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Jon Verriet MA

PhD candidate

E-mail: j.verriet@let.ru.nl

Fitter, Stronger, Faster: The Athlete’s Diet and the Pursuit of Healthy Lifestyles in the Netherlands and the UK (1945-2016)

Radboud University Nijmegen
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Marjet Derks, Prof. dr. Jan Hein Furnée
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2017

In our present age, both scientific and popular interest in the ‘athlete’s diet’ is at an all-time high, although its ambiguous ideals have not gone unnoticed: is the sport nutrition hype creating healthier consumers, or is it fostering new eating disorders? Less noted, however, is that this broad interest in the food choices of athletes has a surprisingly long history. While post-war Western governmental institutions and scientists increasingly struggled to strengthen and hold their grip on consumers, athletes’ biographies, cookbooks and popular sport media provided an influential guidance in the public’s pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. The ‘athlete’s diet’ therefore symbolizes a quest for the perfectly constructed (‘killer’) body, while offering the promise of total nutritional control.
This project focuses on the cultural history of the athlete’s diet and analyzes its influence on modern ideas and practices regarding lifestyle and health. A sociocultural historical analysis of its mediation and reception – based on sport magazines and related media – helps us understand the complex interplay between various agents – athletes, commercial food producers, governmental agencies, mediators, and audiences – in the shaping of ambiguous cultural ideals. In this way, the project will explain how athletes were able to utilize their increasing celebrity status to encourage lifestyle changes among the population.