I made this playlist 🙂
Co-host of the “Maintenance Phase” podcast and Self magazine’s “Your Fat Friend” columnist, “You Just Need to Lose Weight”: And 19 Other Myths about Fat People is an urgent, well-sourced fatifesto ready to be nailed to the door of our collective fridge. In 20 pithy chapters, Gordon offers historical background, current research, reflection questions, and “opportunities for action,” leading the reader toward meaningful allyship and advocacy.
Fatness is so feared in our culture that a Yale University study found 46 percent of 4,283 respondents would rather give up a year of life than be fat; 15 percent would prefer to be severely depressed. “You Just Need to Lose Weight” unflinchingly pushes back against those attitudes and dispels popular myths, laying bare the speciousness of “body and health” weight-loss arguments. Cloaked as prescriptive and factual, these arguments hide a dark underbelly: fat bias, one of the last socially accepted prejudices.
In her incisive, robustly sourced treatise, Gordon takes on everything from the influential “calories in, calories out” paradigm (based on a 1959 study), to the notion that losing weight is a choice, to the accusation that fat acceptance glorifies obesity. She rejects outright the idea that being fat is a failure of willpower. “According to the NIH,” she writes, “very fat women — like me — have a 0.8 percent chance of becoming thin in our lifetimes.”
The book takes a decisively intersectionalist stance. In tracing fat activism’s roots in the work of fat Black women during the civil- and welfare-rights movements, Gordon encourages the reader to connect fat discrimination with all the many isms: racism, classism, healthism, and ableism. She offers, too, an outstanding overview of the kinds of protest actions people have taken, including the first Fat-In (organized in 1967 by radio host Steve Post).
“You Just Need to Lose Weight” also deftly interrogates how body positivity essentially defanged the more “radical” fat-justice movement. The personal accounts in the book are especially poignant. Gordon shares a story of being called a “fat lady” by a kid whose mom gets furious when Gordon tells the kid that she is, in fact, a fat lady. Gordon eloquently explains how avoiding the word “fat” continues to “stigmatize my body and insist that describing my skin must be an insult.” She elaborates:
“For me, and for many, many fat people, reclaiming the word fat is about reclaiming our very bodies, starting with the right to name them. Fat isn’t a negative aspect of one’s body any more than tall or short is. It can, and should, be a neutral descriptor.”
Similarly, the oft-heard laments “I feel so fat” or “This dress makes me look fat” create the impression that fat is a feeling. Gordon has a helpful solution: Ask yourself for consent before engaging in negative body talk. Notice how you describe other people’s bodies and whether their size is relevant to your discussion of them. Stop treating thinness like an accomplishment and fatness like a failure. (The example of congratulating ill people on the “bright side” of now being thin is a glaring example of this sickening fixation.) And try to see food for what it is: a comfort, a celebration, a pleasure, or simply fuel.
Ultimately, “You Just Need to Lose Weight” lays bare Western society’s treatment of fatness as a moral failing. Gordon’s manifesto is essential reading in the intersectional conversation around fat acceptance and provides an excellent roadmap toward fat activism.
Over the past several years, the economy has experienced unprecedented shifts driven by the pandemic, stimulus packages, and changing consumer behaviors. In July, inflation began to cool meaningfully after record increases during the previous two years. This year, the Consumer Price Index climbed 3 percent through June and less than 4 percent through May, after peaking at roughly 9 percent throughout the entire previous year in 2022. Unemployment remains historically low at 3.6 percent, due to robust hiring. Nonetheless, consumers continue to spend at a solid clip.
There’s a lot to be said about living through a period with the highest inflation in four decades—and more than anything, it has been an ideal experimental setup for economists. While supply- and demand-related drivers frame the typical discussion of inflation, another idea that has gained attention is “greedflation.” Kogod finance professor David Stillerman offered his take on this phenomenon.
“Inflation has been driven by both supply- and demand-side factors. During the pandemic, plant closures, supply-chain issues, and changes in labor-force participation put upward pressure on costs (and, therefore, prices),” Stillerman says. “This inflationary pressure was sustained or exacerbated by changes in demand for goods and services due to changing consumer preferences and pandemic-related fiscal policy. As supply chain issues resolve and the impact of interest rate hikes is felt, it is natural for inflation to decline.”
Here’s how greedflation works:
Inflation first rose because of factors like the pandemic and economic stimulus bills. But companies raised prices more than necessary to net higher profits because consumers no longer had a benchmark for what prices should be. When all prices are rising, consumers lose the sense of “reasonable” prices, creating room for companies to redefine that range. Dismissing greedflation as a “conspiracy theory” obscures the intricate relationships that characterize it.
Greedflation could reflect corporate leverage and, in that sense, be more of a visible thumb on the scales if we believe corporations are supercharging inflation by increasing prices or not lowering them even as inflation declines.
The greedflation argument is that higher firm markups (i.e., the ratio of price to marginal cost) have led to a rise in prices.
“As someone who studies industrial organization, I take very seriously the idea that much of the time, markets are not perfectly competitive and that firms exercise their market power, raising prices and restricting output.”
However, the “greedflation” story suggests that a systematic change—unrelated to demand and marginal costs—occurred in the period following the onset of the pandemic that changed the way firms compete, allowing them to charge even higher prices (and earn higher markups). This could be, for example, that firms began colluding.
The greedflation theory suggests that large companies can leverage their outsized market power to raise prices more than what should be possible in a truly competitive economy. But in some concentrated markets, that has not happened: hospitals are highly consolidated, yet healthcare prices have risen more slowly than overall inflation throughout the past year.
In a greedflation scenario, we would expect that markets where prices increased the most also saw significant markup increases. But, recent empirical work and modeling find little relationship between industry-level changes in markups and price changes during the inflationary period.
The conversation around “greedflation” underscores the intricacy of economic phenomena and the influence of corporate decisions in the broader economy. “In my view, this suggests that there is more going on than the ‘greedflation’ story implies,” says Stillerman.
Pulling back the curtain on our nation’s dirty little secret.
If you don’t consume pornography, why should you concern yourself with the debates surrounding it? Sociologist Kelsy Burke’s comprehensive The Pornography Wars: The Past, Present, and Future of America’s Obscene Obsession makes a persuasive case that sex matters far beyond the private sphere and that pornography is ultimately about how we relate to one another. Based on five years of research and more than 90 interviews with people on both sides of the debate, the book is nuanced in its treatment of the topic and compelling in the way it situates the subject within broader society.
Burke is convincing in her argument that the crux of the matter is not simply or only pornography but “how to live an authentic and fulfilling life, which includes sexuality, in a modern world.” Porn’s ubiquity and accessibility in the internet age render it a topic that has to be addressed, and not just by feminists or sex-worker advocates.
The book begins with a history of pornography and obscenity laws. It then launches into an incredibly thorough section on the effects of porn-indexing sites. Started by the “geek king of smut,” Fabian Thylmann, who has since sold his share in the company for €73 million (yes, you read that correctly), MindGeek, by some estimates, owns 90 percent of all internet porn. Pornhub, one of its sites, draws a staggering 120 million visitors daily, placing it above Amazon and Netflix in online-traffic rankings. Generating revenue through banner ads, this behemoth is responsible for the prevailing and pernicious idea that porn should be free. But more on this later.
Burke then explores the passing of FOSTA-SESTA, the Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, in 2018. For anti-pornography activists, porn and sex trafficking are too intricately linked to be considered separate entities. Pro-porn activists challenge this conflation but nevertheless have to recognize that the sex-work industry poses some very real threats to its purveyors.
Sex workers, for their part, have sought to overturn such laws because they actually place them in greater peril by not allowing these workers to share information about dangerous clients or to form networks of cooperation online. Another unintended consequence of the laws meant to help sex-trafficking victims is that they strengthen the penal system and push sex work further underground, making it much more dangerous. These laws also make a life outside of sex work harder to achieve as banks refuse to open accounts for sex workers and employers can fire employees who do outside, part-time sex work.
The Pornography Wars explores the feminist take on pornography, too, especially the so-called Porn Wars in 1984, spearheaded by legal scholar Catharine MacKinnon and writer/activist Andrea Dworkin. Women Against Pornography, founded by the pair, believed that porn exploits women and is fundamentally damaging and misogynistic. The very term “sex work” is abhorrent because it elides the exploitation and coercion anti-porn advocates claim is inherent in the system.
Burke’s interviews with people struggling with pornography addiction, as well as with people in the industry, are especially insightful. As adult-film performer and author Stoya says, “My politics and I are feminist…my job is not.” There is a particularly jarring interview with a BDSM performer who has a sobering realization in therapy that the violent content she’s participating in is being watched by people so that “they don’t have to make their own memories.” This line may leave readers shaken.
The book goes on to explore whether feminist (or ethical) porn can exist and what it looks like, as well as how our society perceives “genuine pleasure” and whether we can — or should — concern ourselves with distinguishing between the real and the fake.
Burke allows the contradictions and complexities on both sides of the debate to shine. “People experience pornography differently based on their sexual identity, experiences, and beliefs about sex,” she writes. Sex workers, too, she acknowledges, have inconsistent feelings about its harm or harmlessness.
The Pornography Wars concludes that, polarizing rhetoric and the way in which both sides have defined themselves vis-à-vis a distinction from the other aside, the overlap between porn-positive and anti-porn factions is larger than we might think. Because pornography is connected to broader social systems — including capitalism, the criminal justice system, and the media — any analysis of it without considering those connections is incomplete.
Finally, Burke outlines three points both sides agree on. First, that it’s a bad idea to keep porn habits hidden. Second, that talking to kids about sex and porn is necessary, considering its ubiquity. And finally, that nobody should be watching free porn. The two factions also share concerns about safety and consent, the risk of violence, and sexual health for sex workers.
The Pornography Wars is truly one of most cogent and sophisticated deep dives into our collective dirty secret that I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
While the question of whether we will face a recession in 2023 and how bad it may be (terms like “soft landing” and “recalibration” dominate the discourse) has been daunting, economists’ discussion about the housing market and how it is affected by the current monetary policy has not been quite as prominent. Professor Jeff Harris, Kogod’s Gary D. Cohn Goldman Sachs Chair in Finance, recently spoke with WJLA News on the topic.
The housing market, which accounts for nearly 18 percent of the US economy, has recently shown some signs of cooling, with home sales sinking and prices beginning to soften. Yet, this is hardly enough to bring purchase and sale prices to anything even closely approximating the pre-pandemic days, when the market became (artificially, perhaps) red hot, when home prices soared 45 percent from December 2019 to June 2022.
The Fed is attempting to slow inflation via a process that economists call “demand destruction.” By raising interest rates, the central bank makes it more expensive to borrow and spend. As the most interest-sensitive sector of the economy, housing is greatly affected.
Professor Harris was closely involved in the bank bailouts in 2008 as chief economist at the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission–his knowledge of the mortgage markets is vast and practical. “In 2008, and very much similarly now, it was hard to get a handle on how many mortgages are out there. There is not one database that tracks that. Yes, banks have records of when they issue mortgages, but data on prepayment is lacking—for example, this is for people who pay off their mortgage earlier. This is why then and now, it is hard for the central bank to get a clear view of what is happening in that sector of the economy and how the interest rate hikes are affecting it.”
Data from January 5 shows that mortgage rates rose to the highest level since the week that ended December 1, resuming from a slight decrease in December–the average rate on the 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 6.48 percent. It was 6.42 percent as of January 6, 2023, and 3.22 percent a year ago. Freddie Mac estimated that 15 million potential homebuyers have been priced out of the housing market because, for the first time in US history, the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate has more than doubled in a year’s time.
The monthly costs for some home buyers are essentially double what they would have been a year ago. Combine that with the already high prices, and this will keep a lot of people out of the market.”
But another segment that should be discussed is buyers with variable-rate mortgages. “Because there is about a four to five-month period before buyers with variable rate mortgages begin paying the prevailing market interest, we might not have seen the largest impact of the rate hikes on those mortgages until now. These buyers will struggle with contending with these punishing new payments.” And because buyers who take variable interest rate loans are already not as financially stable as those who purchase on a fixed rate, this could be very worrying.
Buyers may not find significant relief anytime soon. Mortgage rates are expected to edge lower this year but remain at about 5 or 6 percent. While demand may have dampened, the supply of homes remains low. “The housing markets vary widely across the country, with some places experiencing mild downturns and some continuing to see price hikes,” says Harris.
You will see some softening in prices for homes that have been sitting on the market for two to three months, but prices are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels.”
Harris believes that, in many ways, the worst is over, so to speak–even if the Federal Reserve continues with rate increases, mortgage rates will likely decrease from current levels. Yet, housing affordability is likely to remain low.
Rick Cook and his wife have been in the restaurant industry for decades: he as a cook and his wife Tyes as a front-of-house manager. Before the pandemic, while Rick was working first at Etto and then at 2Amys, he began experimenting with baking at home and applying some of the techniques he saw at work. (He used some of the leftover flour from work, too.)
He sold a couple dozen loaves at a weekly wine tasting at Weygandt Wines in Cleveland Park. Back then, he was making two loaves at a time in his home oven, long-fermenting the sourdough in the fridge and using lidded cast iron pots for the bake. Between the rise and the baking, he needed a full day to produce a bread loaf.
Then the pandemic hit, and Rick found himself with a lot more time as restaurants shuttered their doors.
So, the Cooks started a monthly bread subscription service — a grain to gate, if you will (sorry, I love alliteration). Business was brisk and ballooned thanks to a fortuitous article in DCist (and a painting-worthy loaf picture).
“Overnight, I had 50 emails from people waiting to get on the delivery list,” he says. “We would post the menu on Instagram in the morning, and it would sell out in minutes.”
With this good problem on his hands, Rick upgraded his kitchen oven and got a mill to grind the flour. Much like the ever-multiplying yeast, the Cooks moved from making 12 to 200 loaves. They also started selling cookies and other baked goods.
The Cooks’ lifelong dream of opening their own restaurant manifested itself in the burgeoning bakery operation.
“We just had a kid, and I really started thinking seriously about building something for our family [that] I could pass down in a sustainable way,” Rick says. “A bunch of people from the restaurant industry moved into real estate and switched careers, but I realized the baker’s schedule of 4 a.m. – 5 p.m. is actually not a bad way to raise a family. My wife and I were so used to working 12 hours, and we saw this as something different. I have been cooking for 20 years and wanted to stay with the craft. This was perfect.”
About a year ago, the Cooks signed a lease to found Manifest Bread, their very own bakery dedicated to quality handmade products, in Riverdale, Maryland.
“[Even though] we signed the lease a year ago, we are opening in September. This gives you an idea of how much preparation goes into equipping and designing the space.”
Riverdale is close to Cottage City, home to the Cooks’ OG cottage food home bakery. They also ran a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign which overshot its goal in just 20 days. With the funds, they bought a stone mill, oven and mixer.
Milling the flour right before it is used is critical for the flavor profile (as any bread connoisseur will tell you), but it also makes for a beautiful bread biome of nutrients, oils and pre- and probiotics. Rick also sources local spelt, wheat and rye from Maryland and Pennsylvania.
“It is going to be a bit strange being in a commercial space,” Rick laughs. “Right now, our dining room doubles as the baking space. We have about 1,000 pounds of grain under my son’s bed.”
Rick describes himself as “the bread boy,” while Tyes wields “the binder and the bullhorn.” And much like baking, the Cooks’ dream of a space to call their own manifested itself organically.
“There is this huge underground community of home bakers across the country that feels very much like a family. We share tips and puzzle over techniques — the yeast is wild and has a life of its own. The rise seems to come out of nowhere and has its own kind of energy and pull.”
Give your carb knowledge a boost with these essential terms.
Alveoli: The holes created in the crumb of the bread. Many artisan breads boast an uneven structure with translucent strands of gluten.
Crumb: The interior of a loaf of bread. Often described as either open crumb (lots of irregular holes) or closed crumb (fine-textured).
First rise: The first fermentation after the dough is mixed but before the loaf is shaped. Also known as bulk fermentation.
Gluten: The proteins that allow dough to stretch out and maintain its shape. When combined with water, it gives structure to baked goods.
Maillard reaction: The reaction that occurs when a mix of protein, starch and water is heated above 250 degrees. It contributes to the browning of the bread crust and caramelized flavor.
Proofing: The final rise of dough after it is shaped. Also known as the second rise.
Sourdough: A culture of wild yeast and lactic acid bacteria that ferments cereal grains. Also known as sourdough starter or levain.
Gluten-free? Go with sourdough.
Bread that does not rely on commercial yeast strains for a quick rise is easier to digest — especially for those who have trouble with gluten, a protein that breaks down almost fully before the bread is baked.
When you mill your own flour — as we would have in days past — the result is a more rustic bread with a significantly richer array of nutrients, much higher fiber and a far lower GI. The fiber of whole grains contains many prebiotic fibers that fuel the good bacteria in the gut, promoting their growth.
Humility, the great antithesis to ego, might be considered an attribute that subtracts from the elan of leadership. But more and more research is showing the complexity of this trait and how those who espouse it are, in fact, some of the best leaders.
A 2021 study suggested that humility can be a positive trait for leaders, with implications for organizational strategy and performance. The study found that humble executives build integrative teams, promote pay equity among their teams, and establish profitable companies.
Jonathan Finkelstein, CEO and founder of New York City-based Credly, a business of Pearson, says “servant leadership is on the rise, for good reason. Those who lead with humility are great listeners, are committed to the growth and success of others, and are empathetic—not only to their teams but to the needs of their customers.”
What does humility look like in a workplace setting? First, it involves a willingness to know oneself. Humble individuals are aware of human limitations and accept that they have both strengths and weaknesses. Some terms that researchers have used to describe this orientation are “a transcendent self-concept and low self-focus and a lack of superiority or entitlement.” Exhibiting humility as a leader often involves being vulnerable in front of others. For some, this comes naturally; others have to work at it.
The second aspect of humility is keeping an open mind and continuously learning and improving. Humble leaders are open to new information, and they are willing to take contradictory advice or even criticism.
“Doing your job as a leader at any level within an organization means having the humility to surround yourself with people smarter and more capable than yourself, and then listening to what they need and removing obstacles in their way,” Finkelstein says. “It also means continuing to invest in their growth and development so they can serve the organization even better in the future.”
Asking for help is a sign of a secure leader—one who engages everyone to reach goals. Jim Whitehurst, CEO of Raleigh, N.C.-based open-source software maker Red Hat, says, “I found that being very open about the things I did not know actually had the opposite effect than I would have thought. It helped me build credibility.”
Asking for help is effective because it taps into the natural human impulse to cooperate with others.
“As a leader, others look to me for answers,” Finkelstein says. “By acknowledging that I don’t always have them, and that the best answers often come from the members of the team, I try to create a culture that empowers others to contribute their views without fear of personal judgment.”
According to Numerator, a white woman between the ages of 55 and 64 years old, married and living in the Southeastern suburbs of the US, is the “typical” US Walmart shopper. This shopper likely has an undergraduate degree and earns about $80,000 annually. She visits Walmart about once per week and picks up roughly 13 products for a total cost of under $60 per trip. This shopper spends about 13.5 percent of her income at Walmart and another 11 percent on Amazon.
The typical Walmart shopper primarily buys groceries, including chicken, fruit, snacks, and sweets, but she supplements her groceries with fast food meals. Her favorite five brands at Walmart are Turkey Knob, Cheetos, Betty Crocker, Dole, and Tyson.
With the price of goods continuously creeping up, consumer behavior has been surprisingly adaptive in response. During times of inflation, it’s expected that consumers will switch to cheaper alternatives and stop spending on items deemed non-essential. More surprising, however, is that higher-income households are on this tightening-of-belts pursuit of value to quite a similar degree as their lower-earning counterparts. In a CNBC report, Walmart CFO John David Rainey said the company is attracting more middle- and high-income shoppers. Seventy-five percent of the company’s market share gains came from customers with an annual household income of $100,000 or more. He told CNBC that inflation-strapped shoppers are trading down in quality and quantity.
So, what does this mean? The Morning Brew defines trading down as the phenomenon when consumers who are facing tough times swap high-priced items for cheaper versions. A similar trend occurred during the 2009-2011 economic downturn. The ratio of high-quality to low-quality goods shifts as recessions ebb. This is also a time when consumers start paying more attention to value, which Kogod professor Ron Hill describes as the idea of how much one must give up to get a specific good.
In addition to its convenience and low prices, Walmart’s recent investments in its digital capabilities are possible lures for upper and middle-class shoppers. Professor Hill suggests that another reason is that the pandemic eroded store loyalty.
People became used to uncertainty about what products they would find in the stores, so loyalty went out the window in favor of finding the best deal—or finding the item at all.”
“Plus, there may also be a ‘kitschiness’ factor at play where it may be kind of cool and quirky for someone who can afford to shop elsewhere to shop at Walmart,” says Hill.
Of course, Hill notes, the best strategy during inflationary times is to look widely for needed items to get the best value. Comparing prices online and planning your list ahead of shopping can offer the most significant time and money savings. And look to the experts like Professor Hill whenever you can for tips and tricks that you may not have tried yet to beat inflation woes!
Kogod MBA ‘19 alumna MaBinti Yillah is in the process of developing her startup company, Ziefah Health, a mental health platform that connects Muslims with pre-vetted, licensed providers of culturally responsive care.
When someone close to Yillah had a mental health difficulty, they struggled to seek treatment due to stigma and distrust of mental health professionals; Yillah did her own research to find a solution.
“I found that my loved one wasn’t alone. Finding the right mental health professional is a common problem, especially among certain cultures,” explains Yillah. “This led me to create Ziefah Health.”
Twenty-five percent of American Muslims report suffering from mental health challenges, but only 11 percent sought help. Many American Muslims don’t trust therapists because they fear privacy breaches, discrimination, and bias. Culturally, therapy also carries an unwarranted shame in being associated with mental illness instead of being part of a regular health care routine.
Muslims, especially those of the African diaspora, have encountered unique social experiences that someone from the same culture can better understand. Experts find that the most effective care comes from a person patients feel they can trust. Mental health professionals who share a cultural understanding with their patients can provide especially beneficial care. However, Yillah clarifies that there are many layers to someone’s identity, and it’s useful for everyone to see mental health professionals whom they feel they can trust and relate to.
Being Muslim is not just about religious practice—it’s a mindset and way of life. There is a particular family culture that also goes along with being from the African diaspora, independent from being Muslim.”
“Unlike other apps on the market, Ziefah Health recognizes that the one size fits all model doesn’t work—we will ask our clients to share their priorities with us, so we can best serve them,” explains Yillah. “In addition to our app, we plan to host a bi-monthly peer support group to help young Muslims learn and practice wellness tactics to support their life-long mental health journey.”
Yillah worked with General Assembly on the Ziefah Health app. “I’m running two three-month programs to develop, nurture, and convert customers. I’m running a low-tech version of the app to refine the provider matching and vetting process, understand my client’s needs, and ultimately convert these early adapters into customers. It’s a two-sided marketplace model, so I must get the business model right. I’m also shopping for tech partners to integrate with the app. This isn’t a business that’ll be an overnight success—much groundwork is involved!” says Yillah.
Yillah’s Kogod experience equipped her with the confidence and the knowledge required to take on such an important task. She credits Kogod professor Tom Kohn’s entrepreneurship course with teaching her the foundational skills needed to create a business plan and turn it into a reality. “I was familiar with the lean startup method, but I never put it into practice until Tom Kohn’s class. Ash Maurya’s book coined this term and is still a source of inspiration and guidance.”
I received so much advice from classmates and professors like Professor Bill Bellows. He was the one who suggested creating the peer support group with the idea of providing a service but also getting insight into the needs of youth.”
“Dr. Walters-Conte, who works closely with the American University Center for Innovation, also helped me pinpoint the root of the problem I am trying to solve by doing root-cause analysis with me,” says Yillah.
As Yillah continues to work on her startup mental health app, she remembers that the life of an entrepreneur is not always easy, but when her idea comes to fruition and helps create meaningful change in the world, it will be worth the years of hard work.
“The greatest advice I can offer young entrepreneurs and Kogod students is to remain inquisitive—you really don’t know everything. Don’t assume you know what your customers want. Ask your customers many questions and lean on your Kogod network for support and guidance,” says Yillah.