Book Report: Skinny Bitch

Come on — the title’s pretty catchy, right?

And with lines like this:

Are you sick and tired of being fat? Good. If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to get skinny.

and

Have some mercury poisoning with your ahi tuna. How about some trichiosis with your pork? Don’t forget a side of salmonella with your eggs or chicken.

and

Good health, vitality, more energy, more confidence, better sex, great abs, a tight ass — you either want ‘em or you don’t. You can continue plodding along in your life feeling like you’re not living up to your glorious potential or you can dedicate yourself to creating the life you want.

it’s hard not to get sucked into “Skinny Bitch,” a treatise on vegan living by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnounin. They’re snarky, quick-witted, sometimes unforgivably MEAN, but in the end…

They’re right more often than they’re wrong.

What I like about the book:

  • The authors lay out some pretty devastating information about everything from food safety (uh, egg recall, anyone?) and the role of government watchdogs to health and weight control. BUT, they back it up, with countless footnotes and studies. Time after time, I found myself thinking “that can’t be right,” only to flip to the back and see the source.
  • The authors give very specific calls to action for people who want to make a change, or at least want to read more. They include long list of vegan-friendly foods, books, websites and more. They even lay out a series of meal plans for people who need more help.
  • The snarkiness can sometimes be off-putting, but let’s be serious — there are enough people trying to be kind and gentle. We should ALL be angry. We should ALL be asking questions. We should ALL be expecting more. You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan; you just have to be curious and concerned about what you put in your mouth, breathe in, wear and consume.

What I dislike about the book:

  • Sometimes, the snarky remarks overshadow what the authors’ message is — I’m afraid that too many people will be turned off, and the idea that being vegan=preachy will just be verified.
  • The focus on weight and image — at the end of the book, there’s a “mea culpa” moment, where the authors try and convince us that they don’t care about weight…that we should be happy with out bodies…the publishers made us do it — blah blah blah. They’re former models. I don’t buy it. And while getting HEALTHY is a good reason to pay attention, getting SKINNY is not.
  • They talk about fasting — on raw food, on juices or on no food at all. And while they couch it a bit, saying that you need to do it safely, there’s such a small section of the book devoted to it that I think some people will take the idea of fasting at face value and not question the real risks/benefits of it.

How I’m changing because of the book (note: I’m already a vegetarian and avoid processed foods):

  • I am no longer drinking diet soda, or using aspartame in any form. I’d already been cutting way back, since study after study shows that it’s one of the most dangerous and healthy substances on the market. But when I learned about the skeevy, shady politics behind the FDA and aspartame, I vowed to get it out of my system completely, and forever.
  • I’m cutting WAY back (and possibly cutting out altogether…stay tuned) eggs and dairy. Whether for health, food safety or humanity — there are just too many compelling reasons to stop consuming animal products.
  • I’m stepping it up when it comes to questioning government regulators, companies/brands, etc. The authors say “trust nobody.” They’re right. There are just too many conflicts of interest to take labels — “organic,” “free range,” “natural,” “healthy” — at face value.

Overall: I definitely recommend this book as part of a WIDE library of reading. I think “Eating Animals” made a much more compelling argument, and films like “Food, Inc.” and “Food Matters” do a better job of showing the toll factory farming takes on health, the environment and on farmers themselves.

Final word:

Every time you consume factory-farmed chicken, beef, veal, pork, eggs or dairy, you are eating antibiotics, pesticides, steroids and hormones. (p 48)

That’s just not cute.

Have you read SB? Do you agree or disagree with my review? What other books have shaped your views on food politics?

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Comments

  1. says

    Thank you for this review! I’m not vegan, but I choose the animal products I do consume carefully (and just wrote a post on my views on ethical eating!). I’ll admit, I was turned off from reading this book by all the reviews that said it was snarky and mean–glad to know there is some good information in there, too! Maybe I will read it after all.

    • says

      Julie,

      It wouldn’t be the first one I’d recommend to someone interested in learning about vegan lifestyles, but it really does have a lot of good statistics. And when it comes to regulations and food safety, a little snark could make a big difference! :)

  2. Patti says

    HI Katy, I bought the book and tried to read it but their attitude put me off completely. In fact, it was just in the load I dropped off at the thrift store today. Somebody else will love it no doubt. I just couldn’t connect. : (

    • says

      Patti,

      I had a lot of those moments, too — in particular, I think I was jaded because they are both from the modeling world and the focus was so much on weight loss and not health.

  3. Anne says

    Hi! I read Skinny Bitch and I was really interested in the first few chapters (their attitude was much easier to handle before they got into the politics of factory farming). Once that happened, the book really did feel preachy to me – how can it not when they say you can’t be skinny without going vegan, or that processed foods are bad but processed vegan foods are acceptable? However, the book definitely helped turn me off from processed sodas and artificial sweeteners. As far as the conventional farming goes, I preferred “Real Food” by Nina Planck- while they both had eye-opening points about conventional farming (and ruined my appetite for factory-farmed, internationally shipped meats and fish totally), I didn’t feel the no-alternative tone that I did in Skinny Bitch. Whew. That being said, big fan of the blog :)

    • says

      Anne,

      I’ve never heard of the Nina Planck book but it’s going right to the top of my reading list!

      Thanks so much for your sweet comments about the blog :)

  4. says

    I couldn’t handle that book. I tried to read it after reading Eating Animals because I wanted to become even more informed and the way it was written totally turned me off and didn’t intrigue me at all. I think I maybe made it through three chapters!

    • says

      Amber,

      Did you enjoy Eating Animals? I think I connected more with that book because it was so much about getting healthy and ethical for the birth of his son. The models/authors seemed much more superficial and it was hard to cheer for them. But I love having debates and discussions about all of this!

    • says

      Ladies,

      It’s a very quick read, so it might be worth checking it out…I really enjoyed your recent post on being vegan but still sometimes being judged for choices. I got the sense that these authors could be VERY judgmental for anyone who didn’t go 100%.

  5. says

    I started to read this and although I love a bit of snark this was just too much. I preferred learning more about all the food I eat in Food Inc and Michael Pollan’s books.

    But I can appreciate that they back it up with facts. Its just not my style of learning.

    • says

      Cynthia,

      I agree — Pollan and Food, Inc. are much easier to get behind…I don’t think I’d like the authors of SB, so it was hard to really want them to be right, you know?

  6. says

    This post really resonates with me, especially this line: “You don’t have to be vegetarian or vegan; you just have to be curious and concerned about what you put in your mouth, breathe in, wear and consume.” You are so right — Most people don’t ask enough questions about what’s on the shelf at the grocery store… it’s scary. I am vegetarian (like you) because I am extremely wary of commercial animal farming practices. I also don’t think we need as much protein as the food industry would like us to believe. I get along just fine on legumes, eggs (local or farm raised whenever possible!), cheese, vegetables, a little fish, and plenty of complex grains. I think I’m being a little easier on the planet and overall, I’m probably eating a more varied and nutritious diet.

    • says

      Miri,

      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment — and I think your attitude is exactly the one that those of us who *are* passionate need to have…I’d love for everyone to think about what they eat, even if they don’t become vegetarian or vegan. But I think that the message has to be one of kindness and education, rather than judging and meanness.

  7. says

    I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve read a lot of reviews like yours. So I’m on the fence about reading it. I’m a vegetarian too, so I’ve been told there are good recipes in there too. Maybe if I find it at a discount book store or something like that I’d pick it up.

    • says

      Lauren,

      I actually rented it from the library, so it didn’t cost me a dime…I don’t know if I would have purchased it, and it’s not one of those books that I’ll go back to time and again, so it’s out of my house and ready for someone else to read. :)

  8. says

    This is my first time on your blog and I just wanted to say hi! I haven’t read the book but have heard a lot about it, thanks for your sharing your input! Looking forward to following you, have a great weekend! :)

  9. says

    I’ve read it and also have the Skinny Bitch in the Kitch cookbook…I’m all for trying new things so one day I tried the Vegan Mac ‘n Cheese recipe in it, which called for some form of soy cheese substitute. Never having tried “soy cheese,” I went to Whole Foods like a good little girl and got the ingredients. I spent a lot of time making it and it LOOKED amazing. Gooey, cheesy, yum. And then I tasted it. And it tasted like…sour cardboard. Or something like that. Needless to say, I did not enjoy it. :( I respect anyone who gives up dairy/eggs/etc because it’s a big commitment, but if I were to ever do so I think I would still avoid the “cheese substitutes.” =)

    Oh and p.s., totally agree about the aspartame!! YUCK!

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