Summary: Jess Weiner (Twitter: @JessWeiner, Facebook: Jess Weiner) is out to decode and abolish the Language of Fat. She wants to rid us of the question in the title and all the awkwardness it creates in our relationships. She wants to eliminate the female bonding ritual of complaining about our respective bodies. She wants women to stop giving away their power and possibilities until they lose a little weight.
Fat is not a feeling. Do I Look Fat in This? deciphers what we mean when we say “I feel fat” and a number of other common phrases. For example, “I feel fat” could mean any of the following, among other things: “I feel lonely, scared, isolated, unattractive, unprepared, angry, excited, intimidated, overwhelmed, insecure, full, rejected, or even happy!” (p. 45)
Jess Weiner, with an insider’s view of media, offers a number of useful tips about how to deal with the images and messages that come at us from all sides, all day long:
Our current media is not aimed at bolstering your self-esteem, nor, some would argue, will it ever be the goal of media to make you feel good about yourself. That said, we have to enter this relationship with the media and the cult of celebrity with a little more scrutiny and self-protection. Always remember, though, that self-responsibility is the ultimate tool you have for changing the way you view and interact with the world. (p. 104)
Thoughts: This book would not seem to be the obvious choice for a Weekend Cooking post, but it got me thinking again about what I wrote when I reviewed Food Rules by Michael Pollan last month, Book Review: Food Rules by Michael Pollan, illustrations by Maira Kalman. In that post, I wrote about changing the conversation so that it feels more normal to eat a giant salad for lunch than to pick up a bacon-cheeseburger and fries at a drive-through.
Jess Weiner is also talking about changing our conversation. At some moments, she’s advocating almost an opposite approach, however. For example, she advises, “No longer talk to your friends about dieting, weight loss, or how fat they are.” (p. 196) Can we change the conversation in the way that Food Rules advocates in order to counter the marketing of mass-produced foods without violating this rule? I mostly managed it in my post, I suppose. Although, when I was thinking about the conversations that helped me change my view of what’s normal, most of them took place on the 3 Fat Chicks website, which is devoted to dieting and weight loss.
I know that it’s possible to have healthy conversations about diet and weight loss, because I see them every day on 3 Fat Chicks. Then again, I know there are many conversations on that site that aren’t healthy at all; many people to whom I want to reach through the computer screen and hand them a copy of Do I Look Fat in This?
Ever since last summer’s kerfuffle over the yogurt vs. cheesecake commercial, Yoplait’s controversial ‘eating disorder’ ad, I’ve worried about how healthy messages to over-eaters can damage those with other eating disorders. How do we talk in ways that help over-eaters make better choices during an obesity epidemic while not triggering harmful thoughts and actions among those with other eating disorders? Do these conversations need to be kept separate somehow? Should Jess Weiner, whose first book was titled A Very Hungry Girl, be there for people who have had experiences similar to hers? In the meantime, should readers of this blog be warned that I write as a recovering over-eater and may have exactly the wrong instincts for those recovering from anorexia or bulimia or even for those who would benefit from an intuitive eating approach and a healthy disinterest in calories and scale numbers?
Fortunately, this month, the Harvard Political Review had something to say on this issue: The Obesity-Eating Disorder Paradox. The article by Brooke Kantor and Hannah Borowsky posits that the rise in obesity and eating disorders are rooted in the same broken bits of our culture. They quoted Dr. Cynthia Bulik who implicated “Big Fashion, Big Diet, and Big Media” in creating a “culture of discontent that makes [Americans] continually dissatisfied with [their] bodies.” (I would add Big Food to that list with a particular focus on commercials featuring skinny models eating candy bars and huge burgers.) The hopeful conclusion is that one strategy can solve both problems: “energy should not be focused on weight and dieting, but rather on positive lifestyle changes for the sake of being healthy, not attractive.” That’s exactly the approach in Do I Look Fat in This? by Jessica Weiner.
Appeal: I believe Do I Look Fat in This? is for every woman who has any issue with weight or appearance in the tough environment that we find ourselves in. There may be a few points to ignore if you’re already on a healthy weight loss journey, but mostly this book is going to be helpful, because here’s something I’ve observed: no one loses weight by hating her body. Sometimes it seems like if you just hate your body enough, it will somehow motivate you to eat more vegetables and exercise more. But it doesn’t work that way. That motivation and those actions are rooted in loving your body. Jessica Weiner will help you get to that place.
In case it isn’t obvious, I’m still searching my way through this issue of how to talk about healthy lifestyles in ways that are helpful, not problematic, while being a true witness to my own journey. I would love to discuss this in the comments this week.
Be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for more Weekend Cooking posts.