Monday, January 19, 2009

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

"Okay. Use your head. You need to get healthy if you want to get skinny. Healthy = skinny. Unhealthy = fat. The first thing you need to do is give up your gross vices. Don't act surprised! You cannot keep eating the same shit and expect to get skinny."

In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll start this review by saying that I really disliked this book. From the gratuitous and vulgar use of profanity to the condescending attitudes of the authors towards their readers, this book was not an enjoyable read and gives, at best, dubiously accurate information. Although one of the authors is a "holistic nutritionist" and the text is very carefully footnoted, I still read it with an air of disbelief.

The authors, Freedman and Barnouin, begin the book by easing the reader into their idea of a healthy diet, which starts with, duh, giving up junk food. Most doctors will tell you that fast food, refined white sugar and flour, and anything containing trans fats are not the way to a slender physique or healthy insides. Fine, fine, Skinny Bitches, you've got me there. I'll even give the authors props for their in-your-face writing style, though like I said before, I found the use of profanity and general bathroom language to be off-putting. I really think it discredits their argument too, but somehow I don't think that the hordes of women buying this book mind all that much.

No, what really burns me up is that this book is a treatise on animal welfare and the horrors of the meat, commercial fishing, livestock farming and dairy industries disguised as a diet book. The authors are trying to do two things at once: present a healthier lifestyle for their readers (commendable) but also guilt their readers into a meat- and dairy- free diet through the graphic description of slaugterhouse practices and the supposed ill health effects caused by a non-vegan diet. If I wanted to read about that, I'd take one of the brochures the PETA protestors hand out in front of Chick-Fil-A.

When Freedman and Barnouin run out of studies to back up their arguments, they resort to grossing out their readers, like in this excerpt from their cookbook follow-up, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch:
"We're also the only species on the planet that drinks the milk as adults. It's not only gross, it's creepy. We've been totally duped by the dairy industry and their hundreds of millions of advertising dollars. And now we're totally addicted to their disease-causing products."
I'm not trying to argue against a vegan diet. I'm sure it works wonderfully for many people. And I'm not anti-animal rights. I just don't think that the kind of rhetoric these authors use to promote their agenda is appropriate in a diet and nutrition book. I know I was completely surprised when I started reading. You really can't judge a book by it's cover, but in this case, I wish you could. I was looking for a fun, fluffy weekend read and instead got a vitriolic tract that was more concerned with shocking the reader than presenting healthful alternatives.

Freedman and Barnouin don't even do a good job of refuting the main arguments against their philosophy. While they acknowledge that eating only organic fruits, vegetables and prepackaged goods is a prohibitively expensive choice for many, their response is an unsympathetic variation of "suck it up."

In case you were wondering, in addition to promoting a vegan, all-organic lifestyle, they rail against: the use of medicine ("taking medicine will make you feel better for the moment, but will fuck up something else in your body"); drinking alcohol (which they say causes "bloated, fat-pig syndrome"); diet soda ("perhaps you have a lumpy ass because you are preserving your fat cells with diet soda"); caffeine ("Coffee is for pussies"); and diet snacks ("whenever you see the words 'fat-free' or 'low-fat,' think of the words 'chemical shit-storm'").

The main thing I take umbrage with is the fact that these authors present their argument in such a patronizing, confrontational fashion. But you know what? I read a book called "Skinny Bitch," so I guess I should have known what I was getting myself into.


Amanda said...

I've seen these books at Barnes & Nobles and never considered picking one up (the title is off-putting) but I had no idea that the interior is even more offensive that I thought. How strange to disguise those sorts of agendas in a diet book! I would have never guessed that. Thanks for the warning.

Christopher said...

Two notes:

1.) I am drinking milk right now and it is delicious
2.) There is no such thing as a "holistic nutritionist."

Jim said...

No fat chicks.

Nathan said...

Yeah, that's about as much diet advice as I expected from this book, but I'm pretty shocked about their animal rights, backwards anti-medicine propaganda. And it's probably never a good idea to disenfranchise your readers, unless you're Simon Cowell.

But veganism can cause dementia, so, there you go.

Sylvia said...

I am seriously appalled at the language! That is such a turn off. I'm not sure how they expected people to take the book seriously with language like that. Completely unnecessary, I see the mark they were going for and I think they missed entirely.
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