Book Review, Volume 1

Happy Friday! I hope you’ve had a good week. I have a biochemistry test on Monday, so I’ve been studying all week and that’s what I’m doing this weekend, too. It isn’t so bad because I have my sister’s wedding to look forward to NEXT WEEKEND! I can’t believe it’s almost here. I want it to be here already but also want time to slow down because I don’t want it to be over!

Anyway, I’m here to talk about some things I’ve read lately. (Intuitive Eating is just in there for the photo opp, but I discussed it here and here.) By lately, I mean this year. I am a super slow reader, and when school is in session, I barely read. And that’s not because I’m so into all my class readings. I actually do not do a good job at reading those (oops); I just have a hard time using my brain to read at night instead of watching Netflix. Please don’t be surprised if Volume 2 of my book review series doesn’t come until Christmas break… or until I graduate.

Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon

Description from the publisher: “Fat isn’t the problem. Dieting is the problem. A society that rejects anyone whose body shape or size doesn’t match an impossible ideal is the problem. A medical establishment that equates “”thin” with “”healthy” is the problem. The solution? Health at Every Size. Tune in to your body’s expert guidance. Find the joy in movement. Eat what you want, when you want, choosing pleasurable foods that help you to feel good. You too can feel great in your body right now— and Health at Every Size will show you how.”

Y’all. I started reading this book so long ago, sometime in the spring. Then I neglected it for a while and picked it back up this summer. I was already very familiar with the tenants of HAES and the science behind it. However, reading the book is important. It gave me a lot of background information and a LOT of research to digest (there are 437 sources!), and made me even more passionate about this approach.

I wish that everyone would read this book, especially before bashing Health at Every Size. Linda Bacon does a tremendous job of explaining why it is important to focus on health behaviors rather than weight. I’ve told you that the first time I heard about HAES I thought it was crazy, so I understand the pushback. It goes against everything we are taught, or at least much of what I’ve been taught as a future health professional. I thought, “there’s no way you can be healthy at every size,” and I know that’s a common critique. However, the book and practice is about pursuing health (whatever that looks like for each person) no matter what the scale says. Health is about so much more than size.

It’s not up to me or anyone else to decide at what size/weight a person is not healthy. No weight should be pathologized. Looking at someone’s size (large, small, or in between) just tells you what size they are. It doesn’t tell you anything else; you don’t know their story, what their life is like, or what habits they have. Everyone deserves to feel great in the body they have today and to pursue health in whatever way or to whatever extent they choose. Linda Bacon has many more books along the same theme, and I’m adding Body Respect to my “must read” list!

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Excerpt from publisher’s description: “Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.”

I bought this book when we were at the beach in August and finished it in about a week. That’s a record for me. I loved this book and am already itching to read her newest one, Hunger. Roxane says that she is a bad feminist because she doesn’t want to be placed on the feminist pedestal. She says she makes mistakes often and wants to be up front about that. She isn’t trying to be a role model, she just wants to speak up about what she believes in- flaws and all. Gay talks about loving things that might seem at odds with being a feminist, like the color pink and rap music, but argues that it is important to embrace the feminist label and movement. I really just can’t do her writing justice at all, so see this article of hers if interested- it is a slightly edited version of the introduction.

The book is a compilation of essays, and the topics range from violence against women to how African Americans are depicted in movies to the song “Blurred Lines,” which she admits she finds catchy. Sometimes she discussed writings I am not familiar with, but it was worth chugging through those parts for everything else. I really liked how Roxane tackles complicated subjects but doesn’t give a nice and neat answer every time. This book was very thought provoking. It made me laugh, it made me angry, and it made me think about the ways I contribute to and consume the culture we live in.

Shrill by Lindy West

Part of the publisher’s description: “With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss, and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.”

I also bought this book when we were at the beach. I started reading it later, and finished it up a couple of weeks ago. This one was another winner for me! Lindy is very smart and covers everything from being harassed online (she writes for The Guardian and the New York Times) to her personal life. I laughed out loud a lot while reading and felt like I would love to just be in Lindy’s brain for a day. She has really funny things to say even when situations seem dire. My favorite chapter was “Hello, I Am Fat,” in which she eloquently dismantles a lot of the things people have to say about people in larger bodies and how it feels to live in our society when your body is discussed in shameful ways.

So there you have it. I basically read 3 books this year, so that’s about one every three months. I really enjoyed all 3 of these and would recommend them to anyone! Tell me, have you read anything good lately? What should I read next?

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Lindsay

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