Book Review: Decolonizing Wellness

Book cover: Decolonizing Wellness by Dalia Kinsey

Decolonizing Wellness by dietitian Dalia Kinsey aims to help QTBIPOC (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, People of Color) folks reject diet culture and restrictive ideas about bodies and food in order to achieve greater self-love and self-acceptance. The author, who identifies as a genderqueer, pansexual person of colour, wrote this book to fill a gap in resources on body positivity and food freedom for people with marginalized identities.

While I’m not a member of the book’s intended audience, I was interested in the idea of wellness through a social justice lens, plus I like to spread the word about resources for marginalized groups. And I’m anti-diet culture, and I thought the author had a great perspective on that.

The book begins by addressing the significant negative health effects of stress related to racism, oppression, and being regularly faced with microaggressions. The author characterized systemic oppression as a “deadly preexisting condition.”

The author calls out diet culture, laying out reasons why “dieting should be avoided like the plague.” She explains the harms that dieting can cause, and addresses the issue of predatory marketing and the role of the almighty dollar in driving the diet industry.

The book also addresses the moralization of fatness and the way health disparities in communities of colour get blamed on the “obesity crisis” and people’s health behaviours. She described the attitude among the dominant culture that people of colour are “just so hopelessly not white that they struggle to fully adopt Whole Foods as the solution to all their problems.” That made me laugh, but I think that the “Whole Foods is the answer” kind of attitude also feeds into other problems like orthorexia.

Binge eating and the use of food to self-soothe are framed as stress responses to the disease of systemic oppression. The author advocates for a very different approach from dieting and trying to target fatness; instead, she advocates for getting in touch with your body and improving your relationship with food. Eating is presented as a form of self-care, and the author encouraged mindful eating. There’s also a chapter on trusting your body that explores getting to know how your body signals hunger and fullness, as well as differentiating between physical and emotional hunger.

The book also addresses body shame and offers a variety of strategies to help to liberate yourself from that shame, including embracing joyful movement.

There are chapters that address prioritizing pleasure and developing self-love, all of which are presented in the context of dealing with oppression and internalized invalidating messaging. The author explains that there’s “no magical tool for dealing with pain that doesn’t involve confronting and experiencing your feelings,” and encourages finding a therapist who celebrates your marginalized identities.

The final chapter focuses on honouring your ancestors’ dreams of freedom for their descendants by embracing your racialized identity and rejecting white beauty standards.

The book has “journaling break” sections interspersed throughout, with prompts for self-reflection. The author emphasizes that making changes isn’t just about thinking; it’s about following through with actions.

While some books about wellness can be kind of fluffy, there’s nothing fluffy at all about this book. It acknowledges and validates that readers are faced with a lot of difficult experiences, while at the same time offering hope that freedom is possible. The author challenges a lot of conventional wisdom around what is expected of people’s bodies and what it means to be healthy, and I think it offers a very liberating perspective for people feeling oppressed by that kind of messaging.

The book’s primary audience is QTBIPOC folks, but I think there’s a lot of good stuff here for anyone who feels like oppression related to marginalized identities has affected their relationship with food and their bodies. It was a really interesting read.

Decolonizing Wellness is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

I received a reviewer copy from the publisher through Netgalley.

You can find my other reviews on the MH@H book review index or on Goodreads.

20 thoughts on “Book Review: Decolonizing Wellness”

  1. “systemic oppression as a “deadly pre-existing condition.”
    Being a little, old, white lady I hadn’t thought of oppression like that, but Of Course and Hell, Yes!

    Growing up in the “Twiggy” era, I’ve been on and off diets my whole life. While I’m well aware that the diet industry makes a ton of money off morons like me, I still am very much a “binge and starve” person. I’m not good with moderation, however much sense that makes 🙂

  2. Timely for us, who just started food-related therapy. This really resonates: there’s “no magical tool for dealing with pain that doesn’t involve confronting and experiencing your feelings”

    Thankful this book was written and hope it finds its way into many hands that can benefit

  3. This book sounds very interesting as we’re a queer, trans POC. We might share this review with some of our POC friends who are cis het though, because Asian parents can be GREAT at giving their kids/teens/young adult offspring eating disorders.

  4. I’m always pleased to see a book that addresses eating disorders and body image and I’m glad to see one addressing marginalized and underrepresented groups. Orthorexia is a big problem: I remain leery of the “one true way.”

  5. While I am not in the target audience for this book, I found this perspective to be healthy: “Binge eating and the use of food to self-soothe are framed as stress responses to the disease of systemic oppression.” I do use food to self-soothe. Being able to address behavior and response is healthier than dieting. Thanks for the read.

      1. Agreed. Do you have data that talks about the causes of weight gain on psyche drugs? Do they increase your food cravings or do they slow your metabolism or both? Or is it a matter of self-soothing? I feel it is high time that psyche meds be developed that don’t have weight gain as a side effect. I would suspect that most people with mental illness agree.

        1. They affect appetite and metabolism. The problem is they act at various receptor sites in different brain circuits that are involved in those things. Clozapine, for example, among the various things that it does, blocks 5HT2c-type serotonin receptors, which is a good thing in some ways, but a bad thing in terms of weight. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before they come up with drugs that are more specifically targeted than the current ones that are available.

  6. That sounds like a great book! The thing about moralizing fatness and blaming people’s behaviors reminds me a lot of Susan Sontag’s book “Illness as Metaphor.” Great book

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