Skinny Trumps Healthy

February 12, 2008

Tara Parker-Pope has the skinny on “Skinny Bitch,” the hit diet book that has surprised some readers with its strict vegan coda (the Times reported on that aspect last year) and its harsh words for readers.

Parker-Pope points to this Salon story, in which Julie Klausner raises questions about the book’s castigatory language: “This book is a PETA pamphlet in chick-lit clothing and an innovative fusion of animal rights activism with punitive dieting tactics that prey on women’s insecurities about their bodies.” Klausner continues:

The relentless bullying peppered throughout the authors’ advice accounts for much of the book’s humor, including quips like “you need to exercise, you lazy shit,” “coffee is for pussies” and “don’t be a fat pig anymore.” It was a formerly anorexic friend of mine who nailed it when she read excerpts from the book. “When you have an eating disorder,” she told me, “that’s the voice you hear in your head all the time.”

Thanks to “Skinny Bitch,” women who hate their bodies no longer need rely on their own self-loathing to stoke the flames of what seems like motivation but is actually self-flagellation — penance for the sin of being too fat. Now dieters can have the convenience of a former model (Barnouin) and a former modeling agent (Freedman) putting their transgressions in the black-and-white terms of right and wrong. “If you eat crap,” they chirp, “you are crap.”

Get ready for more in-your-face advice: The authors have signed an additional two-book deal, on top of their follow-up cookbook, “Skinny Bitch in the Kitch.”

In a NYT story earlier this year on the cookbook, Kimberly Latham, a fashion publicist in New York, acknowledges that she “would never have read ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ I’m not even sure I know what an omnivore is. But I know what a skinny bitch is, and I know I want to be one.”

Debbie Rasmussen, the publisher of Bitch magazine and a vegan herself, provides a more rational analysis: “Obviously I’m in favor of assaults on the food industry … On the other hand, the constant equating of skinny and healthy is something I have a real problem with. And replacing junk food with vegan junk food is not my idea of how to change our unhealthy food culture.”

Plus: The Christian Science Monitor looks at the rise of self-help books, including “Skinny Bitch,” that criticize the reader.

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