I remember when Skinny Bitch came out not long after I graduated from college. It was super hyped and its two authors, Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, were all over the media. I just joined the library here in Portland, and this was one of the first books I took out (Don’t worry, I also took out a few others that wouldn’t make the fellow English majors and bookworms among you cringe. I’d never pay $ for this book but as a free read my curiosity won.).
I read the book in one night; for anyone that has a basic understanding of nutrition and the history of the U.S. food system under his/her belt, the book won’t be eye-opening. I support the authors’ advocacy of cutting the processed crap out of your life — do it! But there were some aspects of their approach, such as the heavy reliance on soy-based products and processed fake chicken/meat alternatives that made the book feel dated. Conversely, other foods are omitted — such as coconut oil, which is only mentioned briefly in the book as a good ingredient to put on your shopping list. And some people might like three square meals a day as the authors’ sample meals outline, but common wisdom now says that a snack or two during the day is OK to keep metabolism revved.
I did appreciate that Freedman and Barnouin include some of the backstory for why certain foods or ingredients are or are not encouraged by the government. For example, I enjoyed the backstory on why Stevia wasn’t approved by the USDA (obviously the sugar industry was not excited about its arrival, nor were the aspartame advocates).
The authors’ writing tends to have a bit of a leading can’t-you-see-the-conspiracy-all-around you tone that in reality I don’t believe is quite as sinister as they imply, but I do believe there are some grains of truth. The relationships between trade associations, government agencies, and the cadre of private firms specializing in lobbying, communications, public affairs, etc., is a real thing. So it’s no surprise that the relationships between the Stevia founder, his various DC legal/public relations/other support teams and the USDA was quite cozy. Welcome to Washington.
I also support the illumination of horrible factory farm practices — and I’d like to think in the 10 years since this book was written that they’ve improved. But I think their vegan-or-bust attitude probably lost a lot of readers who didn’t realize that to be a “skinny bitch” meant being a “vegan bitch,” too. The marketer in me calls that a miss by the editor, if not the authors. I don’t fault the authors with advocating veganism, but the value prop should be clearer upfront.
I also think the book left room to talk about ethically-raised meats as a good middle ground for those not wanting to eschew the carnivore — or even pescatarian — life entirely. Freedman and Barnouin also cite one stat apparently from PETA that says each of us would save more than 90 animals from death if we went vegan. I don’t know about you, but I’m certain I don’t consume 7-8 animals worth of product each month, even if you count my shoes/leather goods. It’s about a spectrum. I believe should all eat less meat, but I don’t think everyone needs to go cold turkey (no pun intended).
Last but certainly not least, “Skinny Bitch” as a title was obviously chosen to turn heads — and while the authors say toward the end that they aren’t bitches and don’t believe in bullying women into getting fitter or healthier and that this is about self-empowerment and being your best self, etc., etc…a few lines later they note that men will likely find us more attractive if we would just take their advice. Their girl power, do-this-for-you messages at the end seem like an afterthought and I might even venture to guess the copy was included at the editor’s recommendation for fear Freedman and Barnouin sound too much like the Mean Girls.
When a book claims to hold the secrets to helping you “get skinny,” especially with a provocative hook, it’s sure to sell a few copies, but this “tough-love” messaging misses the mark with me. I might be a “fat ass,” but that doesn’t mean I need to be reminded of it by a couple of meanies as I try to fight to become healthier and kick my cigarette/Cheetos/late-night snacking/fast food habits. Maybe that angle works for some women but I don’t want to be shamed into getting healthier (or skinnier, as the case may be).
My verdict: pass on this book. It feels dated at this point and you’ll be better served reading any number of other professional or amateur food/food-related health authors or food blogs (some of which are on the right rail of this blog).