges from bodies, not simply
from nutrition education brochures, food guides, or credentialed
Can dietetics consider a feminist imperative towards embodiment, not as
a demeaning method to naturalize biological differences, but as a way
to see bodies as expressing a vital wisdom discourse? Wisdom discourse
could emerge by dietitians coming to terms with their own hungers,
desires, emotions, pains, and pleasures. When dietetics can
re-introduce the relational and embodied aspects of food and bodily
practice and at the same time hold that fleshiness as related to social
hierarchies, structures, and patterns, there exists a possibility for a
new ethics of dietetic practice. This is offered as an ideal for
dietetics; a “political ideal [which] is aimed at ‘a justice that is
not yet here’” (Diprose as quoted in Beasley and Bacchi, 2007, p.
We boldly imagine dietetic students and dietetic educators cooking and
eating together as well as respecting the vulnerability in doing so.
Given that cooking and eating together engages the fleshy aspects of
the body, these acts hold the possibility to be highly relational.
Within the sociality of these embodiments, “connection offers safety
from contempt and humiliation, however it does not promise comfort,”
since within growth-fostering relationships, connection and safety
allow important differences to emerge of which conflict is a likely and
hopefully constitutive outcome (Walker and
Rosen, 2004, p. 9). All of
this would require relational aptitude in contexts where being
relational is not the dominant mode of being and where disconnection
has become the strategy de rigueur.
Previous inquiry has illuminated the “longing for recognition”
(Gingras, 2009) that exists among
dietetic practitioners, which is
always conferred from elsewhere (Butler, 2004).
trust in social flesh. By holding eating and bodily functions as
non-relational, we actively undermine trust. In writing across
student-educator hierarchies, we, as authors, engage beyond dualism
(Dunlop, 1999) and into a relational
reality. This reality is spiked
with relational tensions, possibilities for disconnection, and
vulnerabilities, but despite those challenges we remain committed to
enacting a mutual reliance on social flesh. We have experienced mutual
reliance as a means for surviving the academy and we have remained
relationally steadfast in this view through the tears, the searing
disappointment, the broken promises, and the mundane violence. Thus,
our writing exists as a political intervention, a collaboration of
bodies, women’s bodies, intellects, curiosities, hungers, and
differences. This collaboration acknowledges our bodily differences,
accepts our lived contradictions, embraces fleshy wisdom and
reconstitutes what is possible for dietetics.
We are grateful to the women who shared of their lives as an act of
trust for the purposes of mutual understanding, healing, and growth.
Aphramor, L., and
Gingras, J. R. (2009). That remains to be seen: Disappeared
feminist discourses on fat in dietetic theory and practice. In E. D.
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fat studies reader. New York: New
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Atkins, J., and Gingras,
J. R. (2009). Coming and going: Exploring first and final year
nutrition students’ experience of their education. Canadian Journal of
Dietetic Practice and Research.
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Weighty issues: Fatness and thinness
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and public health: The complicity of science in a culture of disordered
eating. Culture, Medicine, and
Psychiatry, 23, 245-268.
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(2007). Envisaging a new politics for an ethical future: Beyond trust,
care and generosity - towards an ethic of ‘social flesh’. Feminist
Theory, 8(3), 279-298.
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in health and social care. Learning
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imagination: Repressive codes governing our media. Feminist Media
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Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 18, 57-74.
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Jacqui Gingras’ research involves theoretical and experiential
explorations of critical dietetics epistemology. She has a particular
interest in how dietetic students’ and professionals' subjectivities
are constituted by power and discourse to inform advocacy, policy, and
pedagogy. Her research engages autoethnographic, narrative, and
arts-informed methods as a means for situated and particular
understandings of dietetic theory, education, and practice. Her work
appears in the Food, Culture and
Society, Feminist Media
Journal of Agricultural and
Jennifer Brady has completed studies in Women’s Studies, Nutrition and
Food, Nutrition Communication and is currently a dietetic intern at the
Hospital for Sick Children. Her research interests include feminist,
critical, and post-modern analyses of modern discourses of nutrition
and healthy eating, body, weight and weight loss, eating, and food.