Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Review: Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Annoyed would be a rather minor description of how I feel as I prepare to review this little book that I picked up at the library. In fact, I had another book that I read over the weekend that I wanted to review, but was so disturbed by what I read (and couldn't even finish), that I put this review first.

Now what pushed me to pick up a book with a title like Skinny Bitch to begin with? Well, I won't claim to be easily offended, nor one who can't laugh at pop cultural references, but after diving into this little beauty, the slander is completely lost on me. I'm now asking myself, "WHY did you pick up this awful book?!?" First off, I won't lie when I say that the credentials of the two authors as: "a former agent for Ford Models, is a self-taught know-it-all," and "a former model who holds a Masters of Science degree in Holistic Nutrition," did immediately turn me off. Yes, that meant that two "models" wanted to wave their fingers in my face and call me a b-yotch. Yep...pretty much. In fact, the blurb on the front cover says:
A no-nonsense, tough-love guide for savvy girls who want to stop eating crap and start looking fabulous!
Partially true. I do want to stop eating "crap," but honestly, would rather start FEELING good. I guess this wasn't the direction I should have headed. Really, I just thought it would be a more fun, less starched approach to diet and health. Boy, did I have my eyes opened! Let's start with the opening lines from chapter one:
Okay. Use your head. You need to get healthy if you want to get skinny. Healthy = skinny. unhealthy=fat...Don't act surprised! You cannot keep eating the same shit and expect to get skinny.
Nice. They continue on with references to people with words such as: "losers," "fat pig," "@#$hole," and several others that I found so offensive that I literally stopped reading, and skimmed the rest of the book.

The following chapters dive into myths, or what I would presume are their scary facts, about carbohydrates, sugars, dairy, and meat (or "flesh," as they call it). The two chapters I found most offensive were the ones on dairy and meat. I found it so ironic that just today, while I was watching Dr. Oz on Oprah (which I know is only one doctor's opinion), he was presenting studies they've done on nutrition and its affects on the human body. They showed that people who ate a diet with plenty of calcium, which he definitely spelled out as not just including milk, but also things like figs and prunes, helped bind with fat to improve weight loss/management. It's not an answer to weight loss, but serves as a sort of glue to fats to carry them out of your system. Now I will admit that the book is only touching on milk, but the picture they paint is one where you not only will gain mass amounts of weight (because that's what babies and calves do when they nurse), but will also have mass amounts of mucus and health problems coming down the pike for you! (See p. 56 to 58.) They then went on to strangely include eggs in their diatribe and had these jewels of wisdom, in the middle of their "dairy" chapter:
So if you really believe that eating "just egg whites" isn't fattening, we've got a bridge we can sell ya. Eggs are high in saturated fat and are completely disgusting when you think about what you are eating. Try that for once. Actually think about what you are eating!

You will pee in your pants when you see how much weight you lose from giving up dairy... (62)
Wait...was that a transition from dairy to eggs, back to dairy? Nice transition. Totally sold me there! I'm sorry, but that's just BAD WRITING! I've taught writing for years (so yes, let's now tear apart all the bad things I do in writing), but can honestly say that the transitions are awkward, the style is juvenile and conversational (at best), and the tone is replete with negative and degrading language throughout. Not only do they sling around swear words (even the F-Bomb...as if that will motivate me in some way), but also degrading references as shown earlier. The meat section gets even worse. Almost the entire chapter is filled with references to how meat and poultry are slaughtered. I'm not even sure that's necessary for "dietary" concerns, but in this case is used as a way of scaring or grossing you into a life as a vegan.

In skimming through the last thirty pages, I got their "schtick." They're not for all natural. No. They're for a vegan lifestyle, full of products and name brands that can be found in your nearest (expensive) organic food store (and yes, I do actually really like Whole Foods as a store). Rather than possibly focusing on the positive, restorative properties in the things we CAN eat, they chose to focus on scary facts (not even sure if they were "facts"), degrading name calling of consumers and even the medical community, and a refocus on products that are every bit as processed as those mentioned in the book. For instance, in the dairy chapter, they finish off with a high thumbs up for all things "Earth Balance," "Rice Dream," and "Soy Garden." YUM!

Sigh. I'm sorry. As someone who has suffered with pancreatic issues since my early 20s, and a thyroid removal in my late 20s, I have really tried to eat well, naturally, and consciously. Doctors have been quick to point out the health benefits of being moderate in what I eat, and smart in helping me find what works for me! They've also encouraged me to keep cooking at home, and from whole ingredients. I've switched to organic fruits and vegetables that have thin skins or peels, and hormone-free meat and eggs whenever I can afford them. That's not for everyone, but it brings me a certain peace of mind. Having said that, I also LOVE Diet Dr. Pepper, brownies, Dove Dark Chocolate, and an occasional slice of pizza. Yes, I struggle with my weight like many Americans, but this book was just not for me or any of my friends or family. In fact, I would recommend, and actually quite like Bob Greene's approach, with all of its balance and focus on natural products. I also am in the middle of reading Elie Krieger's Small Changes, Big Results, but am taking forever to read it because the advice is just so darn good, and makes sense to me! (I'll share more on this one later, but for more information Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life)

In short, A vegan diet, as healthy as that may be for some, filled with soy products and a sassy attitude, is not the well-balanced guide I was looking for. My bad. I should have been prepared by the title alone! As much as I hate to really rip into a book or guide, I couldn't let this one slide. If it works for you, that's great, but for me...it's just too kitchy and one-sided.


  1. This book sounds totally terrible. I sneered at it when I saw it in the bookstore just because of the title.

  2. I've never been interested in this book from the title alone, but if it is advocating a vegan lifestyle (which there is nothing wrong with, of course) then they should say that somewhere on the cover or book flap.

    I think maybe this book is more for skinny girls who already have an "I'm better than you" mindset or actually I probably would have loved this book back in middle school when I often starved myself to keep my weight in check. I think the book is more for shock value than as a health book. Sounds like it, anyway.

    At least you got it at the library and did not buy it!

  3. I don't exactly agree with the vegan or vegetarian lifestyle I don't have a problem with the terms they used in their books. I am a fat ass and that's why I bought the books, I don't need sugar coated politically correct terms to make me feel better about myself. I have a good self esteem.

    I do however think if you look past the name calling and the vegan push there is a wealth of information available to you in the book. Some things I was eating after reading this book I researched and was like OMG. So I do think there is valid good information in the book even though I do not agree with the method they used.

  4. Wow, what a hideous book. Why didn't they just tell everyone to stick their fingers down their throats and purge every calorie they take in? Heck, that's got to be healthier (and scary enough, more responsible) than what they're preaching throughout the book. Egads!

    I get that this is supposed to be a satirical look at the culture of dieting but wow, how irresponsible to use two people who have no basis in the fields of medicine or nutrition as the basis to give this kind of advise.

    Fabulous review. I wasn't inclined to read it before and I'm even less so now.

  5. Funny and feisty review! Kudos for being open-minded enough to pick this up, I know I never would have. And now I am confident my "judge-a-book-by-its-cover" approach is not as jaded as some may think!

    Great review, made me laugh.

  6. Thanks! I'm feeling a bit self conscious of my post now... :) Just hit me SO wrong! My best friend called me and said, "Man, did you take this personal or what?!?"

    Heidenkind--Yes, title should have warned me. I somehow thought would be Bridget Jones-esqu diet book? :)

    Rebecca--You said same thing as my friend...more for women who are already twigs, not someone wanting to revamp their lives. Although, who knows, I'm sure it works for someone else.

    Pam--Thanks for being my dissenting opinion here! I guess I want my diet book (and Cheerios) with a bit of sugar. :)

    Michelle--You're funny! The approach here definitely felt more like a cultural approach than a well-rounded one I could latch onto.

    Valerie--Thanks for the vote of confidence, especially since my own in posting my true feelings here is going back and forth! I think you're right though, that in some cases, you really should "judge" a bit more.

  7. I'm totally put off my the statement healthy = skinny! So not always true. Just because you are skinny doesn't mean your healthy (I'm skinny but I know I'm not healthy cuz I have no exercise or eating habits at all). And there are plenty of people who are healthy but are not skinny. Makes no sense to me. Ugh. And people wonder why we have eating disorders in this country.

  8. Great thorough review... I'm living on a lot of that rice dream, soy, nondairy substitute stuff at the moment because of food allergy issues in the family, and they have their own concerns too (googling soy reveals many warnings that your diet should include soy only in moderation). I am also thinner than I have been since high school, but NOT even close to the healthiest! Can't say this would have appealed to me anyway just by cover alone (hate that art style with the nonexistent waists), but I enjoyed your review.

  9. Well....I can honestly say I won't be reading this anytime soon!! I'm certainly not a healthy eater. I try. But with 2 jobs and always on the run, I need convenience almost as much as healthy food.

    Do these authors really think they will sell a lot of books to people they are completely cutting down? Makes no sense to me.

    Great job!

  10. I could not live my life without some dairy and some carbs. It would be duller. Alchol also significantly adds to your weight, but I bet they didn't talk about that much.

  11. Great review! The title alone would not allow me to pick up this book. Additionally, I struggled with my weight for many years and always had low self-esteem because of it. Currently, I am at a nice weight. To have someone insult you while you are looking for something to help you is horrific.

  12. Great review! I have almost bought this book a couple of times...now I'm glad I didn't. I already have low self esteem issues...reading this book would only intensify those feelings. Skinny Bitch = Bad Book!

    PS There is an award waiting for you on my blog.

  13. You have something waiting for you at my blog :)


  14. I cannot agree more. I read the Dutch translation of the book (reading books about food in English is confusing with the difference in the metric systems etc) and they actually edited it to take out half of the swear words and it still read as a very insulting book. I picked it up because I am a vegetarian who doesn't like the taste of eggs and cheese so I thought I could do with a vegan take on eating. However, the book almost made me ashamed of the way some vegetarians/vegans approach people who eat meat. To me, it is a personal choice and not something to push on other by making degrading remarks.

    Like you, I'm not sure if their facts are really facts. To be honest, I trust my sisters knowledge of food more (she's taken some classes on it in uni) and she's been contradicting Skinny Bitches opinion on milk, etc.