Dietary advice and agency in North America and Britain
Nicos Kefalas

This chapter traces the history of healthy eating in the second half of the twentieth century in terms of the advice offered by the authors of self-help books in the USA and UK. It examines the transatlantic nature of programmes for balance, comparing advice about obesity and dieting, exploring the cultural authority of celebrity dietitians and assessing the degree of knowledge exchange between the two countries. In doing so, it investigates the ways in which readers learned about ‘healthy eating’ on a day-to-day level, generating a detailed historical analysis of the ‘healthy diet’ ideal and the ways in which the self-help genre contributed to the ‘health manufacturing’ process. Mobilising persuasive motivational language along with scientific jargon, self-help authors were able to simultaneously promote their own status and appeal to readers’ sense of agency. Analysis of self-help also reveals, however, the controversies associated with self-help and the promotion of healthy balanced diets.

in Balancing the self