Digame: Dr. Hortencia Jimenez is Speaking Up Against Diet Culture

Her work centers on dismantling diet culture from a social and racial justice framework and helping Latinxs heal their relationship with food and body image

Dr. Hortencia Jimenez

Photo courtesy of Hortencia Jimenez

Dr. Hortencia Jimenez is a queer Mexican immigrant from Wixárika ancestry. She was born in the Sierra Madre in the state of Nayarit, Mexico and immigrated to the United States as a child. Her work centers on dismantling diet culture from a social and racial justice framework and helping Latinxs heal their relationship with food and body image. She holds a Ph.D in Sociology and is also a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor. Dr. Jimenez is a Sociology professor and the author of the book Challenging Inequalities: Readings in Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration and co-author of Latinx Experiences: Interdisciplinary Perspectives by SAGE Publishing. Her research writing has appeared in academic publications and has numerous awards and recognitions for her work in the Latinx community. She is currently a co-host for the radio Joya 1570AM “Comunidad En Contexto” and has her own podcast Dismantling Diet Culture: F*ck Being Calladita.

Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?
At the personal level, I will have to say my paternal abuelita. My abuelita Clara Rodriguez raised me when I came to this country as a child. She was very strict and did not show affection. Although I had a tough upbringing and experienced so much oppression and had to adhere to traditional gender roles, my abuelita showed me strength, determination, tenacity. It was later in life that my abuelita learned and allowed herself to show love and affection. The women I am today is because I as raised by a matriarch, mi abuelita. My mother, sisters, and honestly all the women in my life have impacted me tremendously. They have endured so much violence and trauma and yet they keep showing up in life.

At the societal level, growing up I would say that Frida Kahlo, Gloria Trevi, Selena were role models who were unapologetically themselves. At the political level, Sonia Sotomayor and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are fierce Latinas making institutional change in politics.

If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?
Frida Kahlo because she challenged and changed the narrative for Mexican women. Her politics, art, sexuality, and breaking gender roles and expectations of Mexican women led many toward a path of liberation and assertiveness.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Never be ashamed where you come from. See, I’m from the sierra madre in the state of Nayarti Mexico I’m of Wixárika ancestry. My family, especially my mother, always said to be proud of being from the sierra, de ser de rancho.

Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?

My family. My parents, abuelita, tia and tios.

How do you stay connected to your cultural roots?

Food is an important component of my identity and connection to my ancestors. Food is a love language in my family, it’s part of community, a sense of belonging in a foreign country.

What do you wish more people understood about what you do?

I’m a sociology professor, certified health coach, author, and speaker. I cannot be compartmentalized or boxed in because my profession is interdisciplinary and my identities are intersectional. Everything I do is informed from my sociological training/lens on how I see the world. My health coaching, speaking engagements, and what I write is informed by my sociology background.

What motivates you?

To be honest, many things motivate me. My family motivates me. Their struggles and my struggles motivate me to keep paving the way for others. My students motivate me to keep showing up as a professor because representation matters. About 1 percent of Latinas hold Ph.Ds. I want my students to know they can too achieve higher education and their goals and aspirations.

On social media what motivates me to keep showing up and create content from a social and racial justice lens is the lack of representation of Latina voices, especially in the UNdieting/Anti-Diet space. I’m one of the few Latinas, specifically the only Mexican immigrant of indigenous ancestry doing Undieting work and helping Latinas heal their relationship with food and body image from a non-diet approach. The wellness and UNdieting space continues to be overheating white and cis gender, our voices matter and we must continue to engage in important conversations and shift/challenge dominant narratives.

How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?

I fell in love with sociology as an undergraduate. Sociology gave me the language to understand my lived experience as Mexican immigrant women in the U.S. It gave me the language to understand systems of oppression and the role of institutions. Hence, I pursued MA and Ph.D in Sociology.

Moreover, since I love food and was interested in wellness I wanted to become a certified health coach so I could give back to my community in helping them understand health from a broader sociological perspective. I wanted to challenge the dominant narrative about health. I breaks my heart to hear and learn about young Latinas hating their bodies because of diet culture messages they receive at home, the media, at school.I want to make a difference and change the narrative that there is nothing wrong with their body, it’s the systems that are set up in place.

What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?

Earning my Ph.D and publishing two undergraduate textbooks (Readings in Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration (Revised First Edition) and Latinx Experiences: Interdisciplinary Perspectives

At the personal level, having the courage to embark on a healing journey that allowed me to liberate myself from so much oppression and come out to my family as queer. Having the courage to choose myself, and live my truth and heal my ancestors, especially all the queer women in my lineage who never came out. See, my healing was part of healing my ancestors too. This journey was not easy. It took me into many dark places that I did not think I would come out, but my ancestors guided me and gave me strength. This has been one of the greatest accomplishments and I’m so proud of myself for doing the hard work.

What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?

I would like to be a TED talk speaker one day to talk about Diet Culture and systems of oppression impacting Latina’s body image and their relationship with food.

What pop culture moment made you feel seen?

This is a tough one. If I had to choose one I would say that Shakira’s music. She decided to speak up and share her grief and pain via her music. Many women were able to identify with her. She challenged the norm and expectation of quedarse calladita.

How do you practice self care?

I have many self care activities from exercising, spending time outdoors, especially in my garden, playing my drum and native flute, going to the beach, hiking, cycling long distance, watching aname with my kids, to the traditional self care activities of getting a massage and goig to the spa. Most importantly, self care for me is setting boundaries and taking care of my spiri and energy.

Quick Fire:

Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan:

Dane Real is a Musician, Birth & Postpartum, and Sexual Liberation educator. She is a beautiful human with alot of experience and wisdom to share with the world.

Shoutout your favorite Latina owned business and why:

@badassxbonita Love Kim Guerra for bringing queer joy and inner niña healing
@browngrrl.fly Karina Ceja makes beautiful handmade jewelry. I love supporting queer Xicana’s like Karinaa who make unique and beautiful jewelry.

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