Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Book review: Feed Me

Let's be honest: I'm no amateur when it comes to reading food/weight loss stories. I have a long history of reading "I Did It!" stories in fashion magazines, makeover literature, and memoirs about epic struggles with food. The first thing I look for are the stats: Height, weight, clothing size. It's best if the author has provided all three, for maximum comparison information. I'm always looking to see if the "hopelessly overweight" author weighs more or less than me and if we're close to the same height and weight. If the stats are similar, great. In the worst ones, their "before" is smaller than my "after."

I'm well aware that this is all very disordered thinking, and before you start typing talk-her-down-from-the-ledge notes in the comments, remember that body image is a shifting thing. Most of the time I feel OK, sometimes I feel great, sometimes I feel sad. And I know that the authors of these stories are probably the same way.

Still, Feed Me: Writers Dish About Food, Eating, Weight, and Body Image to be pretty solid confirmation that if I had better stay in the Midwest, because moving to either of the coasts would shift me from just "Overweight" to "Morbidly Obese." That confirmation came from a woman who says she fits into a size two or four and writes a grateful memoir about how her husband can appreciate her, and she can appreciate herself despite her "ample derriere, rounder belly..." I just wanted to fling the book out the window. And that was just the first story.

There are more sensible stories in this volume. My favorite was Wendy McClure's "Day One," about her introduction to the mystique of "the diet thing" as a young child when she decided one day to stay home "sick" from school and figure out what her mother's weight-loss paraphenalia was all about. The stories vary widely, from a former stewardess's memoir of surprise weigh-ins and edicts about the height of her heels and the colors of lipstick she could wear to "Attack of the XL Girl," about the impossibility of shopping for clothes in chic boutiques if you wear a double-digit size. The authors take various stances on size, weight, fat, food. In all of them, though, these things seem central to the writer's idea of herself. Kate Harding, with "You're Not Fat," seems no less obsessed with the size of her body than Megali Amadel was during her days as a model. Most distressing to me was reading Ophira Edut, author of Body Outlaws, describe how carefully she thought out her appearance when speaking in front of a group of college women about body acceptance. I'm not sure I see someone as an authentic outlaw when she seems so obessively self-conscious about her presentation of her "nonthreatening hair/edgy black boots, soft eye makeup/risqué berry lips, underwired boobs/Beyoncé hips unleashed..." I forget, was her book first titled Adios Barbie or I Am Body Activist Barbie? It's clear that the body image thing can become a schtick just like anything else, a brand.

I think that despite its best intentions, this book just gives a snapshot in cross-section of the insanity surrounding food and body image. It provide much new insight into how to escape it.


  1. The book sounds very revealing - a definite insight into the female mind. I have this book on my radar, after seeing it on another blog. I may have to read it, although it sounds like it won't make ME feel any better! ;)

    - kilax

  2. Thanks for following me! I just blogged my guess about what irked you the most about BL. Looking forward to seeing if I guessed right!

  3. Thank you for helping me see I am not crazy! Your comment "remember that body image is a shifting thing. Most of the time I feel OK, sometimes I feel great, sometimes I feel sad."

    This is so how I feel every month with surprising consistency. I am blogging about this today as I am still frustrated by it and not quite accepting of it yet. An area I need to work on.


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07