The diet industry is always in a tough spot because the foods that are healthiest (as shown by tradition or research study) are typically whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, fish, lean meats, nuts, whole grains, dairy, eggs, etc. But the thing about a diet is you really need to sell some thing, and the thing whole foods is how do you thingify something that is in its complete form already? It’s very hard to take a whole food and convince people that you have added value to it and that is why they should pay a premium for it (although the marketing of “bone broth” and the beautifully detailed origin stories of products like eggs or yogurt might suggest otherwise). This is why processed foods are so heavily marketed–they are a product that can be sold in the name of health that can not be found in a brandless form as whole foods typically are. Protein bars, shakes, supplements, are examples of these products; artisanal bone broth (literally just soup stock–genius!) or overly elaborate and fussy salads are an example of the commodification of food that resists being commodified, but where there is a profit to be made extraordinary ingenuity and sleight of hand is found.
Charmain Jones calls for people to find the healthy way of eating within their own cultural tradition specifically for black people to look within the tradition of soul food to find nourishing and healthy food. She explains how so often eating healthy is equated with “eating white people food” when the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth. White people food is clean and pristine and the path to health (rather than so often incredibly processed, bland yet calorie dense food). The commodification of soul food brings up popular images of fried chicken and heavy gravy, instead of the wide variety of vegetables, legumes, and fruits which are at its core.
It it interesting that what is perceived as “white people food” is so often an example of the intersection of this particular strain of consumerism (creating need where none exists), pseudo science (without qualification an Instagrammer recommends eliminating this food group), actual science (research whose findings are often twisted and misrepresented, or is framed from such a diet industry perspective it is bound to support that group’s interests), and the unearned self-assuredness that comes from being the dominant culture–one fueled by white-supremacy. Jones looks at the resistance to eating “white people food” from the perspective on not giving into white-supremacy, and she is undoubtedly right, but “white people food” can also be understood not only in terms of race, but of class and consumerism (although find me an example of racism free from other intersections of oppression, because they are few are far between, racism exists not just to be mean but to serve the financial interests of a few).
Yes, “eating white people food” could be bowing to a white supremacist system, but eating healthily within a soul food tradition might not only be affirming of identity but a supreme act of defiance. For 500 years white supremacy in North America has tried to control or kill people of color, to live and live well is not only about improving one’s individual condition–it is a blow against the empire.