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This week's food and fitness technology news. And some strong opinions on sneaking vegetables into chocolate cake

"Beauty culture is hustle culture" is the subject line of one of Anne Helen Peterson's latest Culture Study missives — it's an interview with Elise Hu, NPR journalist and author of the book Flawless: Lessons in Look and Culture from the K-Beauty Capital (a book I just started reading and will post some notes on as soon as I'm done. Here's my latest set of notes, on Alondra Nelson's Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination.)

I see beauty culture as hustle culture that’s reached into our bodies. Hustle culture as applied to disciplining or modifying our bodies isolates us from one another because we end up in competition, looking over our shoulders, and scared to ask for help when we need it. It’s a recipe for inequality and marginalization on one end, and anxiety and exhaustion across the system.

Beauty culture is hustle culture is wellness culture is hustle culture is influencer culture is hustle culture and so on — a Venn diagram where all the circles overlap. I'm exhausted just watching folks perform this online; god forbid there's an expectation I perform any of it myself. It takes so much time and so much money to do so. (It's something I think a lot about as I re-start this writing endeavor. My work on Hack Education was well-timed with the ascendancy of blogging and social media, and I really really really don't want to have to play along again, particularly with the latter.)

It takes so much money to "be healthy" or at least to perform it for others — online or otherwise. This is part of the critique that Virginia Sole-Smith has about Michelle Obama's new juice drink for kids and the First Lady's work now as a "healthy food" entrepreneur. An entrepreneur, not an activist or a politician; that is, someone who sees the market, not laws or regulations, as the way to address health issues.

Mikala Jamison pushes back on some of the criticisms that Obama is receiving — not so much around capitalism, but rather around the accusations that, as a promotor of exercise, that Obama is carrying water for "diet culture."  Jamison takes issue with the characterization of Obama's fitness routine as "punishing," arguing that it's possible (even necessary) to push yourself physically without punishing oneself.

Of course, in that Venn diagram — those circles of diet culture, fitness culture, wellness culture, and hustle culture — the one thing that's certainly on the outside is "nuance."

Laura Thomas asks "Why Are We So Obsessed With Hiding Vegetables in Our Kids' Food?"  It's a damn good question, and the problem isn't simply that, as Thomas notes, we're tricking children into eating things; it's that we are so weirdly obsessed with some unattainable "healthy diet" that we're willing to ruin a perfectly good chocolate cupcake by adding pureed kale to it. Now trust me, I get the need to make use of that giant 3-foot-long zucchini you let grow into a monstrosity by summer's end; you grate that sucker up and put it in all the chocolate cupcakes you want. But 1) don't lie and say you didn't. And 2) don't fret when the fussy eaters in your house — kids or adults — turn up their noses at a food they don't like, zucchini or otherwise. We all like and dislike different things. It's okay! And 3) don't act like the addition of a vegetable magically turns a cupcake into something that's "good." Cupcakes are neither good nor bad. (What matters is that they're delicious.)

The food policing continues: "Skittles ban passes in the California State Assembly, expected to pass Senate." "Kraft Singles are getting a major makeover," CNN reports — the packaging will be easier to open, apparently, and the logo will get a refresh. Hopefully no adjustment to the cheese itself, as there's nothing quite like it in a BEC or on a burger.

And while I'm dishing out and echoing others’ food opinions, let me say how much Katherine Wu's latest in The Atlantic resonated with me: "Eating Fast Is Bad for You — Right?" I am also a very fast eater. I cannot eat slowly, I am sorry (I’m not sorry). I have tried to slow down, but I can't — because then I would have to confront that there is mushy stuff in my mouth and as much as I love food, I wouldn't eat at all, thank you but chewed food is gross.

Elsewhere in food news: Taco Bell is fighting to cancel Taco Johns "Taco Tuesday" trademark. "Wendy's Is Bringing a Google-Powered AI Chatbot to Its Drive-Thru."  "Sweetgreen Tests Robots to Make Faster, More Efficient Sad Desk Salads." The history of baked alaska (the dessert, not the proto-fascist). “Will superfood powders make you healthy?” (Probably not, so why ruin a good cupcake by adding the powder to the mix, eh?) "Where have all the bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts gone?" "Why are Americans so obsessed with ice?" So many questions! Time explains "How Nutrition Education for Doctors Is Evolving." This is me, making a skeptical face at that story.  I do, however, love it when journalism sheds light on a casual observation you make, such as Kin and I noticing the number of billboards advertising Indian restaurants when we drove to Death Valley in December. "Along the highways," The Washington Post reports, "Indian restaurants serve America’s truckers."

This week in bro science: Longevity. “My Balls-Out Quest to Achieve the Perfect Scrotum.” “Celebrities and Gym Influencers Keep Getting Caught Lifting Fake Weights.”

Elsewhere in other bodies and brains and technologies: Fast Company introduces us to "the women embracing menopause and those hoping to end it.” The New York Times asks, why do runners still race with paper bibs pinned to their shirts? Wired talks to "Swole Woman" Casey Johnston.  Rina Raphael on "The 'mental health!' industry” and the commodification of trauma — how beauty culture is hustle culture is wellness culture is hustle culture is influencer culture is hustle culture and how none of this will ever address the structural issues that are making us sick and sad.

@will.this.make.me.happy on Instagram

Yours in struggle,