Ambivalent food experiences: Healthy eating and food changes in the lives of Ikojts with diabetes

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Concern about how their diet has changed is central to how the Ikojts, a Mexican indigenous people, explain their deteriorating health conditions and the rise of diabetes in particular. However, medical advice on “healthy” eating is largely disregarded and, sometimes, even defiantly challenged. Through an examination of food memories and of the food (dis)encounters that the diabetic diet provokes, I cast light on this seemingly ironic contradiction. Based on one year of fieldwork, this article argues that a healthy diet is a shared discursive social practice that enables the articulation of (sometimes radically) different understandings of food and health. The analysis of people’s ambivalent attitudes to healthy eating in times of diabetes reveals that, for the Ikojts, diabetes includes but also transcends healthy eating as a form of individual responsibility. Indeed, diabetes is symptomatic of larger societal issues originating from a rapidly changing context.

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