Apparently, I missed some yoga trends in my most recent post. There are others.
For example: beer yoga.
Beer Yoga is yoga…with, yes, beer. German yogis BierYoga are reportedly the major first innovators, offering classes and workshops after seeing it being taught at the Burning Man festival. Since January, the idea’s spread internationally. Here are two recent articles on beer yoga.
Tis the season. Turkey. Stuffing. Mince meat tarts and more. Many of us worry about that extra helping during the holiday season. And so I was interested to read this on Canada’s story on the BBC site today!
I was especially pleased to hear Dr Ian Mosby’s thoughts! He visited the University of Saskatchewan before I left in August 2016 and he was extremely informative and generous with his time – for both faculty and grad students alike.
* Food History * (Robin Levinson-King)
Since World War Two, the Canadian government has been telling people what to put on their plate to stay healthy. But with obesity rates on the rise, is it time to start focusing on what to leave off?
Canada’s food guide first appeared in 1942 under the title Official Food Rules and was originally created to help Canadians stay strong and healthy despite meagre wartime rations.
The guide recommended drinking fruit juice, loading up on bread and eating plenty of liver.
Over the years, the publication has used many designs to illustrate the different food groups. In the US, the “food pyramid” became an instantly recognisable illustration of nutritional categories but Canada switched from a “food wheel” to a “food rainbow”.
The Canadian government used to be concerned about people getting enough food, now it’s worried people are getting too much. In the new year, Health Canada will start drafting a new food guide aimed at getting people to eat less.
Despite the commitment to changes, food historian Ian Mosby says the guide may have simply outlived its usefulness.
“It was started as a way to prevent malnutrition. But it’s hard to see what it’s doing in an era where those are not the main health problems facing Canadians.”
When the Canadian government released its rules for healthy eating in 1942, it was marketed as a guide to “health-protective foods”. The rules laid out the bare minimum that a person should eat in order to stay nourished.
“Eat more if you can,” the rules advised.
Daily servings of Vitamin-C rich citrus fruit or tomatoes were advised, along with weekly servings of liver for iron.
Food was expensive in the 1940s and 1950s, and overeating was a luxury few experienced. According to a 1955 survey of household spending, the average family spent about 30% of their earnings each week on groceries, the bulk of which was spent on meat and dairy products.
But by the 1970s, rising incomes and the growing commercialisation of food had completely transformed how people eat, says Mosby.
Sugary cereals, trans fats and TV-dinners became a staple of many people’s diets.
As the price of packaged foods high in sugar and salt plummeted, overconsumption became a bigger problem. The government could no longer just tell people what they should eat, they had to tell people how much.
Consequently, the old black-and-white list of Official Food Rules got a Technicolor makeover and was transformed into Canada’s Food Guide, a consumer-friendly guide for making better food choices.
Critically, a warning to eat sugar, fats and salts in moderation was added in 1982.
But Canada’s overeating problem didn’t go away. Since 1985, the obesity rate has tripled. Canadians are spending less and less on food overall, but more on eating out and sugary beverages.
It’s possible, food historian Mosby says, to be both obese and malnourished.
Or, History has Heft: On Public History and Debates about Weight Loss
Trying to lose weight isn’t a new phenomenon. Consumers have long searched for a safe and effective approach to lose weight. At the same time, a strong debate persists about the genetic component of obesity, new scholarly sub-fields (see Fat Studies) are emerging questioning the stigmatization of overweight individuals, and our body images are being shaped by these forces. Historians have a crucial role to play in the way in which individuals, communities, and health authorities conceptualize bodies and think about weight.
In The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank L. Baum, all of the characters are searching for something. Dorothy is looking for a way home. The Scarecrow wants a brain, whereas the Tin Man wants a heart and the Lion desires courage.The only way to attain their goals is to visit the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City. Only with his magic will their wishes be granted. As it turns out, the wizard is a total fraud. He’s just an ordinary man trying to protect his position and his empire. He’s a charlatan looking out for himself.
It is the same with TV’s Dr. Oz. As Americans (and Canadians) seek out their own desires, be it weight loss or low blood pressure, it’s best to be wary of false wizards.
John Oliver, of Last Week Tonight, came down hard on Oz. He taunted and belittled the TV doctor. He used all the bells and whistles he could, including a tap-dancing Steve Buscemi, to continue the public lashing. Likewise, New York Times columnist Frank Bruni described Oz as “a carnival barker” and “a one-man morality play about the temptations of mammon and the seduction of applause….” Then, a group of high-profile doctors called for the removal of Oz in a public letter. They suggested he was pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work. He displayed an “egregious lack of integrity,” said the letter, and Oz had shown “disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine.”
In 2015, I decided that I had something to offer about this matter. I felt that, having written about the history of the pharmaceutical industry and diet pills, I could contribute to the understanding of Oz. His influence on people. The role of spurious products in the marketplace. More specifically, I thought I could move beyond the walls of the so-called Ivory Tower and link my academic research with the public and maybe even policy-makers, as Kathleen O’Grady and Noralou Roos have advocated for.
As they put it, “An average paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal is read by no more than 10 people, according to Singapore-based academic Asit Biswas and Oxford researcher Julian Kirchherr, in their controversial commentary “Prof, No One Is Reading You,” which went viral last year….as many as 1.5 million peer-reviewed articles are published annually, with as many as 82 percent never cited once, not even by other academics. In other words, most academic writing rarely influences thinking beyond the privileged circles in which it is constructed – and the vast majority of it is far from influencing public policy and debate on critical issues.”
So, why not try a short piece aimed at the public? Oz was topical, after all.
It was not the first op-ed/web-based article that I had written for public consumption, nor will it be the last. However, the result was stunning. I criticized Oz rather severely (using some of the same language above) and certain readers pushed back hard. Because Oz was a supporter of organic and natural foods, and because he often positioned himself as anti-GMO, I was, by default a supporter of big business, of Monsanto, and a product of the right-wing establishment. It was startling that my piece on Oz would generate such animosity.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised.
This is where the Canadian Bulletin for Medical History/Bulletin canadien d’histoire de la médecine comes into the story of The Weight of History/The History of Weight. Because any historian wanting to engage with weight loss, dieting, and public health in Canada (as well as beyond) must – absolutely must – engage with CBMH/BCHM.
More specifically, Lori Loeb explores Upper Canadian quacks and spurious diet drugs in “George Fulford and Victorian Patent Medicine Men: Quack Mercenaries or Smilesian Entrepreneurs?” Fulford, a Canadian senator and philanthropist, made his fortune from a product called Dr. Williams’ Pink Pills and he serves as a window into the patent medicine industry, which included various obesity “cures.” For Loeb, “Popular obesity cures…were mostly citric acid in water. The dangers of a minority of medicines, especially soothing syrups, which contained laudanum and chlorodynes should not be minimized, but many medicines were not only benign, but even appropriate for common ailments. Indigestion remedies were largely bicarbonate of soda. Rhubarb pills were good laxatives.” (130) The article is useful for a variety of reasons, but one of the more crucial has to be the discussion of professionalization, evolving safety standards, and developing medical knowledge surrounding the patent medicine industry. Essentially, Loeb is placing Fulford – an influential operator in the medical marketplace – under a microscope.
What becomes clear in these articles, in addition to Barbara Clow’s excellent work on “Mahlon William Locke: ‘Toe-Twister’“, is that unusual therapies and counter-knowledges in medicine generate tremendous heat. The topic may be “toe-twisting” for arthritis or anti-vaccination narratives or diet pills or organic food/anti-GMO foods – these issues are all of the hot-button variety. And the CBMH/BCHM clearly underlines this. Hence, I should not have been surprised by the response to my Oz article.
Thereafter, in an incredibly ambitious article, Park tackled the historiography and history of diet, exercise, and obesity in (a) the Classical World; (b) the 1700s and 1800; and (c) the 1900s. She concluded with a clarion call – that it was time “sports medical personnel, including physical educators, should embrace lessons from…past successes in promoting exercise and sport among children and adolescents, and rekindle practices once popular and effective but now abandoned.” (397)
Of all CBMH/BCHM articles on weight loss, Park’s is the work most grounded in public policy – and the one most strident in its call for change. For historians and other academics to push for change!
The debate over diet drugs and body image continue. We still gobble up quick-fixes peddled by celebrities and we still search for drugs that will make losing weight painless. As Americans and Canadians continue to struggle with obesity, the history of diet pill regulation may continue to display familiar patterns. At the same time, the CBMH/BCHM can act as a tool in fostering new pathways in the months and years ahead.