Between 2010 and 2013, I immersed myself in the study of nutrition and nutrition education. I knew from the start that one day I would enjoy facilitating a graduate seminar in which I could discuss some of the issues that held sociological significance. I was not sure where these discussions would start. Then one day while I was preoccupied with completing a homework assignment, for a nutrition professor who once docked me five points for leaving out one sentence on a handout with a strict one page – front and back – limit, a friend asked me a question about food. I literally screamed at her, “Girl, nutritionists don’t talk about food they talk about nutrients.” At that moment, I knew that I would facilitate a seminar with a focus on nutrients and “nutritionism.”
It will come as no surprise to anyone who pays attention to the “nutriscape” that Michael Pollan popularized the term nutritionism in his book In Defense of Food while admitting that “…the term was coined by an Australian sociologist of science by the name of Gyorgy Scrinis …(2008, p. 27). When Scrinis published Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice in 2013, I was elated and looked forward to discussing the work with students in a graduate seminar.
The critique of nutritionism presented here is a product of my research into the philosophy and sociology of science and technology, social theory, and the sociology and politics of food. It draws on a framework I have developed for understanding scientific knowledge and technological relations in terms of how they are manifestations of distinct levels of engagement with nature.13 Scrinis, Gyorgy (2013-05-28). Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) (pp. 10-11). Columbia University Press. Kindle Edition.
The advanced graduate students and I had a great time discussing Scrinis’ work. We were highly engaged: the first and second year graduate students, not so much. The students who were working on their master’s degrees engaged and applied the more direct exposition in Marian Nestle’s Food Politic with much more vigor. Therefore, in the second iteration of the Sociology of Nutrition I plan for the students to read Nestle’s book once again but to consume Scrinis’ thought in smaller bites. I am grateful that a number of his magazine and journal articles are available on the open web. In fact, when it comes to designing a seminar in the Sociology of Nutrition for the open web, the one thing about which I am confident is my ability to find high quality engaging content on the open web. Here the most difficult part is making the decision about what to select. I think it will enlightening to allow students to select and curate the content.