The Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Language of Dieting

A woman wearing a bra and panties kneels on top of a giant smartphone

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This language says a lot about how Viome and an ever-increasing number of new health companies are encouraging people to think and talk about nutrition: as a problem of personal technology, where losing weight isn’t an experience of self-deprivation, but one of optimization, not unlike increasing a year-old iPhone’s battery life or building a car that runs without gas.

Viome and other start-ups in its market don’t characterize themselves as diet companies, but weight and other nutrition-adjacent health concerns are the chief things around which many of them are oriented. 23andMe wants to help you eat and exercise according to your genetics. Bulletproof wants you to change your morning coffee routine to increase your work performance and reduce hunger. Habit promises to study your personal biomarkers to tailor a nutrition plan just for you. Need a few hours of supposedly superhuman mental acuity and calorie burning? Pound a ketone cocktail and keep it moving. Can you control your body’s need for fuel through “intermittent fasting”? There’s an app for that.

Teenage Girls Are Using Instagram To Fix Their Relationships With Food

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I’m fascinated with the thriving Instagram collective of young women who share photos of painstakingly constructed bowls of kaleidoscope-like “superfoods.” In interviews, many said they were recovering from eating disorders and depression. Instead of seeking solidarity through communal restriction, they channel compulsive tendencies into a meticulous but euphoric attention to detail that leads to self-love instead of self-hate.