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I defended my dissertation in April 2019. There, I offer an account of eating as a self-shaping activity. I argue that the ways we understand and practice eating shape our agency, affects, capacities, values, temporality, and other important aspects of the self. Moreover, eating can shape the self in good or bad ways. 

To develop this account, I analyze and critique the view that good eating is healthy eating and good eaters eat for health above all else. Current bioethical critiques of such ‘healthism’ do not account for the self-shaping effects of eating and so lack a complete analysis of the ethical and epistemic impacts of healthism. Through an extended critique of diet research on eating disorders and vegetarianism, I show how understanding eating as a self-shaping activity helps us make ethically-informed choices about how to characterize eating. This work draws attention to overlooked aspects of the ethical importance of eating, and develops conceptual tools for analyzing the effects of eating on the self that can be deployed in a variety of contexts including food ethics, clinical ethics, diet research, and public conversations about eating.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Mellon Sawyer Seminar “Approaching the Anthropocene: Global Culture and Planetary Change,” and Georgetown University.